Lesson: Jeremiah 28:5-9
5 The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD; 6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD fulfill the words that you have prophesied and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles. 7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. 8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.”
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 most of the Judean leaders to Babylon in 597 and took most of the treasures from the Temple. In 586, the Babylonians deported a larger number (the beginning of the Babylonian Exile) and destroyed the Temple. 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 Ancient Greek Septuagint Translation (the LXX – dating from 300 to 200 BCE) has some chapters that are not in the Hebrew versions.
Jeremiah is largely a prophet of doom and gloom, and the English word “jeremiad” means a long, mournful complaint or lamentation, a list of woes.
Sections in the book that are in “poetry style” are generally attributed to the prophet, and parts in “prose style” were likely 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 prose style and is set in the period from 597 to 594 BCE. A false prophet, Hananiah, prophesied that the treasures from the Temple that were taken as spoils by the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, would be returned soon (v.3) – even though Judah had not repented and Babylon was as strong as ever.
In today’s verses and the ones that follow, Jeremiah said he hoped Hananiah’s prophesies would come true (v.6), but then denied that Hananiah has a commission from God and asserted that the Babylonians would enslave the Judeans.
Epistle: Romans 6:12-23
12 Do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you since you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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) 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 Roman Emperor Claudius had 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.
Paul was a Jew who became a Jesus Follower and who saw the Jesus Follower Movement as part of a broader Judaism. As such, he continued to have expectations about the fullness of the Coming of the Messiah/the Christ. The term “Christian” had not been invented in his lifetime.
Today’s reading continues Paul’s discussion of the effects of Baptism (which joins us in the death of Christ Jesus and unites us with him in overcoming death through resurrection).
In speaking of “sin” (rather than “sins”), Paul was referring to the human propensity to assert our own ego and power rather than living as “instruments of righteousness” (v.13) i.e. living in right relationships with God and others.
When Paul referred negatively to “the law” (v.14), he expressed the view that mere obedience to rules will not bring about human wholeness or salvation or righteousness or Eternal Life, terms which Paul uses interchangeably.
Gospel: Matthew 10:40-42
Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple-truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”