Life in the midst of death
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked …” Ephesians 2:1-2.
It doesn’t get much clearer than that. The Apostle Paul says we were dead. Dead people don’t resuscitate themselves. Dead people can’t do anything to save themselves. They’re dead.
Perhaps the best image of the hopelessness of death is the vision of the valley of dry bones that is found in Ezekiel 37. The dry bones represent God’s people who say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.”
But God tells the prophet to prophesy over these bones three different times. The first time Ezekiel prophesies over the dry bones, the bones come together and are covered with skin. The second time he prophesies over them, they are filled with breath. The third time Ezekiel prophesies, he is told to tell them, “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel.” (Ezekiel 37:12)
Dead people can’t do anything to save themselves. They’re dead. Then God speaks. God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel, and dry bones are full of life. God speaks, and a lifeless Lazarus walks out of the tomb, full of life. God speaks, and the woman caught in adultery is forgiven and full of life. God speaks, and the criminal hanging on the cross is full of life. Dead people can’t do anything to save themselves. But God can, and He does. God speaks to forgive your sins and raise you from your grave and give you eternal life.
This is great news. This means that when a situation or person appears hopeless, we have the answer. God specializes in giving life to that which was dead. So Jesus sends us into the world to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching them. Then he gives us the Lord and Giver of life, the Holy Spirit, who works through that water and those words to give life. Jesus sends us to give life to those who were dead.
So we don’t lose hope. Instead, we do what Ezekiel was told to do. We prophesy. We share the Word of God with ourselves and others by reading our Bibles, going to church, praying with friends and telling them that Jesus died so that they can live.
As the Word of God is shared it does what God has always done. It gives life to those who were dead. In Ezekiel 37:10 the prophet says, “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”
Just as the Spirit saved 3,000 souls on that first Pentecost, so God is at work today through the Word to raise an exceedingly great army.
REV. MATTHEW SORENSON is the pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.