In school plays, acting skills are limited. Many times, the best actor has to play multiple roles. He may play the role of the main character, but he also probably plays other roles in scenes that do not include the main character. The same is true for mediocre sports teams. When I played baseball in Little League, I played for a team that was so bad that only two of us could throw and catch without running all over the field after the ball. Because my friend and I were the only two players who could successfully throw and catch, we had two roles—pitcher and catcher. Whenever I pitched, my buddy would be the catcher. Whenever he pitched, I was the catcher. Our team desperately needed us to play these roles every game, or else we would lose by 20 runs instead of only 5.
As our redeemer, Jesus also plays certain roles that are crucial to the victory of his team—his people. In his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus performs the roles of a prophet, a priest, and a king. It feels strange to think of Jesus as a prophet, priest, and king because these are all roles that were played by people in the Old Testament, but not so much in the New.
In the Old Testament we learn about prophets like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. We learn about priests like Aaron and his sons. We learn about kings like David and Solomon. But when it comes to Jesus we seem to only think of him as a Savior. God’s people in the New Testament seem to be much different from God’s people in the Old Testament. The church, so it seems, doesn’t have prophets, priests, or kings the way Israel did. However, all of those prophets, priests, and kings were like shadows of the greatest Prophet, Priest, and King. They were like arrows pointing to Jesus who would be what all the prophets, priests, and kings of old failed to be.
For hundreds and even thousands of years, the people of God anticipated the coming of the Messiah, or Savior, who would perfectly reveal God’s will, provide for their sins, and rule over them. In Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection, he perfectly revealed God’s Word to us, offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins, and ruled over us in power. Jesus saves us by being a prophet who reveals God’s Word to us, a priest who sacrifices himself for us, and a king who brings us into his kingdom under his eternal rule.
The only hope my Little League team had for even smidgen of success was in the arms and gloves of my friend and me. We had to perform our roles perfectly or our team would lose spectacularly. In the Bible, there are many examples of cowardly prophets, impious priests, and rebellious kings. None of them adequately fulfilled the role to which they were called. The prophets, priests, and kings in the Old Testament are a litany of disappointments. But in Jesus we will never be disappointed. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the roles of a prophet, priest, and king, which is our only hope for knowing, loving, and living for God.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.