If you had three words to describe Jesus, what would you say? Gentle? Kind? Loving? Teacher? Savior? Compassionate?
These descriptors are all true, but a more basic level, Jesus’s person and work can be summed up like this: Prophet, Priest, and King. These three offices were the only official offices of God’s people Israel in the Old Testament. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of these Israelite offices, so whenever we read about them in the Old Testament, we need to keep one eye on that text and another looking ahead to Jesus in the New Testament.
The job of a prophet was to speak the words of God. Jesus is God’s word in the flesh (John 1:1-2), God’s final revelation (Heb. 1:1-2). Jesus came to speak the words of the Father to the world (John 8:28). In our heart of hearts, we want to hear the true God or a god of our own making speak to us. We all look for some kind of divine word, don’t we? Who is the most influential speaker in your life? You need a prophet who will deliver pure words that give life, not false promises that cannot deliver.
Priests went to God on behalf of the people. As a mediator between God and man, they offered sacrifices to God for atonement for sin. Jesus came as the sole and final mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5). He is the great high priest who has no need to offer sacrifices repeatedly (Heb. 4:14-16; 7:26-27), because he has made a once-for-all sacrifice (Heb. 10:1-14). He did not sacrifice a lamb; he is the Lamb (John 1:29, 36; Rev. 12:11). At our core, we all realize that we have inadequacies that keep us from being right with God. What mediator do you seek to find righteousness and forgiveness? You need someone who is perfect and spotless to stand in the gap, to go to God on your behalf and represent you before him.
A king is someone who ruled and reigned over a people and brings blessing to that people Jesus is the true King and the king we have always longed for. He is the promised descendant of David the king (Rom. 1:3). He brings brings the promised kingdom of God to earth (Mark 1:15). His throne and kingdom will never come to an end (Heb. 1:8-9; 12:18-29). We desire to be ruled justly and with love, but we all realize that our human governments are insufficient, incomplete, and always corrupt at some level. We also wrongly desire to be ruled by everyday things that are temporary by nature. What rules you? What authority do you look to for security, hope, and blessing? You need a king full of grace and truth and will never lead you astray.
The most wonderful thing about this perspective on Jesus life and work is that anything you say about him will fall under one or more of these three offices. This is no shallow and boring Christ. It is a dynamic, strong, gracious, and supreme Christ. And do not be fooled. Everyone has prophets, priests, and kings (not just ancient Israel!). It’s just a matter of whether we set our gaze on false ones or the true One.