Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem.
The old man climbed the dusty path leading to the Dung Gate. The sun now peeking from the southern point of the Mount of Olives, he was beginning to feel warm. He couldn’t see Bethany from where he was now, but he knew that just beyond that far hill’s horizon was the little hamlet where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived, and where Jesus loved to rest. Walking from over there Jesus would be able to see the whole city and say with love and sadness,”Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem.”
He wanted to be lost in his memories for a while. He remembered the first time he saw Jesus on the beach. Then he thought of the next time He saw Him, risen from the dead not far from this very place just south of the old city and not far from the Temple. He remembered the last time he saw Him, ascending from that hill over there to the east, where the sun was just now fully climbing up into the hot, Judean sky.
And now, with his own love and sadness, the old man thought out loud,”Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, will you never change?”
This early in the morning he was safe. He knew he could amble along this route without much fear of confrontation. Though the city was small, the alleys and passages were ancient and numerous. How many generations had built and rebuilt this antique town? How many conquerors had risen and fallen?
Though clues were abundant, Jerusalem’s origin was still shrouded in mystery. Ezekiel said,”Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: your origin and your nativity is of the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother was a Hittite “. Jewish tradition held that a good Canaanite king built a city called Salem on the spot that would later be home to the Jebusites that Saul would leave alone but David would conquer. Though the old man didn’t know it, the Egyptians knew of this place from the earliest days of the Pharoas, calling it Rušalimum or Urušalimum. Joshua was the first known writer to call it Yerushalayim. Jebus, Holy City, Ir David, Zion; this old place has so many old names the old man thought.
He wanted to sit on the Temple steps. He wanted to sit and look at the place where he was baptized and think about the letter he had spent most of the night reading.
He was tired, but not from lack of sleep. He seldom needed to sleep. His fatigue was born from years of unyielding service to the Lord. His body was tired and finally admitted to some signs of breaking down. But his heart was still inspired and his thoughts were quick and awake. The letter had summoned up facts and memories and arranged them in a way that was sure to help him in fighting the doubts that had been attacking his flock.
This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.” Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.
So many disciples were forgetting that the Lord was more than flesh and blood. He could not forget; he would never be able to forget. But he had good reason to remember forever; he had been touched by Jesus. He knew the feel of His earthly hand, yes, but he also knew the power that Jesus brought from another world. A power that made Jesus so great, so different from any other man to ever live. Comparisons were so impossible to make, yet the letter attempted to when it said:
Just think how great he was: Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder! Now the law requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people—that is, their brothers—even though their brothers are descended from Abraham. This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. And without doubt the lesser person is blessed by the greater. In the one case, the tenth is collected by men who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living. One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.
If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared:
“You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
From Melchizedek, to the Jebusites, to David…to Now, this ancient place bore witness to the long suffering patience of a Father who sent His son as the fulfillment of the ages.
The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
And this was maybe the most bold part of the letter. Weak and useless? Again, the old man thought,”Have I been pampering myself? My people? The time has come to be bold and speak the truth plainly. God is giving me yet another chance to make a stand for Him. Jesus is superior to everything that came before. The law is weak and useless; Jesus is supreme. For God spoke an oath, ‘...and it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him:
“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind:
‘You are a priest forever.’ “Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.’
He reached the Temple steps and sat down just as the dawn spread sunshine on the full expanse of stairs above the mikvah’otes…the small pools of water divided into dozens of sections at the bottom of the steps, used for ceremonial washing by the Jews for centuries. Used by disciples to baptize believers into the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord. Once baptized into Christ, He is your King and Priest forever (Christ means “anointed one” and is reserved for priests and kings. Jesus was both). How well the letter had said it:
Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
The old man is deep in thought watching the sunlight bounce off the pool where he was baptized over thirty years ago while you’re splashing water in your face, the sunlight trickling through slits in the cracked mud wall of the dank room where you staggered and fell late last night. Daniel is still asleep. No one is watching you; you could possibly escape. But you don’t. Daniel thinks that this day will be about converting you. He thinks that he’s giving you one more chance to change your mind. You’ve decided that he’s the one who needs another chance. Live or die, you’ve made your decision. You will not run. You are going to save your former brother. You are going to follow the One who rules forever.
For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.