Fifth Sunday of Lent (B)
Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 12:20-33; Hebrews 5:5-10
This seems an extraordinary statement that God makes through the prophet Jeremiah, that a new covenant would come where there would no longer be any need for the people of Israel and Judah to teach other people to know God.
“they will not need to teach their neighbours, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:34).
Would it have something to do with the process whereby the LORD would place his instructions deep within people’s hearts? Then, if people could live and act out of that deep place within, then maybe people might behave better, in the way the LORD himself meant people to live and act.
There is no doubt that that is what the LORD did in Christ. Jesus came into the world with the law written on his heart and the instructions of God deep within. He lived out of that place.
In the old covenant, there were promises that Israel would be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6, 51:4). Simeon, in the Temple when Jesus is born, makes it clear that Jesus is the light to the nations and the glory of Israel.
“He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:32)
So, did Jesus, as the first embodiment of this new covenant, not have to teach his neighbours and family to know the LORD, because everyone could now know him?
There’s no doubt people flocked to Jesus, not just to hear his words or see the signs. There is a magnetically attractive quality to Jesus. And maybe this partly explains his statement to his disciples about how when he is lifted up he will draw all people to himself (John 12:32). Even his death would be attractive, in the sense that it would achieve something supernatural, something that even Jesus couldn’t achieve with only words or actions.
‘Everyone will know me, everyone will know me because of my death’. The death of Jesus brings life to the people of this world. Jesus used the image of a kernel of wheat having to die in order to produce new kernels of wheat, or as the NLT puts it, a plentiful harvest of new lives. New life that would come through the willingness of Jesus to lay down his life.
“Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me” (John 12:25-26)
Jesus is effectively saying to his disciples, follow me, by laying aside your own life. Live life in the way that I have lived it. Don’t hang onto your life with clenched fists but be open handed about your life, be generous, give freely, let go, and in this way, God the Father will honour you. And in this way, everyone will know me, from the greatest to the least. You won’t need to teach them.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You are the Way, the Truth and the Life
Give us grace and courage
To tread in your steps
Until all know you
And bring glory to you.