Posted by: Pauline | March 20, 2015

Scriptures for Sunday March 22

Jeremiah 31:31-34

It would be easy, reading these verses, to think that it speaks of a new covenant that replaces the old one. But many scholars believe that a better translation would be “a renewed covenant.” It is the same God who makes the covenant, and the same people of Israel with whom He makes it. The moral standards are the same. The problem is that the standards were consistently being broken.

What is new is how the law – which could also be translated teaching – comes to people. The old law was external, written in stone, and had to be taught to people who very often refused to listen, and many times rejected those who taught it. Now it will be written on their hearts – which in Hebrew thought was not the center of emotions but of the will and intelligence. All people will know God – which means far more than knowledge about God. It refers to knowing someone personally in an intimate relationship.

Psalm 119:9-16

The psalmist clearly had internalized God’s law in a way that led to knowing God in an intimate relationship. He has stored up God’s teachings in his heart in the way someone stores valuables in a safe place – that is the actual meaning of the word “stored” (or “hidden” in other translations). He follows God’s commands not because he has to but because he wants to, because he loves the God who gave those commands.

Hebrews 5:5-10

This brief passage points out both Jesus’ exalted position as Son of God and high priest, and his humanity with all the suffering that entailed. In the context of this suffering, it speaks of Jesus’ prayer to the Father “with loud cries and tears.” This may refer to his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, or to his lifelong habit of intense prayer.

If it does refer to his prayer in the Garden, it is interesting that we are told “he was heard because of his reverence.” One who had heard him pray “let this cup pass from me”, and then saw him die in agony the next day, might have questioned whether God did hear Jesus’ prayer. But Jesus also prayed for God’s will to be done, and as Jesus remained obedient to God’s will, it was surely accomplished in both his death and resurrection.

John 12:20-33

This is one of several passages in the Gospels where Jesus speaks of those who follow him needing to be willing to lose their lives for him. Here he uses a striking analogy, to a seed dying in order to bear fruit. Seeds often seem pretty dry and dead even before they are buried in the ground, though inside there is an embryo which is merely dormant. It is the outer seed coat which has to “die” and give up the food reserves it holds to feed the embryo that will grow into the vibrant plant we can see. So we also must die to ourselves, but through Christ we rise to a much better kind of life.

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