If you had three words to describe Jesus, which words would you use?
Gentle? Lord? Master? Kind? Loving? Gracious? Truthful? Teacher? Savior? Compassionate?
These descriptors are all true, of course. The truest of true! But I want to challenge you to think big picture, and consider the background of the Old Testament–which all points to Jesus (see John 5:29; Luke 24:24-27, 44). In the Old Testament, there were only three offices in Israel: prophet, priest, and king. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of these 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 how Jesus fulfills them in the New Testament.
So, if I had just three words to describe Jesus, I’d say he is Prophet, Priest, and King. Let me unpack these ideas and the implications for us.
Prophets spoke to people on behalf of God. Jesus came as God’s word in the flesh (John 1:1-2), as God’s final revelation (Heb. 1:1-2). Jesus came to speak the true words of the Father to the world (John 8:28). We know what Jesus speaks today by reading God’s written word–which is all a testimony to Jesus (John 5:39). In our heart of hearts, we either want to hear the true God or a god of our own making. 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 prophets who fail to deliver on their promises.
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.
Kings reigned over a nation, subdued enemies, and brought blessing to his people. Jesus is the true King–the King we’ve always longed for. He is the promised descendant of David, the greatest king of Israel (Rom. 1:3). Jesus brings the promised kingdom of God to earth (Mark 1:15). He has conquered our enemies (Col. 2:15) and his throne and kingdom will never end (Heb. 1:8-9; 12:18-29). We desire to be ruled justly and with love, but we 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. Who rules you? What authority do you look to for security, hope, and blessing? You need a King who will forever rule your heart in grace and truth.
This is no shallow and boring Christ. He is a dynamic, strong, gracious, and supreme Christ. And do not be fooled. Everyone longs for and clings to prophets, priests, and kings–even in our day. It’s just a matter of whether we set our gaze on false ones or the true One.