Today’s reading from Ezekiel is a visionary depiction of God’s plan to recreate Israel. A valley of dead bones is a stand-in for exiled Israel, which is symbolically brought back to life by God’s word. In John’s Gospel, the symbol gives way to reality as Jesus speaks the words, “Lazarus, come out!” Both texts affirm that death does not have the last word. (But God does.)
For Israel-in-exile, Ezekiel’s vision stirred the hope that they would one day return to the Promised Land — and not just physically, but in their hearts too — equipped with new, God-breathed souls. For John’s readers the excitement builds as Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones starts to become a reality: is God about to recreate Israel? In our own day, we read both of these stories knowing that it isn’t just Israel that God is recreating, but the whole human race.
Ezekiel assures us that God intends to do all that he says he will do. Christ is the proof and guarantee that he will. Just as Jesus’ own confidence in his calling seems to grow as he approaches Lazarus’ tomb, so our confidence in Christ increases as we stare at his open, empty grave. Jesus Christ is proof that God will do what he says, so we have no reason to lament with Martha and Mary, “Lord, if you had been with us, none of the suffering of this sinful world would have happened!” Instead, we can be about the business of unbinding the world from the trappings of its death and setting it free to be the land of promise and life God meant it to be.
Preached by the Rev. Jake Dell on April 2, 2017 at Holy Trinity Church Inwood.