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Jesus: Prophet, Priest, and King

At your baptism you were marked with oil as a sign that you are consecrated to God and anointed by the Holy Spirit. Your anointing also was a sign that you are joined to Christ and share in his threefold mission as prophet, priest, and king.

The Israelites anointed their priests and kings with oil. They spoke of their prophets as being anointed with the spirit. Jesus, known as the Christ, the anointed one, fills all three roles. According to Luke, at the outset of his public ministry, Jesus read from Isaiah and claimed that the words referred to him:
     The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
     because he has anointed me
          to bring glad tidings to the poor.
Luke 4:18

A prophet is a messenger sent by God, a person who speaks for God. He or she witnesses to God, calls people to conversion, and may also foretell the future. Prophets often are killed for their message.

Jesus fits this description. He is none other than the Word of God in the flesh. He called the world to turn from sin and return to the Father and was put to death for it. In Scripture Jesus is presented as a prophet. Crowds identified him as “Jesus the prophet” (Matthew 21:11). He spoke of himself as a prophet: “No prophet is accepted in his own native place” (Luke 4:24). He foretold his passion and resurrection.

A priest is a mediator, or bridge, between God and human beings. He offers sacrifice to God on behalf of all. Once a year on the Day of Atonement the Jewish high priest went into the Holy of Holies in the Temple. There he offered sacrifice to God to make up for his sins and the sins of the people.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews compared Jesus to Melchizedek, a mysterious, superior priest in the Old Testament who blessed Abraham. Jesus is the greatest high priest. Because he is both divine and human, Jesus is the perfect mediator. He is not only the perfect priest, holy and sinless, but the perfect sacrifice. The sacrifice of Jesus need never be made again. Jesus “entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12). Jesus continues his role as priest. “He is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

A king is a person who has supreme authority over a territory. When the Jewish people were ruled by kings, they became a nation. They longed for a Messiah who would again make them great.

Jesus is spoken of as a king in the Gospels. Gabriel announced to Mary that the Lord God would give her son the throne of David his father, and he would rule over the house of Jacob forever. Magi looked for a newborn king of the Jews. When Jesus last entered Jerusalem, crowds hailed him as a king. He was arrested for making himself king, and the soldiers mocked him as one. When Pilate asked if he were king of the Jews, Jesus replied, “You say so,” and he clarified, “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (John 18:36). The charge written against Jesus was “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Jesus announced the kingdom of God. His mission was to have God reign in the hearts of all and to have peace and justice in the world. Jesus exercised his royal office by serving.

† Christ, help me carry out my baptismal mission! †



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