March 2nd, 2016

The Tragic and Triumphant Cross Leading to Hope for Us All” 

cross21“The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, ‘You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant?’ And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.”

“When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord. Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, ‘This man deserves the sentence of death because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.'”

“Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, ‘It is the Lord who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will change his mind about the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.'”

“Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, ‘This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.’ And some of the elders of the land arose and said to all the assembled people, ‘Micah of Moresheth, who prophesied during the days of King Hezekiah of Judah, said to all the people of Judah: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height. Did King Hezekiah of Judah and all Judah actually put him to death? Did he not fear the Lord and entreat the favor of the Lord, and did not the Lord change his mind about the disaster that he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great disaster on ourselves!'” (Jeremiah 26:7-19)

If Isaiah spoke about a Suffering Servant of God, Jeremiah lived the life of a suffering servant of God. The words and deeds of Jeremiah recounted in the book of the prophet, along with a narrative of his suffering and rejection, form what might be called a “passion account of Jeremiah.” This narrative includes Jeremiah’s warnings about the destruction of the temple, his confrontation with the religious authorities of Jerusalem, the plotting against him, the participation of all the people, the abandonment by his friends, Jeremiah’s deep sorrow and his wish to be released from his mission, and his death sentence. As the early Christians reread this passion of Jeremiah they could grasp its fuller prophetic significance for understanding the suffering and death of Jesus.

Both Jeremiah and Jesus ministered just before the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple; Jeremiah before the first destruction in the 6th century B.C., and Jesus before the second destruction in the 1st century A.D. Like Jesus, Jeremiah preached about the pending destruction of Jerusalem and its temple; “It is the Lord who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city” It was this preaching that enraged the religious officials of Judah against both Jeremiah and Jesus. They both wept over Jerusalem and were unjustly accused of political treason. Their prophetic words and actions against the temple set the religious officials to plot their death. The priests and the prophets said to the princes and all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death”. Yet Jeremiah, like Jesus, was innocent of the charges brought by the religious officials. Jeremiah proclaimed, “If you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants. Both Jeremiah and Jesus were tried, persecuted, and imprisoned. Tradition holds that eventually Jeremiah was violently put to death by his own people.

Jeremiah, like Jesus, suffered for the message he proclaimed. But all his suffering never altered his message. He faithfully spoke God’s truth even when it cost him his safety and security. When his life was threatened, Jeremiah said, “I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.” Though Jeremiah was not crucified, he experienced the rejection, accusations, pain, and abandonment of Jesus on the cross. For many of the prophets of the Old Testament, their words found fulfillment in the life and death of Jesus. But with Jeremiah, his deeds as well as his words found fulfillment in Christ. His life was a foreshadowing or prototype of the ministry of Jesus.

Reflection

How have you suffered for speaking or living the truth? Are you willing to undergo rejection and abandonment for living in a way that contradicts the ways accepted in our society?

Prayer

Lord God, your prophets in each generation suffered for the message they proclaimed. Help me listen to your prophets today and witness to the truth of the Gospel. May the deeds of my life express the faith I believe.

Amen

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