Lesson: Jeremiah 15:15-21
15 O LORD, you know; remember me and visit me, and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance do not take me away; know that on your account I suffer insult.
16 Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.
17 I did not sit in the company of merrymakers, nor did I rejoice; under the weight of your hand I sat alone, for you had filled me with indignation.
18 Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail.
19 Therefore, thus says the LORD: If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth.
It is they who will turn to you, not you who will turn to them.
20 And I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail over you, for I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the LORD.
21 I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.
After the righteous and reforming King Josiah was killed in battle at Megiddo (from which we get the Greek word Armageddon) in 609 BCE, the fortunes of Judea took a sharp downward turn. Babylon threatened Judea’s existence, and Judea had a series of hapless kings from 609 until Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Babylonians deported many Judean leaders to Babylon in 597 and a larger number in 586 (the Babylonian Exile).
Jeremiah’s prophesy (i.e. speaking for YHWH) began around 609 and continued until 586 BCE when he died in Egypt.
Most Bible scholars agree that the Book of Jeremiah underwent substantial revisions between the time of Jeremiah (627 to 586 BCE) and the First Century. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, there are different versions of the Book of Jeremiah. The Ancient Greek Septuagint Translation (the LXX – dating from 300 to 200 BCE) has some chapters that are not in the Hebrew versions.
Sections in the book that are in “poetry style” are generally attributed to the prophet, and parts in “prose style” were added later by writers whose theological outlook was closely aligned with the Deuteronomists. (In fact, Chapter 52 in Jeremiah is virtually word-for-word with 2 Kings 24:18 to 25:30 written by the Deuteronomists after the Exile.)
Jeremiah’s predictions of harsh times for Judea and Jerusalem were rejected by the kings and the “court prophets.” Because he opposed the power structure, he was ridiculed and mistreated.
Today’s reading is a lament by Jeremiah in which he asks YHWH to vindicate him (v.15), given the fact that he internalized YHWH’s words (“I ate them” v.16) and was suffering an incurable wound (v.18). In verses 19-21, YHWH replied to Jeremiah that he would be delivered and redeemed.
Because Jeremiah is largely a prophet of doom and gloom, the English word “jeremiad” means a long, mournful complaint or lamentation, a list of woes. Because of Jeremiah’s laments, authorship of the Book of Lamentations was incorrectly attributed to him.
Epistle: Romans 12:9-21
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Paul’s letter to the Romans was his longest, last and most complex letter. It was written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE) – about ten years before the first Gospel (Mark) was written – to a Jesus Follower community that Paul did not establish. Among other messages in the letter, Paul sought to encourage respectful and supportive relationships between the Gentile Jesus Followers and the Jewish Jesus Followers in Rome.
The “backstory” is that the Roman Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome in 49 CE. His successor, Nero (54-68 CE), allowed Jews (including Jewish Jesus Followers) to return to Rome, and this created tensions about leadership and worship within the Jesus Follower Community.
Building on his prior discussions, in today’s reading, Paul urged all the Jesus Followers in Rome to love one another (v.10) and live in harmony (v.16). In verse 19, Paul paraphrased Deuteronomy 32:35 to say “vengeance” is God’s, but a better translation is “vindication” (or wholeness) because the idea in the paraphrased verse in Deuteronomy was that God would bring about justice (in the sense of making things right) — rather than revenge.
Gospel: Matthew 16:21-28
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”