FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
Jeremiah 31: 31-34
I find this passage of such critical importance to my religion that I keep a permanent bookmark here in my Bible. At the return of the Jews from Babylonian slavery, Jeremiah announces an individualism that would have been inconceivable to earlier generations. No longer will children be made to suffer for the sins of their fathers and grandfathers, “but all shall die for their own sins” (31: 30). God transforms the very nature of covenants, for he establishes a new covenant with every individual, one that frees her/him from dependence upon priests and rabbis and traditions and rules. God will write his law in every heart, will allow everyone to know God’s forgiving nature. Jeremiah’s vision of God’s connectedness to individuals prepared the way for Christianity.
Hebrews 5: 5-10
Hebrews is called a letter, but it is really a theological treatise. No one knows by whom or for whom it was written. It gets its name only because on the outside of one ancient manuscript is written, “To the Hebrews.” In this treatise we find the earliest expression of the doctrine of Christ as our only High Priest. When Hebrews was written, the Temple at Jerusalem had been destroyed and Jewish priests had been replaced by rabbis. Hebrews reintroduced the idea of the priest into Christianity. The model was not Aaron, Moses’s brother and the first Jewish priest, but rather Melchizedek, the mysterious priest of Salem many centuries before Aaron, who brought food to the wayfaring Abram and blessed him (Genesis 18-20). To show that Jesus’s priesthood is according to the order of Melchizedek, our author quotes lines from Psalm 110. Melchizedek, he continues, “a priest of God Most High,” did not drive his authority from any organized religion, but directly from God. Our author sees him as a mysterious, messianic figure: “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever” (7: 2-3).
© Arthur H. Cash