Then There's Jesus
This literary location speaks volumes by itself. Placing something at the literary center is a way of emphasizing the importance of something, and this passage serves as a great illustration. The new covenant and the “Torah in the heart” is one of the great promises of the Hebrew Bible prophets.
It’s this promise that Jesus saw himself bringing to pass. He too located the core of the human problem in the condition of the heart. Think of Jesus’ famous teachings that the fundamental enemy of humans is the enemy within.
What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come— sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person. — Mark 7:20-23
It makes all the sense in the world that Jesus saw his own life and death as announcing that dawn of Jeremiah’s “new covenant.” He would die for the sins of his own people, and simultaneously bring about that great act of forgiveness anticipated by Jeremiah. This act of scandalous mercy would bring about that transformation of the human heart that is so desperately needed. All this is contained in a nutshell in the pregnant words of Jesus at his final Passover meal:
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. — Luke 22:19-20
That phrase, “the new covenant” is lifted right out of Jeremiah 31:31, and it’s clear that this part of Jeremiah had a deep impact on Jesus’ thinking. He evidently believed that he was the one to mediate the establishment of the new covenant between God and Israel. He would go into the exile of an unjust death on Israel’s behalf, and so open up the doorway to a new way of loving God and others. It’s the way of forgiveness and generosity, made possible by the ultimate Passover Lamb.
Jesus knew Jeremiah 31, and certainly the entire book, like the back of his hand. If this doesn’t serve as motivation to dive into this masterpiece of a prophetic book, I’m not sure what will! May our hearts be written with the Torah of God’s love as you finish reading this amazing work of Jeremiah.