A new heart covenant

Some Greeks asking to see Jesus made all the difference! That outsiders and foreigners were now asking to meet with Jesus is the final sign that Jesus was looking for. Now the hour has come. When Mary asked Jesus to solve the problem of the wedding without wine at Cana, Jesus told her that his hour was not yet come. Later he will slip through the crowd and away from the Jewish leaders because his hour had not yet come. But now it is here. Now all people are able to know God directly because in his own body and blood poured out Jesus opens the way for all people to directly have access to the Father.

Jesus submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. He learnt to obey through suffering to become the source of eternal salvation > save forever all who obey him.

This is a brand-new covenant that I’ll make with them. I will put my law within them-write it on their hearts! – I will be their God. God already took the people tenderly by hand when he led them out of the slavery of Egypt. Yet that covenant they broke repeatedly. All will know God first-hand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. (from the Message translation)

This Hebrew phrase, brit ḥadashah, famously became the designation for the Christian Scriptures (“New Testament”). What it refers to in Jeremiah’s prophecy is a new covenant between God and Israel, to be fully internalised (“inscribed” on the heart), that will replace the covenant violated by Israel.

In the coming era of the new covenant, every person in Israel will be inwardly informed of what God expects, and no teachers or external force will be required.

Robert Alter, Hebrew Bible: Jeremiah

The only reference to a new covenant in the Hebrew Scriptures, but the language and images of such newness are important in Ezekiel (eg a new heart and a new spirit in chs 11, 18 & 36) and Isaiah’s new things (chs 42, 43 & 48). This was the exilic and post-exilic vision for the future – this new covenant will not need to be taught because it is written not in stone but on the hearts of believers. God will do this.

Lent, Sunday 5, Year B.
Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Psalm 51; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-30

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