Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones. Which was not the sermon hymn for our midweek service. But here is the sermon.
Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones. God asks, “Can they live?” With man this is impossible. With God all things are possible. Ezekiel answers “You know if they can live.” And so, God has Ezekiel prophecy to the bones. They come together bone to bone, they get muscle and sinews, and flesh, but they are still dead bodies. Only God can give life to death bodies. So, God has Ezekiel prophecy to the breath, and the breath comes into them, and they are made alive.
This is the Old Testament reading for the Sunday after Easter. Death is turned to life. Bones back to people. A wasted and crushed Israel now a vast army. That is the promise given to the wasted and crushed people of Israel. But it is not a promise of a new nation in the middle East.
This is a prophecy that is fulfilled on Easter morning. This is what our Lord Jesus has done. He has gone into death, and broken the bonds of death, so that, instead of dead bones, we are now the living people of God. Instead of a wrecked and ruined people, we are the living people of God, his holy temple.
But this is not some trick of ours, not done by the strength of our arm, but by God’s will, at his word, and by the strength of his arm. He is the one who has gone into death. He is the one who has conquered Satan. He is the one who has given us the oil of gladness instead of mourning.
We still live here in this world of sin and death, surrounded by dry bones. Bones on all sides. God makes you alive in Christ Jesus. He gives you flesh, he gives you breath so that you would be part of his vast army of the redeemed: Those who were dead, but now are alive.
This life given by Jesus is not just a life in this world. When this world’s life is over, and you are placed into the ground, flesh and bones with no breath in them, you are not done. The Word of God will come again into your bones when the trumpet sounds, and the bones will come together, and the flesh will be put back on the bones, and the breath of God will blow in you and once again you will stand, alive in your body, alive in Christ.
There is a tendency to spiritualize the resurrection. To make it an out there someday, somehow sort of thing. The resurrection is not just a spiritual event someday out there. Saint Paul makes clear to the Corinthians that if there is no resurrection – that is a bodily resurrection, then Christ is not raised. And if Christ is not bodily raised, then we have no hope and we are, above all people, most to be pitied. But Christ is raised, and his body was seen by the apostles, was touched by Thomas, and has now ascended to heaven where he sits at the right hand of the father. This same body is the one we will see when he returns to judge the living and the dead.
The body he has been given is a foretaste of the body you will be given. He was raised, and so all those who believe in him will be raised. That is what Baptism gives us – joined to his death and raised to a new life. Ezekiel sees the reality of what happens to us in Baptism. The Word is spoken over dead men and the breath of God comes into them. That is what is really happening to those babies and children and adults who come to the font. It is the breath of God being blown into the dead body of a child of Satan, and that body being made alive, being made a child of God.
What a wonderful gift we have been given in Jesus death and resurrection. We are raised. Now, the bodies of this world, the sinful breakdown bodies, are only the beginning. They are the temple of the holy spirit in this world, because you have been given life in this world by Jesus in his death and resurrection. But of course, the sinful this-world body can not last. It will give out – it’s already doing that. And one day, you will go into death and your body will have no breath in it, but will wait in peaceful rest until the day that Jesus returns with his angels, when he comes on the clouds of glory, and then breath will come back into your body. Then you will be raised again to a new life in Jesus Christ. This new body, like your Lord’s will not be a breaking down body, but a glorified eternal praise to God body. That is the promise of Easter, that is what Ezekiel was given to see, what Jesus gives you.
“I have spoken I will do it, declares the Lord.”