Faithlife Sermons

Giving Up Our Lives

Tillsonburg Ministerial Lenten Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Dearly loved people of God,
There are interesting trends in pop culture. There’s been a growth in interest about people emerging from graves: zombies, the undead, and the stuff of horror movies. There’s a fascination with the grotesque. Not to my tastes.
I mean, I like Jane Austin. I like Pride & Prejudice. I’ve read the book many time, watched several movie versions, read two recent books inspired by P & P – one a sequel another about the servants in the Bennet household. But one recent fan fiction version I didn’t buy: Pride & Prejudice and Zombies. But that’s the kind of thing that’s been published.
I mean: I like Jane Austin. I like Pride & Prejudice. I’ve read the book often, watched several movie versions, read 2 new books inspired by P & P – a sequel and a parallel story about the servants in the Bennet household. There’s one fan fiction version of Jane Austin’s classic I didn’t buy: Pride & Prejudice and Zombies. Interesting that it’s been published, no?
Yet the movie makers haven’t latched on to very often. Yet it’s a great scene. It has a more wholesome feel than most horror movies, although with the right background music you could make it spooky.
The Spirit of the Lord brought Ezekiel to a valley full of bones and gets him to walk around. At the Lord’s instruction, Ezekiel tells the bones to come together and for tendons and flesh to appear. Amazingly, it happens. Again, at the Lord’s command, Ezekiel commands the wind to blow the breath of life into the bodies and they “came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.”
Despite this trend in culture, pop culture makers haven’t latched on to . It’s a great scene, yet it has a more wholesome feel than horror movies; although with the right background music you could make it spooky.
If you aren’t familiar with Hebrew, you might miss the thickness of what is meant here. In Hebrew, the word for wind, Spirit, and breath is all the same word: ruach. From the four winds, the wind, breath, and spirit blew into these bodies, just as God breathed breath, wind, spirit into Adam at creation. This breath is what makes us human. This breath is what gives humankind life.
The Spirit of the Lord brought Ezekiel to a valley of bones and has him to walk around. At the Lord’s instruction, Ezekiel tells the bones to come together. He commands tendons and flesh to appear. Amazingly, it happens. Again, at the Lord’s command, Ezekiel commands the wind to blow the breath of life into the bodies and they “came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.”
How God the Spirit breath life into these bodies is a sign to Ezekiel and a sign to God’s covenant people of what is ahead
If you aren’t familiar with Hebrew, you miss the thickness of what is written here. In Hebrew, the word for wind, Spirit, and breath is all the same word: רוּח. From the 4 winds, the wind, breath, and spirit blew into the bodies, just as God breathed breath, wind, spirit into Adam at creation. This breath makes us human. The HS’s breath gives people life.
The way God the HS breathed life into these bodies is a sign to Ezekiel and a sign to God’s covenant people
My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.
My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.
(NIV)
(NIV)
God is bringing his dead people back to life.
God is bringing his dead people back to life. This vision is fulfilled in the OT, just as God explained to Ezekiel when his covenant people are brought out of captivity in Babylon and return to the Promised Land. They come out of captivity and enter the land of Israel.
This vision is fulfilled in the OT, just as God explained to Ezekiel when his covenant people are brought out of captivity in Babylon and return to the Promised Land. They come out of captivity and enter the land of Israel.
But’s that’s not the only time this prophesy is fulfilled. God’s Word through Ezekiel points not just to the return from exile in the days of Ezra & Nehemiah, but also to the way dead people receive eternal life through Jesus Christ.
But’s that’s not the only way the Word of God through Ezekiel is fulfilled. God’s Word points not just to the return from exile in the days of Ezra & Nehemiah, but also beyond to the way dead people receive eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Of course, Lazarus is an example of that. Now in the OT, you can read about God’s prophets Elijah & Elisha having prayers answered and people restored to life, but rarely in a situation where someone has been dead for as long as Lazarus. It’s not as cold in Bethany as it is in Tillsonburg.
Of course, Lazarus is an example of that. Now in the OT, you can read about God’s prophets Elijah & Elisha having prayers answered and people restored to life, but rarely in a situation where someone has been dead for as long as Lazarus. It’s not as cold in Bethany as it is in Tillsonburg.
So when Jesus proposed opening Lazarus’ tomb, sister Martha objected.
So when Jesus proposed opening Lazarus’ tomb, sister Martha objected.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
(NIV)
(NIV)
I don’t know what it’s like in your house, but my new house isn’t completely mouse-proof. A week or so ago, a mouse died in a wall. There was no way to get to him, but we sure could smell him! We don’t experience that smell often because Funeral Homes do a great job. But Martha and her neighbours knew the smell. They knew it was a bad idea to open the grave.
That underlines some of the power of Lazarus’ resurrection. The natural processes of decay aren’t a barrier for the new life that Jesus brings.
But the length of time since Lazarus’ death underlines the wonder of Lazarus’ resurrection. The natural processes of decay aren’t a barrier for the new life that Jesus brings.
This should be a place where I can quote a hero of the faith, the bishop of Hippo many years ago. Augustine of Hippo shows the significance of raising someone who’s been buried for 4 days:
He raised one who was putrid, and yet in that putrid carcase there was still the form of limbs; but at the last day He will by a word reconstitute ashes into human flesh.
This should be a place where I can quote a hero of the faith, the bishop from the 4th century. Augustine of Hippo shows the significance of raising someone who’s been dead 4 days:
Augustine has a vivid way of putting things, wouldn’t you say? But he goes on to explain the benefit to us of having this miraculous sign recorded.
[Jesus] raised one who was putrid, and yet in that putrid carcase there was still the form of limbs; but at the last day He will, by a word, reconstitute ashes into human flesh.
But it was needful then to do only some such deeds, that we, receiving them as tokens of His power, may put our trust in Him, and be preparing for that resurrection which shall be to life and not to judgment. So, indeed, He saith[1]
Augustine has a vivid way of putting things, wouldn’t you say? But he goes on to explain the benefit to us of having this miraculous sign recorded.
A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
It was needful then to do only some such deeds, that we, receiving them as tokens of His power, may put our trust in Him, and be preparing for that resurrection which shall be to life and not to judgment. So, indeed, He saith[1]
A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
(NIV)
This is a service in the season of Lent. We are marking the days until our celebration of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The raising of Lazarus’ body points ahead, not so much to Jesus’ resurrection as to our own.
(NIV)
This is a service in the season of Lent. We are marking the days until our celebration of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The raising of Lazarus’ body points ahead, not so much to Jesus’ resurrection, as to our own.
If we were raised on the day of resurrection in order to face judgement and the doom of sin, that would be horrifying indeed. But that’s not the case for those with faith in Jesus. On the Day of Judgement, believers won’t get what they deserve. What do I mean?
God has a problem with me. He calls humankind to love and righteousness. You can judge for yourself how well you love God and neighbour, but I fall short. I don’t live up to the righteousness that God created humankind for and God isn’t going to just sweep it under the rug. It needs to be dealt with.
Martha believes a day is coming when all people will be raised. Jesus affirms it. But if we were raised on the day of resurrection in order to face judgement and the doom of sin, that rising would be horrifying. But that’s not the case for those with faith in Jesus. On the Day of Judgement, believers won’t get what they deserve. What do I mean?
God has a problem with me. He calls humankind to love and righteousness. You can judge for yourself how well you love God and neighbour, but I fall short. I don’t live up to the righteousness that God created humankind for and God isn’t going to just sweep it under the rug. It needs to be dealt with.
God is holy and just and holds people accountable. Rebellion and sin count as high treason. The penalty is death.
God is holy and just and holds people accountable. Rebellion and sin count as high treason. The penalty is death.
I cannot make things better, for my best efforts fall short. Even on my best day, I actually increase my debt to God.
I cannot make things better, for even my best efforts fall short. On my best days, I still increase my debt to God.
But God is also loving and merciful. God the Father sent God the Son to take the punishment. Jesus came to be our substitute.
At the cross, Jesus substituted himself for sinful humankind. He died our death. God the Father put the full punishment for humanity’s sin on Jesus Christ. Jesus died.
But God is also loving and merciful. God the Father sent God the Son to take the punishment. Jesus came as our substitute.
At the cross, Jesus substituted himself for sinful humankind. He died our death. God the Father put the full punishment for humanity’s sin on Jesus Christ. Jesus died. Punishment for sin was finished. Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath.
On the third day he rose again. After his resurrection he was seen by a whole whack of people. It was a demonstration, even more powerful that Lazarus’ rising, that Jesus has won the victory over death. In Jesus’ resurrection, God is making all things new.
On the third day he rose again. After his resurrection he was seen by many of people. It was a demonstration, even more powerful that Lazarus’ rising, that Jesus has won the victory over death. In Jesus’ resurrection, God makes all things new.
Jesus lives up to the title he claimed while talking with Martha. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” In order to give us life, to transform our lives from lives of brokenness and sin, God has poured out God the Holy Spirit. We’ll celebrate that gift at Pentecost. It’s exactly what God foretold through the prophet Ezekiel
I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.
Jesus lives up to the title he claimed while talking with Martha. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” In order to give us life, to transform our lives from lives of brokenness and sin, God has poured out God the Holy Spirit. We’ll celebrate that gift at Pentecost. It’s exactly what God declared through the prophet Ezekiel:
(NIV)
I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.
This is the life the Apostle John points to repeated in the gospel that bears his name.
(NIV)
This is the life the Apostle John points to repeated in the gospel that bears his name.
Again and again, if you read through the 4th gospel, you’ll read the promise that those who believe in the words of Jesus gain eternal life. We read it already in
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
If you read through the 4th gospel – as we’re doing as a congregation – you’ll read again and again the promise that those who believe in Jesus gain eternal life. Already in :
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
(NIV)
That’s the hopeful note we ended our reading from . As a result of Lazarus’ resurrection,
(NIV)
That’s the hopeful note we ended our reading from . As a result of Lazarus’ resurrection,
Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
(NIV)
(NIV)
Isn’t that cool? People who saw Jesus call Lazarus from the grave were so impressed by Jesus’ authority over death that they put their faith and hope in Jesus. They believed and gained eternal life.
Isn’t that cool? People who saw Jesus call Lazarus from the grave were so impressed by Jesus’ authority over death that they put their faith and hope in Jesus. They believed and gained eternal life.
The theme I was given for this message was “Giving Up Our Lives.”
· If our life is lived in rebellion against God.
The theme for today’s message was “Giving Up Our Lives.”
· If our life is lived for our own gratification or pleasure
If our life is lived in rebellion against God.
· If our life is merely a continuation of the injustice towards other ethnicities and peoples
If our life is lived for our own gratification or pleasure
If our life is a continuation of the injustice towards others
· If our life is a perpetuation of damaging God’s creation
If our life is a perpetuation of damaging God’s creation
o Then it isn’t worth much.
Then our life isn’t worth much; better to give it up
That’s not a call to despair, but a call for change. We were created for much more than continuing a cycle that leaves dry bones wasting away in valleys.
By giving up our rebellion, by giving up our self-reliance, by giving up our efforts to please ourselves, we gain life.
That’s not a call to despair, but a call for change. We were created for much more than continuing a cycle that leaves dry bones wasting away in valleys.
Life on our own is futile and ends in brokenness and death, but God has not left us to live alone. Our Creator has come into his world with his Word and Spirit.
By giving up our rebellion, by giving up our self-reliance, by giving up our efforts to please ourselves, and counting instead on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we gain life.
The Spirit has blown life and breath into God’s chosen people allowing humankind to enjoy life with our Creator – and each other – for all eternity.
Life on our own is futile and ends in brokenness and death, but God has not left us to live alone. Our Creator has come into his world with his Word and Spirit. Don’t forget, 50 days after Easter, we celebrate how God the HS came at Pentecost. Greek shares the same opportunity for word plays as Hebrew: πνεῦμα means Spirit, wind, and breath.
Just as in the days of Adam and Ezekiel, at Pentecost, God the HS has blown life and breath into God’s chosen people allowing humankind to enjoy life with our Creator – and each other – for all eternity.
This is the life we were created for.
This is the life we were created for.
This is the life that Jesus has won for us in his death and resurrection.
This is the life we gain for all eternity when we put our faith in Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life.
This is the life that Jesus has won for us in his death and resurrection.
Do you believe this?
This is the life we gain for all eternity when we put our faith in Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life.
Do you believe this?
[1] Augustine of Hippo, St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, 1888, 7, 270.
[1] Augustine of Hippo, St. Augustin: Homilies on the Gospel of John, 1888, 7, 270.
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