Year B Lent 22.3.15

Jeremiah 31. 31“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Hebrews 5.5 In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” 6 And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” 7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

John 12:20-33 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. "Sir," they said, "we would like to see Jesus." 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 225 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. 27 "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? `Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!" Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and will glorify it again." 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, "This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgement on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Winston Churchill.

Jeremiah was young when he received God's calling to be a prophet, a spokesman for God. He continually urged God's people to turn away from false worship and social injustice, and he encouraged the leaders not to rely upon political alliances. His warnings were ignored, the Babylonians invaded and deported many in 597BC.

Jeremiah struggled at times. He was imprisoned, persecuted, people planned to kill him, his message disregarded.

One commentator says of Jeremiah, "His character is most interesting. We find him sensitive to a most painful degree, timid, shy, hopeless, despondant, constantly complaining and dissatisfied with the course of events, but never flinching from duty. Timid in resolve, he was unflinching in execution; as fearless when he had to face the whole world as he was dispirited and prone to murmuring when alone with God.”

We see this in 20.7 You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. 8 Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long. 9 But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. 10 I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side! Denounce him! Let’s denounce him!” All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying, “Perhaps he will be deceived; then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him.”

But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced; their dishonor will never be forgotten. 12 Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause.

13 Sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked. 14 Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! 15 Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying, “A child is born to you—a son!”

One of the problems that Jeremiah faced was that God's people did not have the will to follow his leading, If they worshipped Him at all it was an outward religious duty rather than a life transformed by a relationship with God.

Yet Jeremiah looked to the future, especially in 31.31-34, one of the most significant passages in the Old Testament.

This looked forward to the new covenant that Jesus would bring in.

The old covenant or testament, involved God showing his grace, his undeserved favour by choosing to deliver a people, delivering them from slavery in Egypt, revealing His will to them through the law, and asking them to trust in His ways in gratitude. However, God's people were consistently unfaithful, ignoring His revealed will and even worshipping other, foreign gods.

A new covenant was needed. Jesus brought this in. He offered a better sacrifice, one which did not need to be repeated, when he died for the sins of the world on the cross. “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” Hebrew 5.9.

There is more to this new covenant. After Jesus' resurrection and ascension to heaven, God poured out His Holy Spirit upon His disciples on the day of Pentecost, and has given His Holy Spirit to every believer since. So we have God living within us. Giving power to live for God, worship God, serve God, and become more like God, especially Jesus.

The Old Testament was written on stone. The New Testament is written in people's minds and on their hearts. It is embedded within them through God's Holy Spirit. We love God and His will for us!

God's new covenant was brought about through the suffering of Jesus that is mentioned in our Hebrews and John readings.

Hebrews 5. 7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

In our gospel the disciples are approached by Greeks wanting to see Jesus. Jesus tells the crowd if they want to find out what he is like they can see him on a cross. It is through being lifted up on the cross that he will draw all men, Jews and Gentiles, to himself. On an instrument of torture, suffering and death God will disclose himself.

God in Jesus suffers, experiencing what it is like to be a person in every way. This is what the writer to the Hebrews was referring to when he wrote about the son earning through suffering and being made perfect. Complete may be a better translation, as this could imply that Jesus was not morally perfect before, and Jesus was. Otherwise he could not have offered himself as a perfect sacrifice to fulfil the law and bring in the new covenant that Jeremiah pointed to.

Jesus suffered physically and spiritually. As he hung there he cried “My God my God why have you forsaken me”. He experienced the separation from God that we deserve for our sins so we can be free from condemnation and know, worship and live for God.

To enjoy this new covenant, this wonderful opportunity to be united to God we have to respond. Like Jeremiah and Jesus, life will not be easy.

25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.

Lent is a time of preparation for Easter that enables believers to reflect on their lives, and to assess and make any changes that are needed with the help of God's Spirit.

Losing our life, with the pain and cost this brings will be painful, at times. But we have the blessing of knowing God. Having His love, joy, hope and peace within us. The support of God and of fellow believers. The certain promise of eternal life that runs through our three readings.

As we go through life, let us be emboldened to persevere in our walk with God, be enabled by His Spirit, and encouraged by the promise of eternal life, a life that starts here in earth.