The priest, the pastor and the rabbi.
A young couple had just moved into town and was looking for a church. While they found four church builings, only one opened its doors. It was called the First United Christian Church. Shortly after their arrival, the pastor, a shaggy St. Bernard, met with them and explained the situation. "Our town had become very small." he said. "None of the four churches could survive on its own, so we merged."
"What became of the other ministers?" asked the couple.
"We were all kept on." replied the pastor. "We each have such a different role that we form a great team. Take the rabbi from the messianic church." he said, pointing to a bull in a yamulke. "He preaches and teaches. Then there's the catholic priest." He indicated a mongoose in a black robe. "He performs weddings and funerals and leads the prayer meetings. I'm the protestant minister, so I handle the operations of the church, do visitation and counseling and take care of those in need."
"What about the baptist minister?" asked the couple.
"He's indespensible." said the dog, pointing to a goat. "He's in charge of casseroles and greeting the people who arrive fifteen minutes late."
We have come a long way in history. We started with "Let there be light" and worked our way up to the New Testament. We covered the signs fortelling the coming of the Messiah, and now we are going to talk about the Messiah Himself.
Any sermon about the three wise men invariably points out the threefold nature of the Messiah- King and God and Sacrifice. We could also expand "king" into Prophet, Priest and King". However, since we are not yet focussing on Jesus' sacrifice or political reign, I'd like to expand "priest". Jesus was most definitelyy a minister, and during His Earthly ministry, performed three munctions as a minister: Pastor, Priest and Rabbi.
Jesus was and is our High Priest. In Hebrews 5:10, we read this: "and (Jesus) was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek."
He was also a rabbi, as we see in John 3:2 "He came to Jesus at night and said, 'Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.'"
The word "Pastor" means "Shepherd", and Jesus is called this as well, such as in 1 Peter 2:25 "For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."
Most people think of pastor priest and rabbi as the same thing. They figure a rabbi is a jewish pastor and a priest is a catholic pastor. They do not realize that beginning back in the Old Testament, these three types of ministers had very different jobs.
A rabbi's job is that of the teacher. He is an expert on the scriptures (or at least he's supposed to be) and his job is to educate people about the scriptures. In your average synagogue, that was all that a rabbi did. He doesn't visit folks in the hospital or take food boxes to the poor.
A priest's job is to go before God on behalf of the people. He is the one who offers sacrifices and performs sacraments and ordinances. The priest was not at the synagogue at all, but at the temple. He did not teach, nor did he take care of the congregation except in the very limited capacity of his office.
The word "pastor" first appears in Jeremiah, and sadly, it talks about how badly the pastors have done. However, we do learn from this that the office of pastor was a real job. A little additional study in both testaments shows us that the pastor was the one who was actually supposed to care for the people of the congregation. He was the caregiver, the visitor, the counselor and in some cases, the healer.
In your average Christian church, these jobs have been run together. My father, for instance, is expected to teach, preach, lead prayer session and bible study, counsel, perform weddings, distribute food boxes to the poor, visit sick members and act as peacemaker, judge and chief of police in the church.
I believe that the reason for this merging of the offices is due to the example that Jesus set for us.
Jesus was destined to be the high priest for all mankind. He represents us the the Father. In a purely professional sense, it was not necessary for Him to do anything else. He could have fulfilled His duties as priest without teaching, preaching, healing or taking care of anyone. He could have, but anyone who knows Jesus understands that to stop at what was absolutely necessary isn't Him.
Hebrews calls Jesus an apostle, and while we do not think of His as one of the apostles, this is quite true. the word "Apostle" means "one sent with a commission". Jesus repeatedly reminded us that He was sent from God for a purpose. And not just sent BY God, but FROM God, from the very presence of the Father. Being by nature divine and therefore filled with love, how could Jesus help but tell us all about His Father? Indeed, this was a vital part of His ministry. Jesus is our Emanuel. He is God's representative to us.
Also because of His vast love, Jesus cares about us. The bible tells us that He was "filled with compassion" on many occasions. Because of His compassion, He healed the sick, raised the dead, filled the bellies of the hungry, repaired the handicapped and much, much more.
So to summarize, Jesus did the job of three ministers because He is full of love. Now it's time to ask our three questions.
First question: What does this show us about the character of God? Well, this one is obvious. Our God is a God of love. He is the God of "above and beyond". He doesn't stop at what He has to do. He meets our needs because He truly cares. Of course, that does not mean that God is someone we can order around.
So this brings us to the second question: What does Jesus show us about God's holiness? Jesus demonstrated the authority of God and His fitness to judge in that He did not take orders from anyone. He often did what people asked. He also frequently refused. Consider the man who went to Jesus and demanded that Jesus tell his brother to give him part of their inheritance. Jesus demonstrated His authority by throwing the case out.
As our great Rabbi, Jesus also had the job of preparing the first church elders, the Apostles, for their ministry. In doing so, He frequently expressed frustration with the fact that they seemed slow on the uptake. One might wonder why Jesus didn't simply GIVE them the smarts they needed. we see here that God prefers to teach. I like the way the movie Evan almighty put it. When we ask God to bring us closer together, do you think He fills us with warm fuzzy feelings? Or does He give us opportunities to be there to support one another? That's not an exact quote, but you get the idea. Jesus tught us because He respects us as people, not things to be modified artificially. He wants our growth to be real, to be voluntary and to be a true part of ourselves.
Most of all, as one of my favorite carols says, "Jesus taught us to love one another." He met our needs because He cares, but also because He was setting an example for us. He wants us to be loving because He is loving, and He wants us to be Holy because He is holy.
Question three: How does this fit in with history? Jesus' ministry culminated with the centerpiece of all of history- the Cross. The work which Jesus was about to do would change everything. ...Literally. The entire universe would be drastically affected by Jesus' sacrifice. That sacrifice would have little effect, however, if it happened in a vacuum. If Jesus died without ever having done anything else, we would never know what His death meant. It was because Jesus acted as our rabbi that we are now able to understand the plan of salvation and thus accept it. Most importantly, however, is that He acted as our example so that we can become the race He meant us to be. I like the phrasing of 1 Peter 2:9 KJV best.
"9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."
Today's minister is called to do all that Jesus did, to be a priest, a pastor and a rabbi. But look at this verse. It was written to an entire nation. Which nation? The Holy Nation. God's people. All of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our savior. Peter equates the Christian people with a royal priesthood. One is not a subset of the other. They are the same thing. Thus, we are all called to be the kind of minister Jesus was and is. The duty falls to every one of us to do the work of a rabbi: Study the scriptures and teach them to others, especially the gospel. It falls to each of us to do the work of a priest: to pray fervently and (no pun intended) religiously. It falls to each of us to be a pastor: to walk in God's ways and to take care of one another and everyone around us, loving our neighbors as ourselves.
This is my challenge to you this week. For all my fellow Christians, to be like Jesus by being a threefold minister, even if you're not behind a pulpit. For those of you who are not Christians, I invite you to examine Jesus' life, and to see for yourself what His work as priest, pastor and rabbi says about Him, about God, and about His sincere love for you. Then come back next week and learn about God's plan for your salvation.
Next week: The centerpiece of everything.
Today's reading: Romans 15:8-12
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.
12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.