Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday Thoughts on the Readings for Sunday, March 18th, 2018

This coming Sunday is the final Sunday of Lent before Palm/Passion Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.  Our Gospel reading suggests that Jesus is ready for what is about to happen.  Throughout the early chapters of Gospel of John, we hear that Jesus' hour has not yet arrived.  But now, Jesus declares, the hour has arrived, and we begin the final journey to Jerusalem and to the Cross.  What else do we need to hear before we get to Holy Week?

As always, you will find the Revised Common Lectionary readings within the post.  In italics, I add my thoughts after each reading.  If you would like to add your thoughts, ask your questions, or critique my response(s), you can do so in the comment section below.

Jeremiah 31:31 - 34

31The 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 Lord33But 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 covenant referenced here is the Lord’s covenant with Moses, which re-established the covenant with Abraham for Abraham’s family (the Israelites) to live in the Promised Land.  This covenant also came with a series of laws and regulations for the Israelites to live within this covenant.  The Israelites were not able to live up to this covenant, and so the Lord sent them into exile.  But the Lord will return the Israelites to Jerusalem and will establish a new covenant with them.  In the short term, this covenant is the restoration of the city and the Temple.  From a New Testament (i.e. a “New Covenant”) perspective, the new covenant is recalled within the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Psalm 51:1 - 12

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
 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.
 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 judgment.
 5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
 6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
 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.

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

Psalm 51 is the psalmist’s confession of breaking the covenant and violating the Lord’s laws.  The psalmist asks for forgiveness and for the Lord to cleanse the psalmist from these sins.  The psalmist also asks for a new heart, which connects with Jeremiah 31’s mention of the Lord writing the new covenant on our hearts.

Hebrews 5:5 - 10

5Christ 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 forever,
  according to the order of Melchizedek.”
  7In 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.

Hebrews reads as if it suggests that Jesus was not fully divine when he was born (see verses 8 and 9: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience…and having been made perfect…).  The appeal to the order of Melchizedek (see Genesis 14:17 – 24) is a traditional appeal to authority: in Hebrew culture, authority came with age; the older, the greater the authority.  If Jesus is a “high priest according to the order of Melchizedek,” then the authority of his order is greater than the authority of the Levites (goes back to Moses and Aaron) and the Pharisees.

John 12:20 - 33

20Now 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 judgment 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.

Philip and Andrew are still sitting there, wondering “Will you receive these Greek visitors who wish to see you or not?”  (a facetious thought, I know, but I notice that Jesus did not answer the question that they asked)

In the Gospel of John, we do not get the full story of John baptizing Jesus; instead, we get John the Baptist telling others about that event.  John the Baptist mentions seeing a dove and hearing a voice, but there is no sense that others heard the voice.  Here, the crowd also hears the voice of God/Holy Spirit.  Some dismiss this voice as thunder.  Others say it is the voice of an angel.  Jesus declares that this voice is for us so that we may trust and believe Jesus’ message that he will draw all people to himself after his crucifixion.

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