Lesson: Jeremiah 1:4-10
4 The word of the LORD came to me saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
6 Then I said, “Ah, LORD God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”
9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
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 were different versions of the Book of Jeremiah. The 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.)
Today’s reading is in “poetry style” and describes Jeremiah’s call in terms that are reminiscent of the calls of Moses in Exodus 3, of Gideon in Judges 6, and of Isaiah in Isaiah 6. In this sense, Jeremiah is presented as a “prophet like Moses” who would be raised up as anticipated in Deut. 18:15. Just as with Moses, Gideon and Isaiah, Jeremiah claimed (v.6) he was not fit to speak for YHWH (translated as “LORD” in all capital letters), but YHWH touched Jeremiah’s mouth (v.9) and put words in it so that he could speak for YHWH, just as a seraph touched Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal (Is.6:6-7).
The phrase in verse 4 and 7 (“the word of the LORD came to me”) appeared multiple times in the Book of Jeremiah and gave a clear statement that Jeremiah was not speaking for himself but was speaking for YHWH.
The phrase “to destroy and overthrow and to build up and plant” (v.10) expressed a key theme expressed in Jeremiah, particularly in the prose passages attributable to the Deuteronomists – Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Babylonians but would be rebuilt after the Exile ended.
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic, and Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers also taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it meant to be a Jesus Follower. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) (likely while Paul was in Ephesus) and presented his views on several issues.
It is one of Paul’s most important letters because it is one of the earliest proclamations of Jesus’ death on behalf of sinners and his resurrection and it contains the basic formula for celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
Today’s reading is a continuation of the readings for the last two weeks in which Paul described the variety of spiritual gifts as all coming from the same Spirit for the good of the community. He analogized the members of the community (and their gifts) as being parts of the same body of the Christ.
In today’s reading, Paul praised love as the most important spiritual gift and emphasized its superiority to the Hellenistic values of reason and wisdom, as well as its superiority to prophesy and knowledge. Unlike other gifts, love never ends (v.8). Paul stated that love is not boastful, arrogant, or rude, and rhapsodically concluded that love is the greatest of faith, hope and love (v.13).
Gospel: Luke 4:21-30
21 Jesus began to speak in the synagogue at Nazareth: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
The Gospel According to Luke is generally regarded as having been written around 85 CE. Its author also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Both books were written in elegant and deliberatively crafted Greek and presented Jesus of Nazareth as the universal savior of humanity. Both emphasized the Holy Spirit as the “driving force” for events.
The Gospel followed the same general chronology of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the Gospel of Mark, and more than 40% of Luke’s Gospel was based on Mark. The other portions of Luke include (a) sayings shared with the Gospel According to Matthew but not found in Mark and (b) stories that are unique to Luke such as the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple, the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan.
Today’s reading is a continuation of the story read last week in which Jesus was portrayed as having given his “Programmatic Discourse” and set forth his ministry plan.
Having set forth the plan, Jesus asserted (v.21) that he was the embodiment of the Spirit of the Lord (a form of a Messiah claim). The persons present expressed amazement that the son of a carpenter could express such lofty thoughts (v.22).
In response to their amazement, Jesus then noted that no prophet is accepted in his hometown (v. 24). In noting that he had not performed “things the people had heard he performed in Capernaum” (v.23) – which are not specified in the gospel — Jesus observed that both Elijah and Elisha performed signs for Gentiles (vv. 25-27). Because Jesus had not performed signs for his hometown as he had in Capernaum, the persons became very angry and sought to “hurl him off the cliff” (v.29).
One of the recurring themes in Luke was Jesus as a “rejected prophet” and this appeared numerous times in the Gospel.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament quite correctly points out that Nazareth is not built on a cliff.