In his public ministry Jesus exercised a priestly ministry. The prophetic teaching and miraculous activity of Jesus during his public ministry should also be recognized as priestly. After the Holy Spirit descended on him at his baptism, Jesus inaugurated his work of evangelization. Right from the time of the New Testament (Acts 10: 38), that descent of the Spirit was understood to be an anointing for a mission, which should be understood not only in a prophetic and kingly key but also in a priestly key. (In our next thesis we will present something on the way in which the three ‘offices’ of Christ mutually condition each other.) We reported ten points about the priesthood of Christ that can be drawn from the presentation of that priesthood in two landmark documents published in 1982: Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry from the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, and the Final Report from the Anglican–Roman Catholic International Commission. Neither BEM nor the Final Report listed the public ministry of Jesus as an essential feature in the exercise of his priesthood. This was a serious omission, and somewhat puzzling when one recalls (1) the vehement criticisms that came from the Reformers against the priests of their day for neglecting the ministry of the Word, and (2) the primary place given to preaching in Vatican II’s account of the priestly ministry.

This sixteenth-century challenge and the twentieth-century response should have alerted those responsible for composing BEM and the Final Report to the relevance of Jesus’ public ministry for any complete view of his priesthood. The public ministry of Jesus entered essentially into the exercise of his priesthood (see e.g. Origen, Luther, and the French School). His total dedication to the cause of God’s kingdom substantiated what the Letter to the Hebrews said in summing up the priestly work of the incarnate Son: he came to do God’s will (Heb. 10: 7). Jesus’ role as teacher/preacher exemplified what Jeremiah and other Old Testament witnesses had said about instructing God’s people as a distinguishing feature of priesthood. It also anticipated Paul’s preaching the good news, which the apostle understood to be a priestly, liturgical ministry (Rom. 15: 16).