Lesson: Jeremiah 31:7-9
7 Thus says the Lord: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.”
8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.
9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
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 comes from a two-chapter section of Jeremiah called “The Book of Consolation.” It described a return from Babylon by the Judeans and the reunification of Samaria (“Ephraim” – the son of Joseph and the most powerful Northern Tribe) and Judea (“the remnant”).
The prophet uses “Jacob” and “Israel” interchangeably because Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel” when he wrestled with an angel/God in Genesis 32.
Epistle: Hebrews 7:23-28
23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; 24 but Jesus holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
26 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
The Letter to the Hebrews was an anonymous sermon addressed to both Jewish and Gentile Jesus Followers which urged them to maintain their Faith in the face of persecution.
Although the Letter to the Hebrews is sometimes attributed to Paul, most scholars agree that it was written sometime after Paul’s death in 63 CE, but before 100 CE. The letter introduced many important theological themes. The first four chapters explored the word of God spoken through the Son.
The author interpreted the life, death, and heavenly role of Jesus through the category of the “high priest’ who perfected the ancient sacrificial system of Judaism (which ended when the Temple was destroyed in 70 CE).
The letter emphasized that Jesus (as high priest) was able to sympathize with our weaknesses because he (as a human) had been tested as we are. The presentation of Jesus as high priest in the Letter to the Hebrews is unique in the Christian Scriptures and reflected the continuing
process in early Christianity of developing images to describe who and what Jesus of Nazareth was (and is).
Today’s reading continued the theme of Jesus of Nazareth as the high priest of the Order of Melchizedek. The first part of Chapter 7 described Melchizedek and recounted that Abraham treated Melchizedek as a superior (v.7).
The author discussed the differences between the high priests of the tribe of Levi (“priests of Aaron”) (v.11) who were imperfect and who died, and the priesthood of Jesus. Because of the Resurrection, Jesus holds his priesthood permanently and without weakness. His offering of himself was once and for all (v.27). He was appointed “by word of [God’s] oath” (v.28) (citing Ps. 110.4), rather than by the law (which appointed the Levites as priests) and is the Son who is perfect forever.
The author of Hebrews accepted the commonly held views that the Torah was written at Sinai before the Psalms were written by David. Therefore, the appointment of Jesus a high priest in Psalm 110:4 was “superior” to the appointment of the Levites as priests.
Gospel: Mark 10:46-52
46 Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” 52 Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
The Gospel According to Mark was the first Gospel that was written and is usually dated to the time around the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest gospel and forms the core for the Gospels According to Matthew and Luke (both of which were written around 85 CE). Over 50% of the material in those two Gospels is based on Mark. Because these three Gospels follow similar chronologies of Jesus’ life and death, they are called “Synoptic Gospels” for the Greek words meaning “Same Look/View.”
Today’s reading presents Bartimaeus whose name means “son of Timaeus.” Unlike the disciples who seem to be blind, Bartimaeus has “faith” (v.52) and he follows “the way” after his sight is restored.
The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes: “Son of David have mercy on me was likely a standardized form of words in a petitionary prayer. Some Jewish healers healed in the name of Solomon, the original son of David.” The JANT observes that both Matthew and Luke gave Joseph a genealogy that included David, but that “Mark does not have any such information.”
Referring to a person as a “Son of David” would also have created an expectation that the person would restore the fortunes of Israel, In describing himself as a servant, Jesus rejected that expectation for himself.