1 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. 2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. 3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.
5 The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”
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.
Jeremiah is largely a prophet of doom and gloom, so much so that the English word “jeremiad” is defined as a long, mournful complaint or lamentation, a list of woes. In the Bible, the Book of Lamentations was placed after the Book of Jeremiah because of the (incorrect) view that Jeremiah wrote the Book of Lamentations.
Sections in the book that are in “poetry style” are generally attributed to the prophet, and parts in “prose style” were mostly 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.)
One of the consistent themes in Jeremiah was his ongoing battles with the “court” prophets who told the king what the king wanted to hear and who opposed Jeremiah at every turn.
Today’s reading is in prose style and attacked the kings and priests (the “shepherds”). Consistent with the “do bad, get bad” theology of the Deuteronomists, YHWH (“LORD” in all capital letters) will “attend to” them for their “evil doings” (v.2).
The writers then held up the promise that YHWH would raise up for “David” (Judea) a righteous king who would enable Israel to live in safety and righteousness (v.5). For the Deuteronomists, YHWH was in charge of everything, and YHWH caused the Exile, the end of the Exile through Cyrus of Persia, the return of the Judeans to Jerusalem, and the relatively peaceful Persian Era (539 to 333 BCE).
If these “predictions” of YHWH’s promises were in fact made after the Exile, the writers had “20/20 hindsight” that the “remnant” (a common designation for the Judeans who returned to Jerusalem after the Exile) would be “fruitful and multiply” – the command given by God to humans in Gen. 1:28.
These prophesies by Jeremiah remained an important part of Ancient Israel’s understandings (and expectations) of what the Messiah would be and do.
11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers– all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Colossae was a town in what is now western Turkey. A Jesus Follower community was founded there by Paul’s associate, Epaphras (1:7). The letter is short (three chapters) and expressed concern about apocalyptic and mystical practices that were inconsistent with Paul’s understanding of what it meant to be a Jesus Follower.
Scholars debate whether this letter was written by Paul or by his disciples in the decades after Paul’s death in 63 CE. It lacks many terms used in Paul’s authentic letters and its style is more liturgical than Paul’s other letters.
The first part of today’s reading is part of a prayer for spiritual wisdom for the Colossians. The author adopted an apocalyptic theme by contrasting light and darkness (vv. 12-13). He expressed the theme that believers are redeemed and receive forgiveness of sin in the Christ (v. 14). “Redemption” conveyed the sense of being bought back, the way something already owned is redeemed from a pawn shop.
The second part of the reading is a hymn to the Christ. The author described Jesus of Nazareth as the “image” (or symbol or manifestation) of the invisible God (v.15) and described the Cosmic Christ as the unifying force for all created things, the one who brings life to us even though we encounter our own deaths, and the force that reconciles all things in the God of Love. The Christ is the firstborn of all creation (v.15) and the firstborn of the dead (v.18) – the first person raised from the dead.
33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” 35 And they cast lots to divide his clothing. The people stood by, watching Jesus on the cross; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
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.
Although the Passion in Luke generally follows the Passion as recounted in Mark (which, in turn, relied on many motifs from Psalm 22), Luke’s account contained a number of episodes and sayings not found in any of the other gospels. For example, only in Luke did Jesus appear before Herod Antipas (23:6-12). Only in Luke did Jesus say, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (v.34) – a verse not found in all ancient manuscripts. The essence of this prayer was repeated by Stephen (the first martyr) in Acts 7:6, also written by the author of Luke.
In today’s reading, another exchange unique to Luke is the one between Jesus and the so-called “Good Thief” who rebuked the other criminal (v.40), asked to be remembered when Jesus came into his kingdom (v.42) and received the promise to be with Jesus “in Paradise” (v.43). The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes that “Paradise was originally a term for the garden of Eden (Gen. 2.8-10) and was a contemporary [in the First Century] term for the lodging place of the righteous dead prior to the resurrection.”