We have spoken much over the past couple of years about the prophet Jeremiah. We have predominantly seen him as he preached to the Israelites before Babylon conquered Judah, destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, and took the Hebrews as slaves. His message was ‘repent and return to God…NOW!’ This week’s passage, however, is later, after the destruction and the exile has taken place. In chapter 29, Jeremiah has informed the people that they need to settle into life in Babylon for they are going to be there for 72 years – he even said to work to make their masters succeed(!?). They are now in slavery, in exile, and, as a people, they are scattered. It is a tough time to be a people, it is a tough time to possess a land, and it is a tough time to be a blessing, it is a tough time.
Now, in a time when it seems to be hopeless, a time when it would certainly be justifiable for Jeremiah to begin with ‘I told you so….’, instead, at this time, when they are facing decades of exile and slavery, he is speaking hope, reunion, and even restoration. God has not abandoned them nor has he forgotten them, life is not over even though, as yet, they cannot see the hope.
This is also a note to us, in this time of hopelessness, God has not abandoned us nor has he forgotten us.
This Psalm is called a ‘Community Psalm of Praise’, in its emphasis on community, protection and praise – if you look at the entire Psalm you will see references to Praise listed several times. This is a call to praise. The Psalmist directs this to God’s people in the verse 19 reference to Jacob (which we also saw on the Jeremiah passage). The Psalm is also a prophetic message as we see details to restoration of Judah and Jerusalem and an emphasis on deliverance of the oppressed Then, in verse 18 we see the use of ‘word’ and ‘spirit’ – linking to the incarnation as well as the giving of the Spirit.
This Ephesians passage resonates with our John passage, especially in the manner in which they both start us at the beginning, at creation and before. We have echoes of the adoption, sonship, inheritance, and the fullness of time – which was seen last week in Galatians. Most importantly, though, is the link between adoption through Jesus Christ – those that believe are destined to be children of God.
While the gospels of Matthew and Luke begin with the Birth and Nativity stories, the gospel of Mark begins with John the baptizer and the baptism of Jesus, and John’s gospel begins with a hybrid of these three but in a very different literary form. The first three (even with the slight differences found in Mark) are often referred to as the Synoptic Gospels, meaning they share a common storyline, timeline, and overall common view, John’s view often places events at different points in the timeline as well as stories not found in the other gospels – John also does not include many experiences found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author, John the disciple, had a very unique relationship with Jesus which reveals things about Jesus we do not see in the other gospels.
This John passage is basically a prologue for John’s reporting of the life of Jesus. A prologue is a moment in a book, or play, or even a movie, where essential details pertinent to the story are covered in spoken or written form prior to the beginning of the actual story. Think, the rolling words that we always view before any Star Wars movie, words that bring us up to date on anything we may have missed but still need to know, before the story actually begins. In a unique literary form, using metaphors such as ‘light’, ‘darkness’, and ‘word’, John prepares us for his perspective of the story of Jesus. This prologue begins at creation and brings us to the arrival of the Messiah, and adds a hint of the response Jesus receives from his people, and what his life means to all humans.