This is The Living Word Bible study on the Bible readings set for Sunday, March 21 (Lent 5) according to the Revised Common Lectionary shared by many denominations. We recommend you read each passage as it stands, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you about it. Then for a deeper dive, there’s the verse by verse commentary, reflections — and a linked article that draws a message out of the theme. Ref. TLW11B. There’s a print version at the bottom, PDF download.
Theme: How Jesus has won for us a new and better covenant
• See also the linked article for March 21 ‘Understanding the new covenant in Jesus’
Jeremiah 31:31-34 — The promise of a new covenant of heart and mind
John 12:20-33 — Jesus speaks about His death also being His glory
Hebrews 5:5-10 — Jesus is appointed as the unique mediator in eternal high priesthood
And also read : Psalm 51:1-12
Jeremiah 31:31-34 — The promise of a new covenant of heart and mind
Jeremiah foresees a new relationship when God’s way will become innate
31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.
“The days are coming” — Jeremiah’s language for a special divine intervention to come, a prophecy about the Messiah. This passage is the longest quoted in its entirety in the NT.
• For further study, see Hebrews 8:8-12, 10:16-17.
“A new covenant” — by contrast with the Sinai or Moses covenant which became known in the NT as the old covenant or first covenant, Luke 22:20; 2 Cor. 3:6,14; Hebrews 8:7. The only mention of the New Covenant in the OT.
“People of Israel and… Judah” — historically divided, but to be brought together as part of this new move of God that became the Church.
32 “It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke My covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.
“Not like the covenant… they broke” —the first difference being that Jesus fulfills its terms, Luke 22:20. The blessing of the Moses covenant depended on Israel being loyal to God and obedient, but from the wilderness years to the reign of Manasseh they broke it frequently by turning to idolatry, Jer. 11:10.
33 “This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.
“My law in their minds and… on their hearts” — the second big difference is that this covenant will be internal and through relationship, rather than external and a legal requirement. The Old Covenant invited God’s judgment for transgressions; the new covenant invokes the Holy Spirit’s help in living in its provision. The third difference is that while the old covenant regulated, the new covenant transforms and results in real change, 2 Cor. 5:17. Jeremiah describes what happens in the new birth through Jesus described in the NT.
34 “No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
“No longer will they teach” — the precepts of the old covenant had to be learned, but the new covenant is a relationship. Through Jesus, we come to know God in a personal way, and through the Holy Spirit, gain a heartfelt desire to live for Him.
SUMMARY Jeremiah foresees a time when the covenant established under Moses’ leadership at Sinai is replaced with a new and better form of partnership. The people found the old covenant difficult to adhere to, and there were frequent transgressions which brought God’s judgment. Jeremiah sees this pattern changing God’s initiative, and the old legal relationship being replaced by personal guidance.
APPLICATION Jeremiah does not speak of the Messiah directly, but the word he brings from God is clearly Messianic. The former covenant that defined how God’s people were to liven was a legal framework to be learned, practised and repented of when they got it wrong. Jeremiah saw something different — God putting a desire for holy living on people’s hearts. It would become instinctive. God would see people in this new covenant differently, as those forgiven and their debts redeemed, enjoying fellowship as His people. This is a picture of Jesus’ redeeming work.
QUESTION If God’s law is now in the minds and hearts of His people, what is the value of hearing the Bible read and expounded?
John 12:20-33 — Jesus speaks about His death also being HIs glory
He invites all who will follow His self sacrifice to serve the mission of God
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival.
“Greeks among those” — the festival crowd would have included many non-Jews of the Greek culture who were attracted to the Living God and Jewish morality.
21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”
“They came to Philip” — a disciple with a Greek name (like Andrew) who came from a city of Greek character. At the very time the Jewish authorities are plotting how to kill Jesus, Gentiles are seeking Him out.
22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
23-24 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
“The hour has come” — Jesus repeatedly says in John’s gospel that his appointed time had not yet come. When these Greeks wanted to talk to Him, He finally said that it was time. It was nearly the time when He would draw “all people”, v.32 below.
“To be glorified” — meaning, to be crucified. What the Roman world viewed as humiliating torture, and the Jewish world saw as cursed, Jesus associates with His glory, or honour.
“Unless a grain… falls… and dies” — a seed in the ground ceases to be a seed, but from its death comes new growth — and a great many new seeds.
25 “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
“Loves… hates their life” — exaggeration to make the point about our values, either prizing quality of life for ourselves or holding it lightly for God. Following Christ may not lead to the Cross, but carries the cross of self-sacrifice.
26 “Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves Me.
“Whoever serves Me” — Not just Jews around Him but the Gentile Greeks also.
“Follow Me” — the path of self-sacrifice and disregard for status in this world, to fulfil eternal purposes, John 13:15, Philippians 2:5-8.
27 “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.
“My soul is troubled” — deeply agonised. The other gospels expand this at Gethsemane a week later, where He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me…”, Matthew 26:39.
28 Father, glorify Your name!’
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
“Glorify Your name” — show Yourself to be worthy of glory and honour. God showed His glory in Jesus’ birth, and in the ministry which showed God’s power to the world. The greatest sign would come in the crucifixion and resurrection.
29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to Him.
“The crowd… heard it” — the third of three instances of God’s voice being heard audibly.
• For further study, read Matthew 3:13-17, 17:1-13.
30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not Mine.
“For your benefit” — this was the Father validating the Son so that more people would believe.
31 “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.
“The prince of this world” — gained his influence when Adam and Eve, assigned to rule on God’s behalf, chose to act independently from God and allowed Satan’s dominion as a result of their sin. Through the Cross Jesus Christ would assert His victory, deal with sin and grant freedom to those who trusted Him.
32-33 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” He said this to show the kind of death He was going to die.
“I… will draw all people” — all kinds of people rather than everyone.
“When I am lifted up” — referring to crucifixion literally, but the Greek word usually meant being exalted or honoured, Matthew 23:12, Luke 10:15. John sees the Cross as the place where Jesus’ true glory would be displayed to all.
SUMMARY With Gentiles asking for Him, Jesus speaks about the awful prospect of His death by crucifixion. Knowing the time is near, He says that in this way He will draw all kinds of people — Jews and Gentiles — to Himself. He explains that being His disciple means holding life lightly. There is both dying and growing in the organic growth which glorifies God’s name. The crowd hears the thunder of God’s voice saying that the Son’s entry into the world, and obedience in dying for it, brings Him glory.
APPLICATION This speaks to us about how Jesus sees people we regard as insiders, or outsiders like the Greeks in the crowd. Those who loved their position and influence in the establishment were working out how to arrest Him, while these second class citizens, hoping to speak to Jesus, heard God’s voice like thunder and Jesus saying how He would draw all people to Himself.
QUESTION What values and priorities should the church of Jesus take from this story?
Hebrews 5:5-10 — Jesus is appointed to a permanent high priesthood
Sinless life and suffering obedience qualifies Him as a unique mediator
5 In the same way, Christ did not take on Himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to Him, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.”
“Becoming a high priest” — the Son has been appointed by the Father in a summons backed up by two OT quotations. But this priesthood is on an entirely different level from Aaron’s. Jesus is uniquely qualified, both to represent God to man, and as the suffering servant, to represent man to God.
6 And He says in another place, “You are a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.”
Melchizedek was a king and a priest, Genesis 14:18-20; Psalm 110:4.
7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.
“Petitions with fervent cries” — especially at Gethsemane. These prayers confirmed the righteous obedience of Jesus.
8-10 Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
“He learned obedience” — Jesus did not lack character quality in childhood but for this highest of roles was put to the severest of tests, making right choices to obey His Father throughout adult human life. He became uniquely qualified for a new kind of high priesthood as the guarantor of a new and better covenant. Now interceding for those who come to God through Him, He is able, following His sacrifice of Himself, to save them completely, Hebrews 7:22-27.
SUMMARY Jesus became uniquely fitted for a unique role as the eternal high priest of a new and superior covenant. Particularly at the end of His time on earth, He showed Himself to be obedient to His Father in the most extreme of tests. Facing up to the prospect of torture at Roman hands, He entered so fully into human suffering, He was, and is, fully able to represent man to God, and God to man as our eternal high priest.
APPLICATION We may feel we need to approach God through someone holy, but also understanding our human helplessness and pain. The one priest who perfectly fulfills this need is in heaven, and it is He who has secured for us a better and more accessible covenant with God — through Him.
QUESTION If Jesus is now the sole and exalted holder of the high §priestly office, what now is the role of those who lead churches, teach the Scriptures and encourage our spiritual life?
PRAYER Lord God, we are so grateful for Jesus making a way for us to be counted righteous as those that belong to Him, and to have direct and personal access to You through Him.
We have a new and better covenant with You because Your sinless Son became a prisoner to set us free, submitting to the pain and torment that brought Him death, for our life.
May our lives reflect the salvation of Jesus and the lordship of Jesus — in every activity and every relationship, in devotions and church, and in all the busyness of daily life.
We pray this through You, our Great High Priest, Jesus.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4 Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are right in Your verdict and justified when You judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet You desired faithfulness even in the womb; You taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
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