Jeremiah 23:1-6 • Psalm 46 • Colossians 1:11-20 • Luke 23:33-43
Jeremiah had spent the entirety of his life as a prophet calling the people back to God. His passion was not only rooted in his understanding of the consequences of their actions (defeat and exile) but also in his own recognition of God existing in every facet of his life. Jeremiah, a man who had given up every earthly standard of life and success, desired that the people would know a life that transcended the expectations of the low bar set by his fellow human beings. In this passage, Jeremiah is pronouncing the guilt of the political and religious leaders. Although he does not remove the blame on the people for their coming misery, he is also proclaiming that the leaders share equal responsibility. The leaders’ refusal to turn back to God and, instead, pursuit of please the earthly leaders over them, has led to their abandonment of their obligations to shepherd their people.
Psalm 46 (responsive reading)
The Israelites were facing an unkind and possibly unfamiliar situation in the developments of natural upheavals (earthquakes, storms, etc.) along with political surprises (invasions, attacks, etc.). This Psalm addresses both of these new realities in the lives of the people and recognizes this new normal. The people are called back to a focus and hope on God, along with a recognition of God as their leader and King. The Psalmist brings this calling to an undeniable close with the words, “Be still, and know that I am God!” and “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
The group of Christian believers at Colossae, much like others churches we have seen addressed in the letters of Paul, were highly susceptible to false teachings. Problematic elements of their faith included Jewish legalism, Greek philosophies, mysticism, the worship of angels, and deep an extreme belief that their bodies were evil (meaning that their focus was to conquer and discipline their own bodies). Paul’s call to the Colossians was to understand the divine and human reality of Jesus along with his exalted status. To see the amazing fact that Jesus was, and is, God and that he also lived as a human accomplishing, for us, what we could not, and cannot, do for ourselves.
We end our journey to Jerusalem with Jesus at the cross just a week before we begin Advent and the time of expectation of the newborn Christ (we will see the resurrection following lent and before Pentecost in a couple of months). This is where Jesus has been headed and we see what is a true King is as Jesus accepts and hangs on the cross. There is no pride, no pleas for rescue, no venomous spewing of hostilities and hatred, there is no attempt to secure a favorable heritage in the eyes of those watching him die in agony and pain – we only see forgiveness and, oddly, peace. Jesus death gives us life.