Jeremiah: The new covenant. We went from the Noahic Covenant, to the Abrahamic Covenant to the Mosaic Covenant. After weeks of wading through various covenants, we come to this final week before Passion/Palm Sunday, in which Jeremiah promises a new covenant. The problem with the Mosaic Covenant is the people could not keep it. Their infidelity is why Judah is in exile in Babylon.
After many harsh words, the prophet delivers a word of hope. One day a new covenant will come, not like the Mosaic Covenant. “I will write the law on their hearts.” All will know the Lord. Their sins will be remembered no more. The days are coming, says the Lord.
Hebrews: Jesus is a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek (מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק, malchi zedek, “my king is righteousness”) is mentioned in Genesis 14. He is the King of Salem and a priest of “God most high” who blesses Abraham. Melchizedek is also mentioned in Psalm 110 (“The Lord said to my Lord” psalm). Melchizedek is mentioned several times in Hebrews. In the author of Hebrew’s cryptic theology, this probably is a way of saying that Jesus is now the high priest. The Temple is no longer necessary. In some ways this is a similar message to the Cleansing of the Temple in John 2 (Lent 3B).
The theology is complex. Jesus “learned obedience through suffering.” This is likely encouragement to a church that is under persecution. Christ’s followers are to learn obedience through suffering as Christ did.
John: Greeks want to see Jesus. Some Greeks wish to see Jesus. Jesus has already said he has other sheep “not of this fold.” The mission to the Gentiles is in full swing long before John writes his gospel.
For the first part of the gospel Jesus has been saying his hour has not yet come. Remember the Wedding at Cana, “Woman, why are you involving me? … My hour has not yet come.” Well, after the raising of Lazarus in chapter 11, the decision to kill Jesus is made. Jesus ignores Philip and the Greeks, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
Discursus: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone. If it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate it will keep it. Jesus is now to be glorified, to be lifted up, hearkening back to John 3, last week.
This passage touches upon something that we have seen several times during Lent, the mystery of the cross: The only way to find life is to lose it. “Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it up.” “If any would follow me, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.” “The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” The preacher must know his or her community well to find creative ways to convey this counterintuitive message with conviction. The power of God is most perfect in our weakness. Life grows when we let it go.
The Greeks wanting to see Jesus gives an excellent opportunity to preach a message of witness. People may be turned off with the church, but they are still very, very interested in Jesus. If we show that we are more interested in people’s spiritual lives than the instructional survival of our religious clubs, we still have the ability to see the power of the gospel at work in the lives of seekers.
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. The hour has come for the Son of Man to be lifted up. Jesus approaches his “hour” with open fear, and also resignation. “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.” (12:27) This could be a model of how we as Christians might approach death. It is natural to be worried, but as a people of the resurrection, confident of God’s saving grace, we know that our lives are in God’s hands.
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (12:32) Though it is homiletical allegory, the preacher might ask the congregation to consider the ways in which Christ is being lifted up in their community. Is Christ lifted up in our speech? In our lives? Is the Son of Man being lifted up in our congregation’s presence in the community? When people talk about our congregation what do they say? What do they see? How are we known? How is Christ known through us? The good news here is that when Christ is lifted up, people will be drawn to him.