I just finished a course called BIBL 634: Jeremiah and Lamentations – Prophetic Writings for Crisis Times at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. One of my favorite assignments was to compare the lives of Jeremiah the Prophet and Jesus Christ.
If you’re interested in learning more about Jeremiah the Prophet — or you’re taking an Old Testament class at Regent — you might enjoy reading my Sample Old Testament Exegesis Paper – Jeremiah 10. If you’re taking a history class and need to write a review paper, this essay will be more helpful: Jeremiah and Judah’s Kings: An Example of a Historical Review Paper.
Are you considering the Master of Divinity program at Regent College? Feel free to ask me questions in the comments section below! Note that I’ve only taken two courses so far: BIBL 634 (Jeremiah in the Old Testament) and APPL 500 (Soul of Ministry: Becoming Persons-in-Relation. Here’s the description: a course designed to help students explore some of the critical theological and personal dynamics of being and becoming persons who are image-bearers, persons-in-relation with the triune God, their fellow human, and creation, persons joyfully participating in God’s mission to the world of people and creation).
My teacher for the Jeremiah the Prophet course was retired, a substitute for the regular Old Testament professor. I didn’t find the “lectures” all that helpful — they were more like Bible Studies. We slowly read through about 10% of the book of Jeremiah, reflected on the parts of the text, and recited lots of historical dates of kings and eras. I was disappointed in the class overall, though I liked the kindly old gent who taught. As the course proceeded I actually became more and more frustrated with what I wasn’t learning in class! The more I learned about the prophet Jeremiah in my own research, the more I realized how little I was learning in the Old Testament class. But sometimes that’s just the way the fig falls.
Anyway….here’s my comparison of the lives of Jesus Christ and the prophet Jeremiah.
Comparing the Lives of Jeremiah the Prophet and Jesus Christ
“He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” (John 1:11, NIV)
In this paper I compare the lives of Jeremiah the prophet and Jesus the Messiah, emphasizing the themes of “coming unto His own” and “receiving Him not.” These men were similar in several ways, but my focus is not on specific actions or words. Rather, I explore how Jeremiah and Jesus embodied the concepts of “coming unto His own” and “receiving Him not.”
A quick glance reveals six major similarities in the lives of Jeremiah and Jesus. Both prophets: 1) Wept for Jerusalem and the coming judgment (Jeremiah 13:17 and Luke 19:41); 2) Were accused of being “mad” (Jeremiah 29:26 and John 10:20); 3) Were called self-appointed prophets (Jeremiah 29:27 and John 8:53); 4) Were mocked by their enemies and brethren (Jeremiah 20:7 and Luke 18:31-32); 5) Were deemed worthy of death (Jeremiah 26:11 and Matthew 26:65-66); and 6) Were “led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Jeremiah 11:19 and Is 53:7).
Those parallels are important and worth exploring. In this paper, however, I focus my discussion on John 1:10-11: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”
“He came unto His own”
Simply put, to “come unto your own” means to participate in the lives of people who share a common family, culture, history, ethnicity, faith, community, and/or bloodline. Approaching your own people typically involves welcome and acceptance, if not respect or love. This definition is adequate but does not address the precise meaning of the Greek text. For example, there is a grammatical consideration that alters the definition of “own.” “If one is careful to distinguish the genders used by the author, the first ‘own’ is neuter and the second ‘own’ is masculine, then the traditional interpretation may be not as certain as previously thought.” Aware of this complexity, for this brief paper I will apply the simple, traditional interpretation.
Jeremiah’s location, occupation, family of origin, historical setting, and calling by God is introduced in vv. 1-19. While his precise priesthood links are unknown, Jeremiah’s education, identity and life were deeply rooted in Israel’s story and the Jewish tradition. “The historical situation and the personal background of the prophet are important because God’s word has been spoken to a particular person and into this particular moment in history. This word of God is an embodied word; it has taken up residence in a chosen individual at a particular time and place.”
Jeremiah preached and prophesied to his own countrymen—and the priests, leaders and kings of Israel—before, during, and after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.. Then Jeremiah lived in grief and exile with his fellow Israelites. He loved, wept, and sometimes even raged against his own people because of their stubbornness, wickedness, and unfaithfulness to the Lord.
Jesus, too, had deep historical, cultural and familial roots in Israel’s history. Luke 3:23-38 describes Jesus’ lineage, revealing a long Jewish legacy. As a whole, the four gospels give us a sense of Jesus’ location, occupation, historical setting, culture and calling by God. He was not simply a Jewish man living amongst His own people; Jesus was the Jewish Messiah they had long been waiting, yearning and praying for. God called Jesus to serve and save His human family and community of Jews—who were also His divinely chosen people.
However, there is an even deeper and holier sense of how Jesus came unto His own people. “The Jews were his, as a man’s house, and lands, and goods are his, which he uses and possesses; but believers are his as a man’s wife and children are his own, which he loves and enjoys. He came to his own, to seek and save them, because they were his own. He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, for it was he whose own the sheep were.”
As one of the Triune personhood, Jesus Christ was not just present when God created the world. Jesus participated in creating the earth and everything in it. “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” Jesus was entering into His own people as, for example, an author might write herself into a book or an artist might paint himself into a mural. Jesus became part of His own creation. Jesus came unto and into His own people in ways no other man ever did, could, or will again.
“His own received Him not”
Both Jeremiah and Jesus came unto their own with repeated messages, pleas, parables, dramatic visual demonstrations, sermons, poetry and even miracles to demonstrate God’s love, healing, forgiveness, justice, grace, and yearning for reconciliation. Neither Jeremiah nor Jesus was welcomed or accepted—much less received—by more than a few of their own people. Worse, both men suffered physically and emotionally at the hands of their fellow countrymen.
The Lord Himself told Jeremiah how the Jews would receive him. “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you.” Indeed, Jeremiah dedicated his life to speaking and acting out against hypocritical priests, oppressive economic leaders, and destructive political rulers—not to mention the unfaithful, hardhearted, sinful Israelites who refused to acknowledge the Lord who saved them from exile and desperately loved them. For forty years Jeremiah fought to bring God’s truth, forgiveness and salvation to the Jews. Not only did they not receive him, they hated and abused him.
Jeremiah sometimes responded to rejection the way many men would: “But you know, O Lord, all their plots to kill me. Do not forgive their crimes or blot out their sins from your sight. Let them be overthrown before you; deal with them in the time of your anger.” Jesus Christ, on the other hand, responded dramatically differently while hanging on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Perhaps Jesus Christ’s response to rejection and abuse was radically different not just because He knew the love of the Father, but also because He knew the ultimate destiny of unrepentant sinners. Jeremiah was aware that falling into the hands of the living God was terrifying and fatal, but he did not know the full extent of eternal separation from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Perhaps even while hanging on the cross Jesus was strengthened by the Spirit and knowledge of the Father’s heart for love and forgiveness. Perhaps Jesus was grimly aware of the dark forces churning within and around the people who were condemning and crucifying Him.
My speculations aside, one thing is certain: the love, forgiveness, salvation, peace, joy and freedom of receiving Jesus Christ! “Believing in Christ’s name is receiving him as a gift from God. We must receive his doctrine as true and good; receive his law as just and holy; receive his offers as kind and advantageous; and we must receive the image of his grace, and impressions of his love, as the governing principle of our affections and actions.” Both Jeremiah and Jesus offered the gift of life. Jesus still does.
Like Jeremiah, Jesus was a Jewish prophet and priest called by God to bring messages of justice, love, grace, hope, salvation and freedom to an undeserving, unwilling, unrepentant group of people. Unlike Jeremiah, Jesus was not just a man bound in time, living in a specific family, community, nation and historical period. The reach of Jesus Christ extends far beyond the confines of history and culture, time and space—and even today He welcomes anyone who chooses to become one of His own. “Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:11-13).
Bowling, Patty. “Comparison Between Jeremiah And Christ.” Summit Theological Seminary. Accessed April 3, 2019. http://www.summit1.org/gun08/gun04.htm.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Theology of the Book of Jeremiah. Old Testament Theology. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Fretheim, Terence E. Jeremiah. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishers, 2002.
Henry, Matthew. “An Exposition, With Practical Observations, of The Gospel According to St. John Chapter 1.” BlueLetterBible.org. Accessed April 3, 2019. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/mhc/Jhn/Jhn_001.cfm?a=998011.
Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Eli. ““He Came Unto His Own”: What Can We See In Greek That We Can’t See In English?” Israel Institute of Biblical Studies. Accessed April 4, 2019. https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/jewish-studies/john-1-10-12/
Writing papers on the Prophet Jeremiah for this Old Testament class was my favorite activity so far at Regent College in Vancouver, BC! The weekly soup groups were awesome — and so was chapel. Spending hours wandering the stacks of the John Allison Library was amazing (though I didn’t even get an interview when I applied to work there, much less a job offer). My Soul in Ministry class was interesting….but researching the Hebrew Scriptures and learning about Jeremiah was by far the most rewarding thing in my budding academic career as a Regent theologian.
Your questions and comments about Jeremiah the Prophet, Jesus Christ, Regent College or writing in general are welcome below!