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Bible Study: Lent 5 (B) – 2012

March 25, 2012

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Jeremiah offers this vision of hope for future after the temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed, the King of Judah has been taken away, and many of the Israelites are in exile in Babylon. Is this judgment of God’s disobedient people the end? What is the future? Christians often interpret this as a prophesy of the coming of Jesus, but even now we are not living in a world without sin, and it is hard to imagine that each and every one of us knows God. Is God’s law written on our hearts? Jeremiah offers a vision of the Kingdom of God, and as we learn from Jesus Christ, God’s Kingdom is here and it is to come. Jeremiah’s vision is about God’s love and God’s relationship with us. God dwells in our hearts. Through prayer, worship, sacraments, and Bible study, we come closer to knowing the love and grace of Jesus Christ. As Christ enters our hearts, may we seek to live with the freedom of the love of Christ in the vision of the new covenant.

  • What signs do you see of the kingdom now?
  • In what ways is God’s law written on your heart?

Psalm 51:1-13

This psalm is a liturgical confession. The psalmist confesses, “against You only have I sinned” (v. 4) and asks God to make him pure. This verse echoes David in 2 Samuel 12:13 when he confesses his sin in the Bathsheba saga. Verse 7 of Psalm 51 shows God reaches in and touches the core of the psalmist’s being and imparts wisdom to help the psalmist come to terms with the evil he has done. Like David, the psalmist has fallen short but has returned to God and God is there to help the sinner see his sin, and then God cleanses to restore relationship. Orient yourself first toward God, and then worship and sacrifice fall into place and are rightly aligned. This is a psalm about praise and about God’s mercy. The morning daily devotion in the Book of Common Prayer begins with verses 11-13 from this psalm: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me; Cast me not away from your presence and take not your holy Spirit from me; Give me the joy of your saving help again and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.”

  • How important is personal confession of sin to restoring a right relationship with God?
  • How has God touched your core to help you see truth?
  • In what ways does God’s Spirit sustain you?
  • Try saying verses 11-13 each morning for a week and see what you feel.

Hebrews 5:5-10

These verses outline one of three key roles the writer of the letter to the Hebrews particularly sees in Jesus Christ: prophet, priest, and king. As priest, Jesus is both the performer of the sacrifice and the victim. No other sacrifice would be worthy to restore us to God. Priesthood is the point of reconciliation between God and God’s people. Jesus is called (not self-promoted) by God just as Melchizedek was (Genesis 14). Hebrews quotes Psalm 110: 4 “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Jesus is faithful in his suffering. In the face of suffering, it is time to look to Jesus and his superiority as Priest and his sympathy with humanity. What life throws at us is not the end, and we are not alone. These verses come from a community trying to make sense of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and what it means for them as they go forward and follow Jesus. They are meant to encourage us in our faithfulness to God as Jesus showed faithfulness, and to comfort us because we have Jesus as sympathetic High Priest who mediates on our behalf with God.

  • What does it mean for you to have Jesus Christ as mediator between God in His transcendent holiness and us?
  • How does Jesus as priest encourage or comfort you as a follower of Christ?

John 12:20-33

The visit from the Greeks sparks Jesus’s discussion of his impending death. In the Gospel of John those outside the community often identify Jesus, as Pilate will do when Jesus comes before him. What irony that crucifixion and glorifying God are one and the same, but they are. These verses stress the value of obedience to God and its life-giving quality. Jesus does not resist fulfillment of the “hour” that has come. It is time for Jesus to take on human suffering, sin, and evil and offer himself up to death. This is not easy for Jesus’ disciples to understand, nor is it easy for us to do so. Jesus calls us to look to Him as He draws all people to him from the cross. In Jesus’ saving act we are healed, and by following Jesus we can participate in God’s love and healing power for this world. Jesus draws us to him. He asks us to follow him and become a servant of God, as He is a servant. Holding on to this life does not bring life; letting it go out of love for God and God’s love for humanity is the way of eternal life.

  • Where do you see Jesus leading you?
  • In what ways might “hating” this life be healing for you?
  • What fears or pleasures of life might be obstacles to following Jesus?

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Christopher Sikkema


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