Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bethany Bullet - April 12, 2011

Something OLD and something NEW confronts us in worship weekly. During the season of Lent we will explore how these two texts intersect. (Open your Bibles and read the Scripture passages or click on the scripture for the weblink.)

& Something New: The 11th Chapter of John

Let me be up front and tell you that what connect these passages are death and the absolute finality that it brings. Ezekiel is confronted with a valley filled with death, the dried bones of those gone before. Mary and Martha are filled with the grief death brings and are confronted with the Savior who seemed to arrive too late. Death is something that connects all of us doesn’t it. There is not one person here who has not been touched by death in some way, shape or form. Death has a way of creeping into our lives, confronting our senses, jarring us from the norm. Ezekiel wasn’t necessarily looking for it. Our text begins, “The hand of the LORD was upon me and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.” And then the LORD asks him a question, “…can these bones live?” And Ezekiel replies in a polite way, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” I am not sure Ezekiel is convinced that the bones can live. He puts the best construction on the situation, puts his faith in the Almighty and hopes to leave it at that. But that was not the end of the adventure for Ezekiel, after some instruction from the LORD, Ezekiel speaks, “Hear the word of the LORD.” Some rattling of dry bone against dry bone, and soon the glory of God was evident in that valley; tendons and flesh appeared and the breath of life filled the once dry bones; their graves departing, His Spirit abiding, and life residing. Mary and Martha were not looking for it either. Their brother Lazarus, a man from Bethany, was ill. It is most likely that he was already dead before the messengers even reached Jesus. Jesus says, “This sickness will not end in deathand Jesus remained where He was for two days with the goal of waking Lazarus up from death. Upon His arrival, Martha is convinced that Lazarus is gone. Even after the comforting words of Jesus, “Your brother will rise again,” Martha is not convinced that the bones of her brother will live and has no idea what was about to happen. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Mary too acts as one with no hope, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Even as Jesus begins the process of raising the dead, both Mary and Martha have objections and disbelief, “But Lord, by this time there is a bad odor.” A head bowed in prayer to His Father and then a shout, “Lazarus, come out!” Once again lifeless bones are renewed by the Word of the Lord and the breath of life fills deflated lungs. The stench of death had been defeated. The glory of God was made evident that day. And there stands the man from Bethany, Lazarus, his grave departing, his spirit abiding, and life residing. In both stories, death comes so that God can be glorified. We don’t look for death either, but it finds us none the less. The sin that clings to us, that so easily entangles puts us on a path that is destined for destruction. Our bones are a good as dry; the stench of sin permeates our person. Like Ezekiel, Martha and Mary we are not convinced that life will ever return. “Can these bones live?” In reality all of humanity is dead in sin. And Jesus came to this valley of dry bones and to a stinking grave to bring life. You see, God doesn’t always stop death. In the valley of dry bones, many faced death. Why did God have to wait for death before He rallied an army in that valley? Why did He have to use a bunch of skeletons? Isn’t God more powerful than that? In the town of Bethany Lazarus died, but why couldn’t Jesus take the short journey to prevent his death? Why did his friend have to face the stench of the grave? Why do we have to face death? Why doesn’t God just zap us up to heaven with Him? That would make more sense wouldn’t it? Doesn’t God have the power to do that? But that is not how God operates. He has decided to defeat death with death…the death of His Son. God uses death to bring life. Why doesn’t God stop death? It is because we have a God who is in the resurrection business. Unlike those in our text, Jesus came to face death and resolutely set out to confront it. Although Jesus reversed the curse of death for a few individuals in the Bible it was only short term, his main objective was the cross. In His death, death itself is defeated long term and God is glorified. At His word, God opens the graves of His people. By His Word made flesh, all graves are opened. The dry bones in the valley and Lazarus’ grave both are opened by the Word of the Lord and He is glorified. Soon enough Jesus Himself will find Himself in a grave and He will be sealed behind a stone in our place. Three days later He will open it, in glory and bring life to the lifeless. He will stand in victory, His grave departing, His Spirit abiding, life residing, death destroying, sins absolving, spirit promising, life giving, return guaranteeing. Left in our sin, we are as good as dead. We are all in need of a miracle. Our sins have put us in the grave. Our lifeless bones are useless on their own. But at the Word of God life returns - It was the Word spoken over you; over you at the waters of Baptism where these dry bones were moistened, where the smell of sin was replaced by the aroma of Christ and God was glorified. It is the Word spoken in this place; lifeless bones, renewed by the Word of the Lord. It is this same Word that comes to you in your darkest day, to bring you from death to life. Hear the Word of the Lord, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” The resurrection business is powerful. It brings life and hope to those who need it. The Word, written and proclaimed once again fills this dead man with life, and the Word will fill you as well so that the Lord may be glorified. Jesus promises that when our days on this earth are complete and we have been put into our tombs, He will open them as well and we will stand with Him in victory, our graves departing, in His Spirit abiding, and life residing. So, now as in days of old in this new day, God calls us to the hope of resurrection.
-Pastor Seth Moorman


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