Written by Thomas R. Schreiner |
Sunday, December 25, 2022
Jesus shares the very nature and being of God, sharing the same divine essence. Thus, we are not surprised to read in his citation of Hebrews 1:8 that Jesus is identified as God, and since he is God the angels worship him (Heb. 1:6). We know that only God is to be worshiped (Rev. 19:10; 22:9), and thus the worship of Jesus also confirms his full deity.
While Christmas often directs our thoughts to the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, we should not limit ourselves to the Gospels. In fact, the christology of Hebrews stands out for its beauty, power, and theological profundity. In this brief article I want to consider the christology of Hebrews and the way that book teaches us to see Christ as the fulfillment of the three key Psalms and the divine priest-king who deserves all true worship.
Jesus, Our Melchizedekian Priest-King: A Meditation on Psalm 110
The author unfolds for us in this first chapter both the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ, though we should add immediately that the humanity of Jesus is tied particularly to his kingship and priesthood. Perhaps the best point of entry for our reflection is Hebrews 1:3, where the author declares that Jesus sat down at God’s right hand after he had made a full cleansing for sin.
In saying this he alludes to Psalm 110:1, and we know that this psalm is a favorite of the author since he cites or alludes to it often (see Heb. 1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2). David, in the first verse of the psalm, affirms that there is a Lord greater than he, declaring that this greater Lord will sit at Yahweh’s right hand. In Matthew 22:41–46 Jesus himself taught that this verse pointed to him, and the author of Hebrews, along with other New Testament writers, picks up on Jesus’s exposition of the psalm. We have already noticed in Hebrews 1:3 that the author alludes to Psalm 110:1, but in Hebrews 1:13 he doesn’t merely allude to the verse, he quotes it, which certifies afresh how important the psalm is.
Another allusion to Psalm 110:1 surfaces in Hebrews 8:1 where we are told that the main point (kephalaion) being established is that Jesus has sat down at the right hand of God. In saying that this is the main point he points back to Hebrews 7, where we find a substantive treatment of Jesus’s Melchizedekian priesthood. Such a priesthood fulfills Old Testament promises in a typological manner since Jesus fulfills Psalm 110:4, which declares that the Lord who is greater than David (Ps. 110:1) is also “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4, ESV).
What we are told about Jesus’s Melchizedekian priesthood is tied to the cleansing of sins accomplished by Jesus (Heb. 1:3). In fact, we have another allusion to Psalm 110:1 in Hebrews 10:12 that makes this very point. Jesus, as our priest and king, has sat down at God’s right hand because his work is finished, because he has purified believers once for all. His one sacrifice has brought complete and final forgiveness forever.
We should pick up here the final allusion to Psalm 110:1 in the letter. Since Jesus has sat down at God’s right hand and since he ran the race faithfully, believers should also run the race to the end and look to Jesus as they do so (Heb. 12:1–2). Jesus atones for our sins as our priest and as our king—as our Melchizedekian priest and Davidic king. The christology of Hebrews has a pastoral purpose and soteriological aim; believers have confidence to enter the most holy place through the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:19–22). Therefore it would be foolish and fatal to turn back to Jewish sacrifices and to abandon Jesus.
Jesus, Our Davidic King: A Meditation on Psalm 2
The kingship of Jesus isn’t restricted to the citation and allusions to Psalm 110 in the letter. The author also draws on Psalm 2, which is a messianic psalm that plays a vital role in the thinking of the writers of the New Testament, though here we must confine ourselves to Hebrews 1.
The psalm was originally written by David (see Acts 4:25), but it ultimately points to and is fulfilled in Jesus, in that David’s kingship functions as a type of the rule of Jesus.