Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday April 2nd 2017 - / John 11:1-53 / Ezekiel, Lazarus, and the Resurrection
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / April 2nd 2017, Series (A) “Ezekiel, Lazarus, and the Resurrection” John 11:1- 53
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, he whom You love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it He said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”
Now when Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met Him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met Him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what He did, believed in Him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put Him to death.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. As we move closer to Easter during this season of Lent let us consider death and the resurrection of the dead: To do this we will think about Ezekiel, Lazarus, and the Resurrection. Primarily we will think on the Gospel Reading but let’s start with what we heard in the Old Testament reading this morning.
In our Old Testament reading from Ezekiel we hear God ask Ezekiel this question: “Son of man, can these bones live?” And [Ezekiel] answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Ezekiel is given an experience unlike that witnessed by any other prophet of the Lord; Ezekiel witnesses the resurrection of very dead people. Not the resurrection of one recently deceased, but the resurrection of those whose bones are dry – all the flesh removed. Today people are occasionally brought back to life with electrical defibrillators – this seems common to us because we have seen it many times in movies and on TV, fewer people have seen it in connection to their vocation, their job, their work. There is a difference between resuscitation and resurrection: Can you use the paddles of a defibrillator on bones and expect them to get up and have breath and sinews and flesh and skin and become alive? No. The Triune God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit alone can raise dry bones, can raise up dust and bring forth those who have died, restoring them, perfecting them – Because Father, Son and Holy Spirit alone accomplished creation.
King Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes gives a good example of death and paints the picture held by many people concerning the dead, when he writes, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.”
Jesus our Lord and Saviour says to the thief who hung next to Him on the Cross at His crucifixion, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” What then can I expect? When Ezekiel looked at that valley full of the dry dead bones he probably expected the same sort of thing King Solomon spoke of in Ecclesiastes: But when God asked him about the dry bones saying, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel’s answer was one of faith – because reason said ‘no they cannot live, they have had their day under the sun and it is long over’ – in faith however Ezekiel answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.”
So how does this work? In the Apostles’’ Creed Christians confess that we look for the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. If on the one hand when you die you go to be with Jesus and on the other hand you will one day be resurrected from the dead along with everyone all at once; what is going on? Are you waiting, dead in the ground, knowing nothing as time passes you by, like king Solomon says, until the last day; or are you with Jesus, like He says? Which is it?
The answer is yes. Both parts are true. When you die your body is waiting for The Last Day, dead [asleep] and unaware of the passage of time and your Spirit is with Jesus in Paradise.
In our Gospel reading about Lazarus Jesus says this to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Then Jesus asks the question, “Do you believe this?”
Like in the valley of the dry bones Lazarus was very dead, four days dead, certainly dead – under most circumstances modern medicine can’t resuscitate one who is apparently dead after twenty minutes without a pulse: the exceptions being someone who has been electrocuted [they might live if given immediate CPR but only up to 1 hour, after such time they would be pronounced actually dead] or someone who has been trapped under freezing cold water and has gone into hypothermic shock [they may appear dead for a period of time before being pronounced actually dead]. In all these cases the stopping of the lungs or the heart or the brain generally constitutes death by medical standards and even today people don’t come back from the dead a day later, or even 3 or 4 hours later and they certainly don’t get up and walk around. So it is safe to say that Lazarus was very much dead when Jesus brought him back to life. In fact the people there that day didn’t want to open the tomb because they knew Lazarus would smell bad, because after four days Rigor Mortis would have already have set in and decomposition would have begun the process of breaking down the body.
Everyone there that day would have rationally believed that death by that point was irreversible. But remember what Ezekiel said to Gods question about the dry bones as to whether or not they could live? Ezekiel answered in faith, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Standing before the tomb of Lazarus Jesus asked them to remove the stone and like with Ezekiel’s answer Mary and Martha followed, by faith, the command of Jesus having the stone removed even when they likely thought there was no hope.
Have you ever been at a funeral, maybe for someone who died with dementia and you hear someone from the family saying, “Grandma isn’t here this is just a broken shell, she will never need this body again.” Years ago a pastor told me that this was said in a eulogy at a funeral he was attending but not conducting, he was horrified because this is not what Christians are to confess as true: This Pastor wanted to jump up and quote the Scriptures where is says, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,” God loves you: Not just your soul but your body too; and Jesus died not just for your soul but for your body too. After the Last Day, in heaven, when we’ve been there 10,000 years, you won’t have just your soul but you will have your body too. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead because Jesus wants you to know that He will raise you from the dead too; He does not just raise Himself after three days in the tomb, Jesus will raise you and all who believe and trust in Him on that Last Day: your body is very important to Jesus.
The book of Job is perhaps the oldest of the books of the Bible and in Job 19:25-27, Job confesses with great confidence, “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!” We can all take comfort in this: no matter how poor our physical condition, no matter how long our bodies have been dead, no matter what the circumstance, even if our bones are dry or less than that even if they are dust, on The Last Day Jesus will raise us up and reunite our soul with our body.
God’s creation is important to Him, Important enough to send His One and Only Begotten Son. And Jesus loves you enough to come in a physical way in His incarnation, He does not save you from somewhere up in heaven – He enters into creation to accomplish this – so that even without sin of His own, He experiences the effect of sin on creation first hand [suffering, pain, tears, hunger, homelessness, temptation, death – even death on a cross] He felt these things because He had a body and still has that same body even now: On the Cross Jesus didn’t swoon, He didn’t just appear dead – Jesus was dead for three days in the tomb – His resurrection is a miracle and your resurrection on The Last Day will be a miracle too.
Your bodies are important and they are redeemed in the resurrection to come; they are not like single use disposable products, neither are they simply recycled into some thing different – you will receive your very own body - the one sitting right here right now - only it will be made perfect for all of eternity. Because of this, God cares for your body even now; He has given you Baptism for the washing away of your sin, for the washing away of Adam and Eve’s first sin, Little Luke de Jager receives this gift today, this gift is yours in Christ. The gift of being baptized into Jesus’ death upon the cross of Good Friday and simultaneously baptized into Jesus’ Easter Morning resurrection. “United with [Jesus] in a death like His … united with [Jesus] in a resurrection like His” as Saint Paul says in his letter to the Roman Christians. Along with that God also gives you Holy Communion in which you receive the physical Body and Blood of the resurrected Jesus, in, with and under the bread and the wine for the forgiveness of your sin. God has also given you His Word in Holy Scripture that you would know and trust and have faith in all of this as John’s Gospel says following the Resurrection of Jesus when He writes “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
I tell you all of this today knowing that many of you are still grieving the death of people you love: A husband, a wife, family, and friends. I want you to have a good Christian perspective on death, to follow Christ and not the World when it comes to death and dying: To keep your eye on what is to come, the happy reunion of all those who died with their faith in Christ; A happy reunion that will happen in the flesh.
God asks Ezekiel about the dry bones laid before him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” and Ezekiel answers in faith, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Today, because of the revelation of the love of God for you in the person of Jesus the Christ, you can add to this by saying “O Lord GOD, You know and in Your Son You teach us to say yes, yes these bones can live. Their life, my life, is in you.” Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord, have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.”
 Ezekiel 37:3
 Ecclesiastes 9:5-6
 1 Corinthians 6:19
 Philippians 3:21 “[Jesus] will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.”
 Romans 6:5
 John 20:31