Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr;
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”” (Ezekiel 37:1–14, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Resurrection is coming! And I'm not just talking about our celebration of Easter in two weeks. I'm talking about THE Resurrection. The Resurrection the Jesus talked about in the gospel of John:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:25–29, ESV)
And the Resurrection that was Job's hope:
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25–27, ESV)
And Ezekiel, standing in the valley of the dry bones, saw this vision of The Resurrection. He was led there by the Hand of the Lord and in the Spirit of the Lord. God himself, Yahweh, brought him out to the valley to show him how he would restore hope to dead and dying people.
First of all, for Ezekiel, and the people of Israel, his vision was about their hope in God restoring them to the land he had promised. They were in exile. Their sin had caused God to send the Assyrians and the Babylonians to remove them from the land. They had done exactly what God told them not to do. They worshiped the gods of the Canaanites. And now in exile, God seemingly so far away, they had lost hope. And so God gave Ezekiel this vision to restore their hope. If God can restore life to the dis-articulated bones of slain soldiers left to rot in a valley, they could indeed trust that he would restore them to the land that he promised them.
They would be restored to the promised land. The Messiah would come. He would save his people from their hopelessness. There would be a resurrection of the dead. God's people would live again with God forever. This has always been the hope of God's people.
A physical, fleshly, real bodily resurrection, is the hope. You and I, and all of our loved ones who have gone before us, will be resurrected as in the vision of Ezekiel. The hope and focus of God's people, the holy Christian church, the Communion of Saints, is in God's promise of the resurrection of the body. We speak it in the creeds. "I believe in… the resurrection of the body." It is a return to what God created human beings to be. Flesh and blood, living breathing, walking talking, touching holding, eating sleeping, bodily human beings. And restoration of creation for created human beings.
In the meantime, we live in an exile. As we live every day in the valley of the shadow of death, death knocking at our door, threatening everything that we are and have, it's easy to lose hope. Hospitals care for the sick, and yet the sick still die. Automobile accidents loom around every moment behind the wheel. Our bodies age and we are unable to do all that we used to do. We struggle with the loss of independence. That loss is a sign of coming death. And all the technology in the world cannot prevent the disappearance of even a single airplane full of people. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). And the wages count heavily against us. My death, your death is a matter only of time.
But the resurrection is coming! That is our goal. That is our hope. The resurrection brings hope to hopeless people. People facing death. But it is not just life after death. It is the resurrection after death. And first there must be death. You cannot be raised from the dead, until you are dead. Just when death will seem to have its victory over you, your joy, your hope, is in the promise of the resurrection.
Next week, as we will hear on Palm/Passion Sunday, Jesus will ride the donkey into Jerusalem hailed as the King. He will ride in, clear the Temple, eat the Passover, pray in the garden, be arrested, betrayed, beaten, mocked, denied, and nailed to the cross. Crucified, dead and buried, Jesus will lie in the stone cold tomb. And then, on Easter, the breath enters him, and he breaths again. God raises him from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. Jesus' death is the wages of your sin paid in full. God's death on the cross for you. His resurrection is the promise of your resurrection. No matter how death comes to you, on the day of resurrection, your dead body will hear the voice of God and you will rise to life again, sinews, flesh and skin.
This is the promise of hope restored. The resurrection of the flesh, the body. An end for pain and suffering, forever. An end for sin, forever. An end for death, forever. The beginning for new life, forever.
Ezekiel proclaimed the good news that God's people would return to the Promised Land. They would know the God who delivered them from Egypt was still their God. And what was true for them is true for you and me. It is even a fuller and richer promise for us.
And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” The word of the Lord came to me:” (Ezekiel 37:13–15, ESV)
And so, it is in the promise of THE resurrection, we face death. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.