Monday, March 22, 2010

Talking to a Corpse

In Ezekiel 37, the Lord brings the prophet to a valley full of old, dry bones, and asks Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And Ezekiel says that only the Lord knows, and the Lord commands Ezekiel to prophecy to the bones, to speak to them in the name of the Lord, and to tell them that they will live, that breath will enter them, that sinews will come upon them and flesh will once again cover them, and they will live and know that Yahweh is God. And Ezekiel proceeds to prophecy to the bones and there is a great rattling, and the bones come together, and breath comes into them, and they stand up and they are alive, and they are an exceedingly great army. The prophet is told that this is the house of Israel dead in sins, dead in exile, lifeless, breathless. But the Lord says that He will cause Israel to come out of the grave, and He will put His Spirit within them. As we have been meditating on the death of Jesus, we come this week in Matthew’s gospel to the burial of Jesus. Even here, we see the wonder of God’s grace and power. God himself enters the valley of dry bones. In Christ, God endures death and gives up the Spirit. But the Word of God does not return void, the promise of Christ that He would come back out of the grave after three days is not an empty promise. The Spirit returns and fills the body of Jesus, and Israel comes out of the grave filled with the Spirit. And of course Pentecost is the gift of this same life giving Spirit for us and for the world as down payment of our own resurrection. But this is also encouragement in evangelism. Preaching to unbelievers, witnessing to family members who do not know the Lord, this is always talking to corpses, conversation with a dead body, prophesying to dry bones. You say, I tell them about Christ, I pray for them, I invite them to church, I show love and hospitality, and all I hear is crickets chirping. And Ezekiel says that’s exactly right. What did you expect, preaching in a grave yard? But the death and burial of Jesus is our hope. Can dead men live? Can corpses be resurrected? Only the Spirit can do that. Our best attempts at evangelism are no better than Ezekiel’s prophecy to the dry bones. But Jesus has burst out of the grave, and you and I are all living members of His body. We have tasted this resurrection life and have been filled with the same Spirit. Can these dry bones live? Absolutely. Here we are, everyone of us, once a corpse, once stiff in the tomb of Adam, and now alive and forgiven in Christ. Jesus was buried in order to enter into our death and the death of this world. And He was raised in order to undo it all, raising the dead to an exceedingly great army.

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