Monday, January 28, 2013

Christ: Priest, Prophet and King - Part IV

Christ the Eternal High Priest

Christ as Priest, Prophet and King

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 897-913, clearly teaches the three-fold office of Christ. In the Bible this is not as obviously stated, but let us look at the Old Testament to see how this plays out in the lives of various Old Testament figures. 

In the Old Testament one can clearly identify the role of priests in the person and work of Aaron, the High priest, and the tribe of the Levites. Prophets abound throughout the Old Testament with such people as Elijah, Elisha, Ezekiel, Moses, etc. The role of Kings is also quite obvious, look at David, Solomon, etc. All of these offices are united in the Person of Jesus Christ, and each of the Old Testament priests, prophets and kings pre-figure the Anointed One, namely Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

There is only one biblical citation that references each of these roles in the same verse, but toward three different individuals: "...the priest Zodok, the prophet Nathan have anointed him [David] king at Gihon," (1 Kings 1: 45). In Christ the fulfillment of these roles are united in his work of bringing about God's salvation.

At this point, let us examine just how Christ carries out this three-fold office as priest, prophet and king:

1. Jesus as Priest 

A priest is one who offers sacrifice, is set aside to do the things that pertain to God. Jesus offered the sacrifice of himself on the altar of the Cross for the expiation and redemption of our sins. A priest is also a go-between (so to speak) as a mediator between man and God in collecting the prayers of all the people, and on behalf of all the people offers them to God. Christ is the one mediator between God and man ( 1 Timothy 2: 5), and in his sacrifice takes all of our sins upon himself, the 'righteous for the unrighteous' (1 Peter 3: 18) and destroys them through the bloody sacrificial offering on the Cross in atonement for our sins. See also Hebrews 5:1, 8:6, 9:15.

2. Jesus as Prophet

Christ is the culmination of the prophecies foretold of him long ago by the prophets of the Old Testament. In Christ these prophecies are fulfilled in the words, actions and predictions of future events. We say in Christology that Christ is the eschatological prophet, the prophet of prophets, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Christ taught the eternal truth of which he was the embodiment in the flesh. In Christ, the announcement of the eternal plan of God became manifest. Christ is Incarnate Wisdom, Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). His work as prophet is evidenced in the actions he carried out in miracles, signs and wonders. He is the eschatological prophet because prophecy is fulfilled in him. 

The distinction between Christ as Prophet and the prophets that foretold his coming as Messiah has three characteristics:

  • The prophets of the Old Testament were inspired by the Word of God, the Eternal Logos. Christ is the Word made flesh.
  • The prophets of old taught about the Word, Christ; whereas the Word, Christ, fulfilled by his coming, his suffering, death and resurrection what they had only foretold.
  • The prophets of the Old Testament spoke in prophecy during their natural lives, whereas Christ spoke as the Eternal Word and continues to speak through his Church.
3. Jesus as King

Christ is King, because as God incarnate he has the fullness of divine power by which he carries out the duties of his royal office: lawgiver and the just/merciful judge. On his cross he was labeled the “King of the Jews." When interrogated by Pontius Pilate he responded “You say that I am a king," (John 18: 37); and, prior to that Jesus declared to Pilate, "My kingdom [implication being that he is a king] is not from this world," (John 18: 36).

Christ's kingship was made complete in his glorious Ascension into Heaven, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit he continues to administer the Church as Head, is the Just Judge and the merciful King. Christ's Kingdom is not a worldly kingdom, but a kingdom not of this world, a spiritual kingdom. His spiritual kingdom is made manifest in the salvific nature of his work, instructing through the activity of the Advocate, that is, the Holy Spirit; and, making present his divine grace through the celebration of the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) in our lives.

Christ's kingship is one with his priestly and prophetic offices. As we profess in the Nicene Creed: "He will come to judge the living and the dead." The Fathers of the the Council of Nicaea, 325AD, taught that Christ as the Just and Merciful Judge, carries out the sentence that our choices have determined. The 'living and dead' does not mean those that remain physically alive and those that are physically dead. The Council Fathers meant that the spiritual kingship of Jesus Christ judges the living, those in a state of grace, and the dead, those in a state of mortal or deadly sin. In his kingship, Christ judges the spiritually alive and the spiritually dead, and rewards each according to his/her choices in this world. 

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
~Psalm 118: 26; Matthew 23: 39~

Christ the Pantocrator

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