Priesthood was centered in the House of God from whence its ministers reached out to every avenue of society. The word house is used thirty-four times in this Gospel. Three great symbols were given in the Old Testament to set forth the divine purpose — the Tabernacle, the Temple and the Throne. The Tabernacle signified dwelling, the Temple was for blessing and the Throne for ruling. At the close of the Bible all three are realized. (Rev. 21) Christ had appeared as the full expression of each. As the anti-typical fulfillment of the Temple, His ministry was directed for the blessing of men, alike to the crowning benediction of the Aaronic order, (See Num. 6:22.) which lent character to the entire economy of Israel.
The Son of man undertook to ordain a widespread ministry of this order and therefore chose seventy disciples to cooperate in the great undertaking.
(a) The Ministry of Peace. Its Friendliness - In the discharge of this universal ministry the initial service was to carry a message of peace. “I send you forth as lambs among wolves ... and into whatsoever house ye enter first say, peace be upon it, and if a son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it.” (Luke 10:3, 5) The disciples were to enter both house and city. The house is the sphere and the city in turn, the sequel of society life. Christ sent these men to the center first, then to the circumference of social life.
When He Himself was first heralded by angel proclamation in ch. 1, the announcement rang out in clear tones, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth PEACE and good-will toward men.” This ministry continued right through the years until the triumphal entry when the multitude broke forth in like expression, “PEACE in heaven and glory in the highest.” (Luke 19:38) This wonderful word “peace,” with all its calm and charm is like a refrain from beginning to end of Luke, occurring fourteen times, and is in perfect harmony with the whole tenor of priestly ministry. In the Old Testament no nobler greeting proceeded from priestly lips and echoed down the ages than the white-winged words “peace be unto you.” (Num. 6:26)
When the day dawned for the true peacemaker to be manifest, the venerable Simeon was prepared to take his departure joyfully as he said, “Now Lord lettest thou thy servant depart in PEACE, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” (Luke 2:29)
He made peace by the blood of His cross, and ere He took His departure to return to the Father used the words in all their new wealth of meaning. “Peace be unto you.” (Luke 24:36)
“Peace, perfect peace in this dark world of sin? The blood of Jesus whispers peace within. - Bishop Bickersteth
We now await the final manifestation when in His mighty majesty as the Prince of Peace He will quell the ceaseless cry of war and under His righteous scepter, PEACE shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:9)
(b) The Ministry of Praise. Its Fragrance - Preceding the ministry of peace and sounding its silvery note was the priestly ministry of praise. Praise is the loftiest exercise of all divine service. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me.” (Psm. 50:23) Praise is not a note but a chord and one of its harmonies is the refrain of victory. A free translation of the above verse is illuminating. “Whoso offereth thanksgiving glorifieth Me and openeth a way that I may show him the victory of God.” (Margin, Psm. 50.23)
Luke’s message is preeminently a gospel of praise. In the opening chapter he alone records the immortal song of the angels announcing the birth of the Savior, and supplies the inspired hymn that Mary uttered when she celebrated the occasion of her great joy. This is followed by the prophetic song of Zacharias the priest, who was relieved of the dumbness of his former unbelief and burst forth in blessing the Lord. This praiseful spirit re-echoes from Simeon’s lips as he blesses God for the privilege granted to him of seeing with his own eyes, salvation personified. The whole multitude is at last constrained to swell the anthem with loud voice saying, “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord ... glory in the highest.” (Luke 19:37, 38)
The words praise, hail, magnify, blessed, and rejoice occur seventy times in the message, setting another indelible stamp on the priestly character of the book. The appropriateness of all this is demonstrated on the opening page. The Lord chose a specific time to reveal his purpose when Zacharias was in the act of offering the incense. The announcement was the greatest forecast ever made concerning an abiding priest that was about to appear in the true and heavenly sanctuary. His own son John was to be the privileged forerunner.
If praise were to be made permanent it was necessary that one should enter the presence of God with an offering of such sort, that an eternal fragrance would ascend from the sacrifice. This was realized in the Priest, who through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God. Because of this the seven great doxologies of the book of Revelation have been made permanent and will peal forth their glorious melody for ever and ever.
(c) The Ministry of Prayer. Its Features - The next great ministry of priesthood dealt with, is prayer. While He was praying in a certain place, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples.” (Luke 11:1) The response was remarkable in its order, nature and spirit, covering as it does the entire range of redemption and relationship. Our only right of approach to the sanctuary is based upon redemption. “We have boldness to enter by the blood of Jesus.” (Heb. 10:19) The redemption depicted in the Gospels is fourfold, covering kingship, heirship, fellowship and sonship. When man sinned he forfeited his power of dominion as a ruler, his possession of the inheritance as an heir, his privilege of fellowship as a priest and his position of relationship as a son. Christ is depicted in the four Evangels coming as King, as Heir, as Priest and as Son to redeem the forfeiture. So we find the interpretation of these things in the Epistles where, by virtue of His redemption, we are made kings, made heirs, made priests and made sons.
Christ condensed in this wonderful prayer the substance of this fourfold work, commencing with relationship as in John, working back to Matthew. Let us note the four sections of the prayer. “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth.” This is a masterful summary of the spiritual teaching of St. John in whose Gospel Christ the Son reveals the Father, who is mentioned 120 times. That name also is declared in the message. The King and Kingdom occur 21 times and the word “will” 28 times, which will as Son He came to fulfil. These profound features are compassed in a sentence.
The second section is “Give us day by day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive every one that is indebted to us.” In Luke’s Gospel, Christ as the Priest pardons the sins and provides the sustenance, a truth which goes to the very heart of the purpose set forth in that message.
The third petition is, “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” This summarizes St. Mark, wherein the usurper the devil, contests Christ’s right as heir to the estate. Thirty-five references are made to the evil one and his emissaries, all of whom Christ resists and overcomes. Therefore this request condenses Mark’s Gospel to a span.
The fourth petition runs “For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory for ever. Amen.” In Matthew the kingdom is referred to 56 times, the glory of this universal power being affirmed in the triumphant declaration, “All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth.” Therein the complete redemption is focused and concentrated in a manner such as only the Son of God was capable of expressing. An examination of the prayer will disclose that all the relationships are included from Father and Son in St. John, to the kingdom and subjects in St. Matthew. Those who presume to possess the discriminative power that enables them to relegate its aspirations to some coming Jewish remnant are to be pitied. The same people would fain take St. Matthew apart from the New Covenant and mutilate our fourfold Redemption. What a prayer our princely priest (for He came of Judah) has put upon our lips. “Oh,” say some, “this prayer is not for us.” Very well, then, it is for Him. “Thy kingdom come.” Then let us pray for it, for He is more important than we. His Glory is wrapped up in it, and if that is of no interest to us, we are not worthy of Him.
How deeply Christ emphasized the importance of relationship in all His instruction on prayer. “Our Father.” “Which of you shall have a friend,” “If a son ask of any of you who is a father” and such like. All of these expressions and many more imply a right relationship as being essential. In ch. 11 Christ showed the need for definiteness in prayer. The friend who came did not say when opportunity was given to him to make a request “I wish you would let me have some provisions such as you can spare or have a surplus of in your pantry. Nay, in all definiteness he said, “Friend, lend me three loaves.” The instruction requires that we be on intimate terms of relationship and insistent in our request but not indefinite in our requirements. How frequently we couch our prayers in such general terms that are so vague and indefinite, that if a child approached us with similar language we would have to finally say, “Well my boy, what do you really want? Tell me plainly.” In Luke 18 Christ gave a synopsis of all that He had embodied in His instruction on prayer, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.”
Christ was not only regular in prayer; He was royal in his relationship. We too have been made a royal priesthood. (I Pet. 2:9) Our intercession will supply currency for the furthering of the interests of the Crown. What possibilities are encased in this exercise when we are urged with one aim, namely the glory of His name. Why should I rise before day to pray? Because I am related to Him and of His spirit and He did it. Why should I pray for kings and all men and all saints? Because He is the mediator and I am related to Him in priesthood. Notice the part His priestliness plays in the section of the Revelation which answers to St. Luke, namely chs. 8-13. In Rev. 8 He is depicted as an angel or messenger standing at the golden altar with the prayers of saints, which representation is quite in keeping with His manifestation as Man in Luke’s Gospel. In this division all the periods relating to Gentile times occur, while the temple, Rev. 11:1,2,19, and all nations, Rev. 10:11; 11:9,18; 12:5 are also in prominence. The issue shows the kingdoms of the world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. (Luke 11:15)
What striking encouragement follows in Luke 18! A city, a judge and a widow. The widow came to one who in his own soliloquy said he feared not God nor regarded man. He was a man devoid of pity, merciless, one who was wholly out of sympathy with the grief of the widow. Yet the widow’s concentration on one definite request prevailed. Christ did not imply that the one to whom we come is unconcerned because asleep, ch. 11, and unjust because regardless, ch. 18. He taught by way of contrast, showing that if the friend prevailed at an inopportune hour and the widow prevailed with an indifferent judge, how much more would we prevail in coming to a loving Father who never slumbers nor sleeps and to an advocate who is both our surety and our vindicator. Not only so, but combined with such rights there is the assurance of many exceeding great and precious promises.
Success in true prayer is signed and sealed with the signature and insignia of the Son of God. From the fords of Jordan at the commencement of His ministry to its completion at Calvary, He prayed. True prayer is not merely an impressive submission, but an instructive work based upon the rights of redemption and the privileges of relationship. No amount of intellectual culture or natural gifts can abate the necessity for prayer.
(d) The Ministry of Provision. Its Fullness - Yet another important aspect of priestly work, was its ministry of provision. Luke 12 deals with this in relation to physical, moral and spiritual requirements. Christ gives His word of guarantee of full provision for those who give spiritual verities first place. He reassures by drawing illustrations from the birds and lilies with their plenty and beauty, that all the requirements of sustenance and satiation, of garments and gracefulness, would be supplied. Whoever heard of a bird anxiously struggling to produce a feather to stick in its wing, or of a flower toiling with fiber to spin a texture for its petals. Solomon with his weaving mills and dye works never produced anything as glorious as the petal of a flower of the field. In addition to this, if we adorn ourselves with this garment of righteousness, and keep our lights burning — a vivid priestly function — He will come and appoint us places of administration to give to others their portion of meat in due season. (Luke 12:35, 42)
(e) The Ministry of Pity. Its Freeness - Pity and compassion lend beauty and tone to the tenderness of Christ in Luke’s gospel. Men and women everywhere felt the warmth of His great heart as it yearned to attract and save them. When speaking of children He said He had come to save that which was lost. When referring to adults He said He had come to seek and to save that which was lost, for those who were grown up had wandered voluntarily and needed seeking, as well as saving. The whole range of this beneficent attitude is condensed into the immortal story of Luke 15. So attractive was His pity that all the “publicans and sinners drew near for to hear Him.” He did not denounce them with withering scorn; He drew them with wooing sympathy, and then laid bare the compassionate heart of eternal Godhead. This He did by illustrating the three great annual national feasts of Israel, which demonstrated Love, Light and Life. (See Deut. 16 with Luke 15.)
The Feast of Passover symbolized the Son as the Redeemer.
The Feast of Pentecost symbolized the Spirit as the Renewer.
The Feast of Tabernacles symbolized the Father as the Receiver.
In this order the three illustrations are given. The illustrious shepherd seeks the lost sheep and restores it. The illuminating Spirit searches for the lost silver and recovers it. The impassionate father sighs for the lost son and receives him. What sympathy, what seeking, what solicitude is revealed in this wonderful unveiling of beneficence! The purpose hereby disclosed shows the harmony existing in deity to woo and win and welcome the defeated sons of men and to prepare and receive them into everlasting habitations.
(f) The Ministry of Purification. Its Facilities - The privilege of the priest was to declare the lepers clean when the traces of the disease had departed. Christ as priest declared them clean and commanded them to go and show themselves to the priest, and as they went they were cleansed. (Luke 17:16) What a testimony to His competency and compassion. Yea, He did in excess of what any other priest had ever done in v. 19. That He cleansed the heart of Zacchaeus from his sordid covetousness is obvious. The facilities for purification were placed within the reach of all. For the poorest of the land two sparrows were required, and Luke 12:5 records five such were sold for two farthings. The ceremonial purification in many cases was a pair of doves or two young pigeons. (Luke 2:23, 24) The leper was segregated by law from society and they who touched a person stricken with the disease became ceremonially unclean. But Christ the priest broke the law and touched the leper. (Luke 5:12, 13) Instead of contracting defilement He imparted cleansing, which was beyond the power and prerogative of any former priest. Someone has said that Elohim of the Old Testament was the title of the God who willed all that He did and that the title Jehovah implied that he did all that He willed. The demonstration is seen in this case. The leper said, “Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean,” and He replied, “I will, be thou clean.” He possessed an absolute prerogative to administer every priestly blessing. Christ’s disposition was to dispense these blessings to those who sought Him. He did not work merely on the exterior as did the Pharisees who made the outside clean and left the inside tainted. (Luke 11:39) He always removed the stain that defiled and restored the soul to devoutness. His final public act in this ministry of purification was the cleansing of the temple. (Luke 19:45-47) This again was distinctively a priestly work, (II Kings 23:4,5) and the prodigious claim signified by His action angered the rulers of the people who sought to destroy Him, but who were baffled by His other-worldly authority.
(g) The Ministry of Propitiation. Its Function - There cannot be a true priest apart from a sacrifice. The great contrast in Christ’s case consisted in His offering Himself without spot to God. This was the culminating work of His priestly ministry on earth. “This that is written must be accomplished in me ‘and He was reckoned among the transgressors,’ for the things concerning me have an end.” (Luke 22:37) Immediately afterwards He went to the Mount of Olives and withdrawing from His disciples was plunged into overwhelming distress. There was no approving voice from the Father and no assuring touch from the Spirit of Truth and tenderness. His chosen friends could not enter into the depths of anguish that made demands in that dreadful conflict. The power of Satan’s hour enthralled Him. The unutterable stroke for the lawlessness of sin’s awful load smote Him. No priest ever experienced the stern reality of the holy office as He did. (See Jer. 30:21; Isa. 49:6.) Yet in the abysmal depths of that desolation there was divinest conformity of will and implicit confidence.
Never before had there been known on earth such a blending of priestly power and prayer, such abandonment and appeal, such agony and glory, such conflict and conquest. There the indescribable fragrance flowed forth with all that was implied in the stacte, onycha galbanum and frankincense, so pure and holy. (Exo. 30:34, 35) From Gethsemane ascended the sweetest savor ever compounded of obedience complete, and of submission absolute. Gethsemane crowned Calvary with radiant glory, for Gethsemane witnessed the fullness of the burnt and meal offerings. How heavy was the burden, how bitter the cup, how intolerable the conflict! Prostrate and sinking he besought help with strong crying and tears and was heard. (Heb. 5:7) An angel appeared and strengthened Him. His submission was no forced surrender but a volitional triumph in the face of the mighty malignity of hell. The crucible was the crucial test and the flame was vehement. The fierceness of the attack is implied in His own words which suggest that all the enmity, strategy, and malignity of the devil’s forces were marshaled, and the call went out as of old, “Fight neither with small nor great but with the King only.” (I Kings 22:31) The utmost effort shown by the enemy in utilizing his entire power for the onslaught only magnified the unbounded degree of Christ’s victory. He triumphed in Gethsemane and voluntarily offered Himself at Calvary. No other being ever borrowed a tomb and used it in death and restored it three days later to the owner in an undefiled state. No grave ever gave forth such unlimited fragrance with its incorruptible body and its hundred pound weight of costly spices. Every single feature of the sacrifice answered to the character and requirement of holiness and the final words imply the utmost acceptance, “Father, into Thy hands I commend my Spirit.” (Luke 23:46)