Old Testament: Jeremiah28:5-9 (Pentecost 5: Series A)

Reading Time: 6 mins

What Christ did at Calvary restored not just one sinful nation back to God, but all peoples are reconciled through the work of Christ on the tree of Calvary.

The Sundays during Pentecost develop three main themes for preaching and worship. The first theme is Baptism. We are baptized and grow from God’s grace in Baptism. Every Sunday in Pentecost is a reminder of baptismal living as an Easter hope. The third theme is preparation for the return of Christ. In the middle is the second theme, which is substantial. It deals with the conflict we struggle through in life living between our baptismal beginning and waiting for the final return of Christ. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and yet we are surrounded by the kingdom of the world. “Fighting’s without and fears within” (2 Corinthians 7:5). We struggle with the people and circumstances of the world that oppose God’s rule and reign. This is what we see in our text for today from Jeremiah. In our Baptism, we are sent into a troubled world to work and struggle. We guard ourselves with the truth of God’s Word against hostile attack. Standing in the truth of Christ’s Gospel is our only defense against the lies, vanity, and flattery of the world. “The Church serves as both the heroine, who teaches us the art of warfare, and our strong fortress and shield in the conflict. How does she do this? Courage and strength and perseverance flow from the Word of God. Of ourselves we are helpless creatures, wholly unable to withstand the attack, but in the Word, another battles for us, the Mightier, Christ, vanquishes the mighty.”[1]

Our text for today is a standoff between the prophet Hananiah and Jeremiah. They were fighting over the future of Judah. Was Judah going to revolt against the Babylonians, with Hananiah, or submit to their yoke under the judgment of God, like Jeremiah says? This moment in Judah’s history was a time of crisis in which God’s people are called to discern the truth and stand in it. The nation’s recent past has seen social and political upheaval. At this point, King Zedekiah is considering revolt against the Babylonians. The decisions being debated that day will eventually lead to the fall of Jerusalem and the devastating Babylonian exile.

Everyone wants to believe Hananiah’s words, that the time of the Babylonians is almost over, and their yoke will soon be broken. Even Jeremiah says, sarcastically, that he hopes Hananiah is right because who would not want to see the exiles return and the Temple restored? Unfortunately, God calls Jeremiah to be the bearer of bad news. “Wearing a yoke around his neck to symbolize the rule of the Babylonians, he warns the people of Jerusalem to submit to the Babylonians if they want to live. He adds that history will show which one of them is the true prophet.”[2]

One thing about Jeremiah is you always must tether or anchor your reading of him to a point of grace in His larger work. This is so you have a Gospel Handle to hold on to as you preach from his prophetic oracles. I would submit that Jeremiah 17:7-8 is a good counterweight to hold up our text with Gospel:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, which sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” 

 Even if this great nation falls down, God will raise it up again, like a mighty tree, or rather at a mighty tree. 

What I love about Jeremiah 17 being tied to our text is that it is filled with hope. Even if this great nation falls down, God will raise it up again, like a mighty tree, or rather at a mighty tree. What Christ did at Calvary restored not just one sinful nation back to God, but all peoples are reconciled through the work of Christ on the tree of Calvary. But the “blessing” (Jeremiah 17:7-8) is in Christ rising again from the dead as our Lord and Savior. That is where true Gospel is. He who was dead is alive again. We live because of Him. The tree is lifted up and we are anchored to it. But it is the raising from the cold, hard grave which gives us hope in this Pentecost season that we will continue to grow (grafted into that tree Romans 11:11-31) in grace and resurrection life. Because, when we like God’s people of old fall, He will raise us up in Christ and in Him we are blessed. Here is an illustration which might highlight the gospel in the sermon.

“Mario Cuomo, former governor of New York, recalls an experience with his father that serves as an inspiration to him. It was first published in the Diaries of Mario M. Cuomo. Poppa taught me a lot about life, especially its hard times. I remembered one of his lessons one night when I was ready to quit a political campaign I was losing and wrote about it in my diary: Tired, feeling the many months of struggle, I went up to the den to make some notes. I was looking for a pencil, rummaging through papers in the back of my desk drawer, where things accumulate for years, when I turned up one of Poppa’s old business cards, the ones we made up for him, that he was so proud of: Andrea Cuomo, Italian American Groceries— Fine Imported Products. Poppa never had occasion to give anyone a calling card, but he loved having them. I couldn’t help wondering what Poppa would have said if I told him I was tired or discouraged.


Then I thought about how he dealt with hard circumstances. A thousand pictures flashed through my mind, but one scene came sharply into view. We had just moved to Holliswood, New York, from our apartment behind the store. We had our own house for the first time; it had some land around it, even trees. One, in particular, was a great blue spruce that must have been 40 feet tall. Less than a week after we moved in, there was a terrible storm. We came home from the store that night to find the spruce pulled almost totally from the ground and flung forward, its mighty nose bent in the asphalt of the street. My brother Frankie and I could climb poles all day; we were great at fire escapes; we could scale fences with barbed wire—but we knew nothing about trees. When we saw our spruce, defeated, its cheek on the canvas, our hearts sank. But not Poppa’s. Maybe he was five feet six if his heels were not worn. Maybe he weighed 155 pounds if he had a good meal. Maybe he could see a block away if his glasses were clean. But he was stronger than Frankie and me and Marie and Mamma all together. We stood in the street looking down at the tree. The rain was falling. Then he announced, “O.K., we gonna push ’im up!” “What are you talking about, Poppa? The roots are out of the ground!” “Shut up, we gonna push ’im up, he’s gonna grow again.” We didn’t know what to say to him. You couldn’t say no to him.


So, we followed him into the house and we got what rope there was and we tied the rope around the tip of the tree that lay in the asphalt, and he stood up by the house, with me pulling on the rope and Frankie in the street in the rain, helping to push up the great blue spruce. In no time at all, we had it standing up straight again! With the rain still falling, Poppa dug away at the place where the roots were, making a muddy hole wider and wider as the tree sank lower and lower toward security. Then we shoveled mud over the roots and moved boulders to the base to keep the tree in place. Poppa drove stakes in the ground, tied rope from the trunk to the stakes, and maybe two hours later looked at the spruce, the crippled spruce made straight by ropes, and said, “Don’t worry, he’s gonna grow again...”


I looked at the card and wanted to cry. If you were to drive past that house today, you would see the great, straight blue spruce, maybe 65 feet tall, pointing straight up to the heavens, pretending it never had its nose in the asphalt.”[3]


A potential construction for this sermon would be the Law/Gospel structure called the Four Pages Model.

“Four Pages of the Sermon: Paul Scott Wilson has popularized this approach by speaking of four rhetorical units in the sermon, two of them based upon law and two based upon the gospel: (1) trouble in the text, (Jeremiah’s trouble with Hananiah) (2) trouble in the world, (our trouble is similar with fighting against the lies of this world) (3) grace in the text (verse 9, Jesus is the greatest and truest prophet because His word came to pass by which we have peace with God), and (4) grace in the world (Jeremiah 17:7-8 and the Fallen Tree Story).

During the course of the sermon, the preacher will take his hearers through these four experiences. As Wilson notes, the preacher can vary the way in which he orders the references to these four rhetorical units in order to create variety with this design. This allows the preacher two opportunities to proclaim a life changing moment of grace in the sermon, one in relation to trouble in the text and one in relation to trouble in the lives of the hearers.”[4]


Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out our previous articles on Jeremiah 28:5-9.

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Jeremiah 28:5-9.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Jeremiah 28:5-9.


[1] Pius Parsch, The Church’s Year of Grace, trans. William G. Heidt, vol 4 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1964), 94-95.

[2] Walter Brueggemann, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 250. See also, Rachel Sophia Baard, Theological Perspective on Jeremiah 28:5–9,” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, vol. 3 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 170–172.


[4] https://concordiatheology.org/sermon-structs/dynamic/lawgospel-structure/