All right: all together now:
Mel – chi’ – ze – dek !
There, now— was that so hard ?
And what’s the big deal, anyway ?
Seriously, this comes down to some basic issues in our life of faith.
One problem is, What does a person really need to know in order to be a true follower of Jesus ?
In the past two thousand years, the Jesus movement has tried all sorts of different approaches to educating the body of believers.
Sometimes churches have been very strict with people who want to claim status as Christians, requiring them to memorize a lot of doctrine and creeds and Scripture passages. One reason why churches have been so enthusiastic about schools and literacy, down through the years, is to prepare believers to read Scripture with understanding.
Other times, churches have been very lax with folks who want to be thought of as Christians, in effect saying to them, “If you live in our community, you are a Christian until somebody in authority says that you’re not.” In ancient times and through the Dark Ages, hardly anyone other than professional “scribes” and scholars were able to read or write… yet somehow, many ordinary people “kept the faith.” And to this day, many devoutly religious folks are suspicious of “book learning.” As one old song says, “If you can’t preach without going to school / You ain’t no preacher, you’re an educated fool.”
For me, the problem is in how the issue is stated: Look again, above, and notice that I asked,
“What does a person really need to know in order to be a true follower of Jesus ?”
I hope that some of you realized what’s the problem with that question:
it’s not what one knows: it’s all about who we know: we only truly need to be personal friends with Jesus.
So if we start with the assumption that we need to personally know Jesus, the problem becomes,
Does it matter if we go on to learn anything else ?
Of course, you would guess that the preacher would say Yes !!
Jesus wants his followers to know everything necessary to be the best disciples we can be for him. That is why we put great effort into the words and music and visual images of worship. That is why we have Sunday School and Bible study meetings (and seminaries !): because we want to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and MIND and strength.
OK— so where does old Melchizedek come in ?
I hope we can all agree that Jesus wants us to obey him as the King of our lives. I hope we can all agree that Jesus wants us to know right from wrong. Well, the mysterious New Testament book called Hebrews is telling us that Jesus Christ is our King of Righteousness. That’s what Melchizedek means: King of Righteousness. If we have that personal relationship with Jesus, if he is truly our King, then we obediently look to him, through the Scriptures and through the Spirit and through prayer and meditation and worshipful questioning within the church, to learn the ways of Righteousness. Following Jesus means we go to school on his will, making use of every means which God has given us.
The author of Hebrews seems to have been annoyed with the ignorance and lax attitudes of the community of believers to whom he was writing: he has some pretty sharp words for them: “About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14)
Those who love Me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know My name.
- Psalm 91:14