Updated: May 16, 2021
By Luke Lancaster
Catholic priests are of the "order of Melchizedek," but what does that mean? This stems from an ancient king of Jerusalem who functioned as a priest. In Genesis 14, we read about how well over a thousand years before Jesus, Abraham met the Jewish king Melchizedek. He was said to be the priest to "God Most High" of Jeru-Salem (Gen. 14:18). This priest offered bread and wine to God.
King David, who was not a Levitical priest, took after Melchizedek. When David became Melchizedek’s successor to the throne of Jerusalem, he automatically became a priest. David’s sons automatically became priests as well, for the Hebrew text say “priests” in 2 Sam. 8:18. David thus could act like a priest in 2 Samuel 6. He set up the tent for the Lord (only the priests could do this) and wore an ephod (only a priest wore this).
Jesus is the Son of David, so He also is a priest. The “sons” of Jesus were His Apostles in a sense, so He shared His priesthood with them. This is interesting, for king David in Psalm 110:4 is said to be of the priestly "order of Melchizedek." He doubled as both king of Jerusalem and priest to God Most High. Then Jesus is said to be of the "order of Melchizedek" in Hebrews 5:10 and 7:11, which would seem to indicate Christ as the kingly-priest of Jerusalem. So Scripture draws a line from Melchizedek to David to Jesus.
Jesus in particular follows Melchizedek in that He offers to "God Most High" the offering of bread and wine (Luke 22:19-20). However, if this is something that indicates Christ to be a priest, wouldn't this be an interesting parallel to the fact that Jesus charged the apostles also to offer bread and wine? He told them to "do this in remembrance of Me" (Lk. 22:19). They seem to be within the order of Melchizedek! This is actually why Psalm 110:4 is sung at every Catholic Priest's ordination day. For they truly are a priest of Melchizedek, participating in the office of Christ THE priest.