According to the prophet Jeremiah, God promised to make a new covenant with Israel at a critical time in the nation’s history. In the sixth century BCE, people were straggling back from exile, relieved to be home yet worried they would repeat their ancestors’ misconduct that led to the exile they had just endured. They wanted something different and deeper in the renewed covenant the prophets promised. According to the prophets, the depth would come from God’s spirit within them that would change their hearts and not make it inevitable they would repeat their ancestors’ disobedience. Jeremiah promised: “I will put My Teaching into their inmost being and inscribe it upon their hearts. Then I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jer 31:33) They wanted God’s Teaching (Lectionary, “Law”) within them. This promise in Jeremiah was remembered and became a major source of the emphasis on spirit and inner transformation that we find in the New Testament.

Jeremiah’s covenantal perspective helps us understand Jesus’s response to the Greeks –  non-Jews interested in finding out more about Jesus – who question him in today’s gospel. Their visit provokes Jesus to reveal his inner dispositions as he faces up to his “hour,” the revelation of his “glory,” his obedient death on the cross. He recognizes the necessity of a seed to die in order for the fruit to appear. He is troubled at his impending death at which point his Father’s voice confirms the fruitfulness of his death, “Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified and will glorify it again.” Though the crowd does not fully understand what is happening, Jesus understands, “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth [double sense of crucifixion and resurrection], I will draw everyone to myself.” Jesus boldly reveals the fear and anguish he will undergo for us. The Greeks, and ourselves, now understand more fully what God’s love in Jesus means.