The LORD’s Cup of Tea: Raising the … DEAD!
Lent 5 Trinity Lutheran Church
2 April 2017 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
“Can these bones live?” What a silly question! Look at them! They’re the dead bones of Exiled-in-Babylon-Israel. Israel — graveyard dead. A whole valley full. Jumbled and scattered all over the place. Why? Well, it is because Israel defiled the Promised Land with her idolatry and other grave wickedness. She refused to trust the Lord. Called the Lord unreliable. Untrustworthy. Treated the Lord like a liar. Even after repeated promises preached by the prophets that God loved Israel and pledged to always be God FOR HER. Israel was bullish that she had better words than the Lord: HERS!
So the Lord poured out His wrath on Israel. He used the ruthless Babylonians to take Israel from her homeland and banish her to Babylon. Israel’s national identity is down the drain. Humanly speaking, Israel’s prospects for a national revival and restoration are as unlikely as seeing a vast array of skeletons, dried and dismembered, come back to life again. The Babylonians, of course, mocked and profaned God’s most holy name in their victory. They claimed that Israel’s disgraceful death came about because the Lord wasn’t able to protect her. That the Lord was a false god that could not be trusted.
So here we are. At the valley of Israel’s dry, dusty, dead bones. “Can these bones live?” Can Israel come back to life? Well, what do you think? Dead is dead. Dead as a doornail. Dead as a doorknob. Time to leave the bones of Israel in their stark graveyard dead deadness. Right? All hope lost. Clean cut off! Right? Let’s just leave Israel dead and buried. Right?
Well … no! For the sake of His holy Name the Lord promises to raise the dead. That’s His cup of tea! He “calls into existence the things that do not exist,” (Romans 4:17). In fact, and let’s learn this well today, the Lord’s modus operandi is to bring death in order to resurrect. Law – death. Gospel – life. Check it out. “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand,” (Deuteronomy 32:39). So also 1 Samuel 2:6, “The LORD kills and makes alive … It is I who put to death and give life.”
So, the Lord sends a preacher. Ezekiel. To preach to the dead! Isn’t that incredible? Who would do that? The Lord! The Resurrection and the Life Lord Jesus He raises the dead through the preachers He sends! He does what it takes to save. If you’re blind He preaches for you to see. If you’re deaf He preaches for you to hear. If you’re dead He preaches for you to live. He did at Lazarus’ tomb! Even after Lazarus was dead and buried for four days! Even when his body was beginning to rot, decay and reek! “So preach to the dead Ezekiel! My Holy Spirit-filled-Word will give them life.” He does. He preaches the Lord’s Word.
And death surrenders its victims! The bones are covered with sinews and flesh. Finally, “breath came into them.” Alive! On their feet. “An exceedingly great army.”
This vision is God’s reliable, trustworthy and powerful promise to Israel that He is still God FOR HER. He is the same God that formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). With this vision Israel is given to trust the Lord and His promise: “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves. And I will being you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD…. I will put my Spirit within you and you shall live…. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.”
The revelation of God’s power to raise the dead given to Israel by Ezekiel provides and sends beams of light into the future – beyond Israel’s rescue from death in the Babylonian cemetery. It has to do with you too. What God does to save you too! A revived Israel is but the earthly clay that God will use to call into being a Holy Spirit-filled people of all nations, once “dead through the trespasses and sins” but made “alive to God in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:1). Or as Romans 6:11 puts it: “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Yes, what the Lord did and gave to Israel was but a preview of what He would do and give to you in His Son – Resurrection and the Life Jesus! Life from death. Heaven from hell.
As the Lord sent Ezekiel, so the Lord Jesus has sent me. To preach to you. Why you? I’ll let you in on a little secret. Congregations like Trinity, Murdock that confess the historic Christian faith in the way of the Lutheran Reformation, sing from hymnals, use ancient liturgies and extol Baptism, Absolution and the Lord’s Supper are labeled by almost all the church growth experts as — DEAD!
Well, maybe so. But Trinity, Murdock isn’t dead because of the hymnal, ancient liturgies or the gifts Jesus has mandates and instituted for us to use. Those are what keep us alive in the faith. We’re dead because of our inherent sinfulness.
So, I’m here to tell you that Jesus has answered for all your sin by His dying on the cross. Risen victoriously from the grave Has given you the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life in these words that I’ve been sent by Jesus to speak. The words are Christ’s baptism words: “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” his absolution words: “I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” and His Lord’s Supper words: “given and shed for your for the forgiveness of sins.”
The Jesus words of forgiveness are Holy Spirit words. When Jesus speaks the Holy Spirit is at work to raise us from the death of our unbelief and breathe into us the new life of FAITH in Jesus! “Because of His great love for us, God, … made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you are saved,” (Eph. 2:6).
Jesus’ Holy Spirit-filled words of forgiveness bear fruit for the long haul. Good Friday Forgiveness leads to the resurrection of the body and eternal life. When Jesus reveals Himself in glory on Judgment Day He will bodily awaken those that “sleep in the dust of the earth” / a valley of dry bones if you will / believers to everlasting life unbeliever to everlasting shame and contempt.
Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. He is your resurrection and your life. He promises. “He who believes in Me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.” There isn’t a corpse around that won’t sit up and take notice when Jesus speaks His “Time To Wake Up” Word. Not in the valley of dry bones to which Ezekiel preached. Not at Lazarus’ grave. Not in His church. And not at your grave on the Last Day.
Can your bones filled with cancer, filled with some other kind of disease, filled with fear, filled with pain, filled with sorrow and suffering, filled with doubt and death – can these bones of yours live? Can you bones live even though they die? Oh, they most certainly can live! In Jesus these bones of yours live now and they will live forever.
As the clincher listen to the Epistle for today one more time. “If the Spirit of him [Jesus] who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you,” (Rom. 8:11). That’s the promise Jesus gave you in your Baptism. And that’s precisely why St. Paul wrote that our present sufferings, the difficulties we experience in our bodies “are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us,” (Rom. 8:18).
You are on the way to the resurrection of the body! The very body that God created in the womb of your mother, the very body that Jesus redeemed by His Good Friday death, the very body that the Holy Spirit named and claimed as His own temple in Baptism will be raised on the Last Day without any spot, blemish, sin, disease and death.
Your bones will live! Resurrection and the Life Jesus has spoken. He will do it! He is reliable. You have His Word and Spirit.
In the Name of Jesus.