Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life

Sunday the 2nd of April 2017

Ezekiel 37:1-14 & John 11

The year 2004 was a significant year for me in my life as two major events occurred which changed me. The first one was the birth of my oldest son Josiah. There is nothing that prepares you for the experience of seeing the life of a new person that God has created coming into the world. Even though he is now much older I find myself still thinking about that time, thinking about how it brought happiness and changed my life for good.

Three months later a very close friend of mine who I grew up with in New Zealand died of a heart attack. This man, named Kevin, was a lot older than me and in some ways was a father figure in my life, someone whom I loved and who I cared very deeply for. Kevin was the first person that I had personally known, and had a strong relationship with, to have died so I really did grieve his loss. The other thing that made this hard was that Kevin was openly not a believer in Jesus, which made my grief even more difficult. I distinctly remember looking at Josiah and holding him in my hands after Kevin’s death and thinking: ‘life is so fragile’. For me 2004 was a year about life and death.

The prophet Ezekiel, in our first reading today, knew all about death as he was surrounded by it. He was a prophet at a time when the people of Israel, had been conquered, and were almost at breaking point. He knew the result of God’s punishment of death and captivity for his people because of their sins. Those who were still alive were suffering in their captivity in Babylon because of their arrogance, pride, self-conceit, and, in general, their refusal to trust their God. These people had been decimated and knew full well what it was like to feel hopeless and defeated. For many of the Israelites they were living with such hopelessness that they were waiting to die.

Yet in the midst of this time Ezekiel receives a vision. He saw a vision of a great defeat in a battlefield valley, where the bodies of those killed had not been buried but allowed to decay. This was a brutal vision of death. Ezekiel right in the midst of this vision of death receives this command:  “prophesy to these bones” (v. 4). This would have seemed ridiculous, as there were not even any ears to “hear the word of the Lord” that he was to speak. But the word that Ezekiel was to speak, was not his own. No, this word that was spoken is the word of the one who is the Creator, who at the beginning of the World in Genesis 2: made flesh and bones from the face of the earth, awaiting the breath of life; the one who breathed life into his created people. The Lord says to Ezekiel “This is what the Lord God says to these bones; I will cause breath to enter you and you will live” (v5). Ezekiel spoke the word as the Lord said and “… the breath entered them and they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army.” (v10). God’s word brought life to the dead.

In the Gospel reading from John two women, Mary and Martha, just lost their dear brother Lazarus to death. They knew what it was like to grieve for the death of a loved one. They knew what it was like to lose all hope. Even though our Lord was there, too late in their opinions, Maratha says: “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died” (John 11: 21). You can almost hear her grief.

Right in the middle of her grief over her brother’s death Martha hears Jesus say “Your brother will rise again”, and she responds by saying “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” But Jesus responded “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Notice that Jesus did not just say that he is the resurrection, but that he is the resurrection and the life.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is life and he speaks words of life to us. Mary and Martha got to see this as they witnessed Lazarus rising from the dead and in chapter 12 they were even feasting with him again. He had indeed come to life because Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, spoke the word of life to him.

In Ezekiel’s vision, those dry bones were restored to new life and new hope. When the people believed that it was the end for them, that all was lost, and that they were cut off from the Lord (v. 11), God spoke his words of restoration and hope. He will put his Spirit within them, and they shall be restored to their land and live in hope and joy. He united and he restored the whole house of Israel. All hope is not lost in their hopelessness. God speaks and his word accomplishes the purpose for which he sent it. God was speaking his Word of life to a people who were lost in despair.

We all know that death eventually comes to us all, no matter how much we want to deny it. And we know that death is the result of sin. As it says in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. As you and I look around us we hear and see that people who believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, are often laughed at, persecuted, or in some places in the world even murdered.

His church is under constant assault from Satan and his demons. With all of the political correctness in our society the church is under pressure to get with the times. And so, we are tempted to conform to the world, cutting off ourselves from Jesus once again. We all know hopelessness and despair and being cut off from Jesus in our sinful lives. And yet, he comes and speaks his word of life to us again and again in these places.

It is in these places that he speaks his world of life and hope to us. The same word of life that brought the dry bones to life in today’s Old Testament reading is the same word of life the speaks to you and me today in our Lord Jesus Christ, as He is the resurrection and the life.

In order for Jesus to be raised from the dead, he had to die. There can be no resurrection without there first being a death. In order for there to be eternal life, death had to be conquered. So our Lord comes to us as the Shepherd-King who humbles himself and allows himself to undergo the greatest suffering, by taking our sins on him as the Lamb and was killed for us on the great battlefield of sin. And he rose again to life. This is not a life and death story; rather it is an account of death and life.

Because of Jesus resurrection from the dead that we celebrate at Easter, Jesus brings us life in the midst of our dying from our sins. He speaks his words of life to us, words that bring forgiveness, hope and life. And he speaks to us the promise of our resurrection with him from the dead. The resurrection is coming: that is the goal, and it brings hope to a hopeless people, not just death but resurrection. Our God who we worship is a God of life. He comes to us, he breathes his Spirit on us and he brings new life to us, even in the midst of our sins he comes to bring this life.

When Lazarus died and was raised again by Jesus, this was a sign that was to point to the one who would die and be raised for all sinners. Jesus is the one who had the authority to lay down his life in death, but to also rise again to life. And he did this for you and me so that we might have eternal life through him.

Often when we think about our sins we can become discouraged and down hearted because that’s all we see, but I encourage you to see that even in the midst of your sins the one who is the resurrection and the life; the one who has the power to bring life out of death through his word; is the one who is speaking that life to you today in your life.

 

 

Bible Study

For those interested there is Bible Study in Devonport this Wednesday at 1:00pm. If interested contact pastor for details.

The Bible reading we will be looking at for those who cannot make it is: Ephesians 5:8-14. I will also be preaching on this text this coming Sunday.

Ash Wednesday Service

LAUNCESTON SERVICE

ash-wednesday

Pastor will be at Launceston on Wednesday evening 1st March to lead us in a service for ASH WEDNESDAY. Service begins at 7pm.

Ash Wednesday is the Wednesday of the seventh week before Easter and the first day of Lent. The day is named for the practice of imposing ashes, a practice that many Lutheran congregations have found to be a very meaningful part of the Ash Wednesday liturgy. Using ashes as a sign of repentance is an ancient practice, often mentioned in the Bible (e.g., Jonah 3:5-9; Job 42:6; Jeremiah 6:26; Matthew 11:21). The early Christians adopted the use of ashes from Jewish practice as an external mark of penitence. Ashes symbolize several aspects of our human existence:

  • Ashes remind us of God’s condemnation of sin, as God said to Adam, “Dust you are and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
  • Ashes suggest cleansing and renewal. They were used anciently in the absence of soap. Even on Ash Wednesday, this most penitential day, we receive ashes in the form of the cross, the same symbol placed on our bodies with water in our baptism. Even in this ashen mark of death, we anticipate the new life of Easter.
  • Ashes remind us of the shortness of human life, for it is said as we are buried into the ground or as ashes are placed in a columbarium (see “What are columbaria and memorial gardens?”). “We commit this body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 284).
  • Ashes are a symbol of our need to repent, confess our sins, and return to God.

 

Jesus our True King

Sunday 20/03/16
Luke 19:28-40

So here we are once again at the beginning of another remembrance of Holy week; the time in our year where we get to the heart of what our Christian faith is all about. This time of the year where Jesus Christ and that journey that he made some two thousand years ago to his death on that cross, is the focus of our thoughts and attention.

This week begins today known as Palm Sunday with a Gospel reading from Luke chapter 19: A reading that is full of irony.

In this Gospel we hear about how Jesus sent some of his disciple’s head of him, with specific instructions to find an unridden donkey. As he then comes into Jerusalem, for what we know is his last time, they put Jesus on it. And as he is riding, a large number of his followers were there waving palm branches, throwing their clothes on the ground in front him. They were joyfully praising “… God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’(v38). They cried out to him as he went by.

When the people of Israel in the Old Testament times welcomed home their kings from victory, they did so by waving around palm branches, they also threw their cloaks on the ground for the king to walk over. The fact that these people were doing this was making it clear that Jesus to them was a king. They were jubilant and you get a sense of them knowing that something great was about to happen. The true king of David was finally coming home. His followers and disciples were there and they were bearing witness to him praising God for all the miracles they had seen. They were looking back at the deeds of their king, and rejoicing at what he had done. At the same time they were looking ahead. Looking forward with great expectation to what their king was about to do. They were on the eve of a great victory where their king would rule again.

These people were proclaiming Jesus as a king and the truth is that his is, but the irony here is that this true king of David was not a king they knew or one they wanted.

They wanted a king who was going to claim victory over the Roman Empire. The Romans had ruled Jerusalem for many years and the Jews were being oppressed. They were longing to be free, they were expecting the Romans to be ousted and Israel brought back to its glory days of King David, and Jesus was there man to do it.

The crowd expected their king to come and to clean up the religious hierarchy. The religious leaders of that time, while outwardly devout, we very corrupt and also added to oppression of the people.

This king was going to come and reign with truth and justice and God himself was going to bless his people Israel once again. And now was the time for this to happen.

But it did not happen as they expected. This king did not play his part. And for this he paid a high price, in fact it cost him his very life.

This king, Jesus Christ, was fighting a different battle. He was walking a different journey. As he rode to Jerusalem he was being assaulted by the sins of the people. The sin of jealousy which, eventually drove them to want Jesus out of the way. He was riding towards the sin of fear because if Jesus was becoming too popular then people would lose their power and control; Jesus was riding towards the sin of greed, as many loved money over God’s mercy which they showed when Jesus challenged their money-making schemes in the temple. Jesus our king was riding his way to battle and to victory over the real enemy, your and my sin. And even greater than that Jesus our king was riding towards the battle and victory over death.

What those who were waving about palm branches and sing shouts of praise did not get was that Jesus was riding into Jerusalem as a king and he was coming to save his people from the enemy, but the enemy was not some Roman soldiers or religious leaders. Jesus was riding to face against the very enemies that haunt you and me. He was going to battle against the dark places in our hearts and minds. He was taking on our worst enemies: sin, that infests and overruns this world we live in, and even Satan himself. But his biggest enemy that Jesus was riding towards was ultimately our greatest enemy—death and the grave. This is the journey that our Lord Jesus was heading for and which you and I know he won.

We live in a world today, that still cannot see this. Many people want a king-Jesus who is how they want him to be. They want to King who will make everything easy for them in life. They want a King who will not interfere with their happiness; They want a King who will not challenge them, but give them what they want. They don’t want a king who walks in humility; they don’t want a King who walks with people in their suffering and pain; they don’t want a King who challenges them; they don’t want a King who deals once and for all with their sin. Now it would be easy for us to sit back and judge the Jews and Romans for what they did in crucifying our Lord Jesus during this Holy Week, but the reality is the sin that drove them to do this is also our sin. The Jesus who is and the Jesus we want, often don’t match.

The Jesus who told some of his disciples to go and find a colt to ride into Jerusalem on, knew what he was riding into. He knew what he was facing. These events did not take him by surprise. He knew he was walking with his Heavenly Father; he knew what he was taking on. He knew the opposition that he was going to face; he knew that crowds’ praises of him would prove shallow, when their expectations of him weren’t met; he knew that some of the same people shouting praises on this day, would in a few days abandon him; he knew he would face tremendous suffering and pain and even death.

But Jesus as our true King kept his eyes on the ultimate prize: the defeat death once and for all. It is because Jesus was faithful to His father’s will that we can see now, along with the disciples that Jesus’ victory was more than dealing with a Roman soldiers and religions leaders. His victory is over everything that sin and death could do to you and me.

He was willing to pay the ultimate price for the victory over our enemies. He did this for you and me so that we may stand with him in his victory. This is the great irony: in dying his death on that cross for you and me, something which to this day is seen as offensive to many, he acted as our true King and saved us from our enemy.

Palm Sunday in our church year is about worshiping our Lord Jesus as the King that he is, not the king that we often want him to be, but the King that he is as he demonstrated his love of us by his actions.

My encouragement to you all this coming Easter weekend is to use this time to think about wherever you are in your life with Jesus. I encourage you to reflect upon this coming week just how determined Jesus was to face down sin and death for you. So that we can share in his victory.