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Bible Tuesday for Lent V, 2018

Bible Tuesday for Lent 5, 2018

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,* says the Lord. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

The texts for Year B Lent have thus far dealt with the covenant that God made with Noah and with Abraham. In this passage of Jeremiah, which is include in all three lectionary years for Reformation Sunday, God declares that post-exile Israel will be living under a new covenant which will be written on each person’s heart. No tablets of stone necessary! God declares that His law will no longer need to be taught. Why? Because each person will already know it “by heart” (as it will be written on their hearts) and by experience. Each person will personally experience God’s forgiveness of iniquity and forgetting of sins. Through that personal experience of forgiveness, each person will come to know the true nature of God: grace, mercy, pity, and unconditional love.

There is a branch of Jewish biblical scholarship that believes the “imago dei” or the “image of God” in which humans were created in Genesis 1 is fully realized in this new covenant with God stated above. The Law written on the hearts coupled with the personal experience of God’s grace and mercy is the divine spark in each human, according to these scholars.

Psalm 51:1-12

To the leader. A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

While the pleas in this psalm fit the crimes David committed against Uriah and Bathsheba, many Jewish scholars believe this psalm to be written much later than David, and ascribed to him after the fact.

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.

“steadfast love” is the English translation of the Hebrew word, “hesed”, which is a legal term which is best translated as a combination of “loyalty”, “the party of the first part” in a legal contract, and “dedication.” The psalmist is pleading with God that God not react in anger to the sin, but rather in mercy and loyalty which God’s covenant with Israel demands. God’s faithfulness to the covenant is so great that it blots out the sins of Israel against the covenant.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

It is not just the psalmist who lives this kind of guilt and shame.

4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are justified in your sentence
and blameless when you pass judgement.

Really? The sin is against God only?! What about the people against whom you have sinned?

5 Indeed, I was born guilty,
a sinner when my mother conceived me.

This sounds like the psalmist was conceived out of wedlock or as a result of rape. It is lines like this in the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures that gave rise to the medieval notion that all sex is sin and the dogma that original sin comes from the fact that each human is created out of sin between parents, whether married or not. What a misinterpretation of the psalmist!

6 You desire truth in the inward being;*
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

“Secret heart” – this is a colloquialism for “my most private thoughts and feelings.”

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Hyssop is a plant in the mint family whose oil has detergent properties.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right* spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.

This is a plea to not be banished from God’s presence or favor due to the sin committed.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing* spirit.

Hebrews 5:5-10

So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,
‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you’;
6as he says also in another place,
‘You are a priest for ever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.’

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus* offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

The book of Hebrews is written in the style of one explaining the development of doctrine. In the above passage, the author describes one aspect of doctrine around Jesus: that Jesus is the final, and one true High Priest of Yahweh. In Hebrew tradition, the High Priest spoke to God on behalf of the people and relayed God’s words to the people.

In this passage, the author states that God made Jesus High Priest when God stated that Jesus was God’s son, and that God was speaking about Jesus in Psalm 110:4. “The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."

Melchizedek is a man who appears only once in the Bible in Genesis 14. Abraham and Sarah encounter him in their travels and he is said to be, “a priest of the most high God.”

The author uses Jesus’ prayers in the garden of Gethsemane, and his sacrificial death as evidence of Jesus’ High Priestly behavior.

John 12:20-33

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. 27 ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.28Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ 29The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’30Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.31Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people* to myself.’ 33He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

A hallmark of the gospel of John is the theme of “Come and see.” When John’s disciples first meet Jesus, they ask him, “Where are you staying?” and he answers, “Come and see.” When they come to believe that Jesus is messiah, they tell others, “We have found the messiah! Come and see!” This is the writer’s statement of what Israel was meant to be, a vehicle whereby the “nations and tribes and peoples and languages” would come and see God, and receive God’s love. Since Israel failed to convey God’s gospel to the world, the gospel of John tells us that “the word became flesh” and did it Himself. “Come and see!” the gospel invites. “Come and see” to Jews first and then to all peoples.

In the above passage, the holiday of Passover is being celebrated and Jews from all over the Roman Empire are coming to Jerusalem to celebrate. This passage takes place on Palm Sunday afternoon. The “Greeks” may be Greeks converted to Judaism, since the passage begins by stating that they came to Jerusalem for the festival. They symbolize that Jesus’ invitation to “come and see” has been realized. Folks who are not native born Jews are answering the invitation.

Since folks are answering the invitation, Jesus declares that he must die and be buried in the earth that the great plant of faith might grow from him and continue to multiply, generation after generation.

“Those who love their life will lose it…” If Jesus does not now allow himself to be sacrificed via execution, then he is loving his earthly life, not his call from God. Jesus then extends that call to all who would follow him. If we love our lives and spare ourselves from loss due to living out our baptismal call, then we are forsa