Summary: In all our passages we see God's Wonderful Message of HOPE - Hope that is founded on these facts 1. God is at work for us 2. God is at work with us 3. God is at work in us and 4. God is at work through us
Title: Hope Made Possible
Proposition: In all our passages we see God's Wonderful Message of HOPE - Hope that is founded on these facts 1. God is at work for us 2. God is at work with us 3. God is at work in us and 4. God is at work through us
Grace and peace from God our Father and from His Son Jesus Christ who came to take away the sin of the world.
All of our passages this morning starting with our Old Testament passage (Ezekiel 37:1-14) and going on to our Gospel passage (John 11:1-45) to then finishing with our Pauline passage (Romans 8:5-11) focus on the idea of Hope in the midst of sin, darkness and despair.
The Prophet Ezekiel being in the Spirit of the LORD, is taken out to a large valley where he finds himself surrounded in a valley of dead men's bones. Physically, we know that the prophet is in exile in Babylon, a captive of a foreign government. His people, the Children of Israel had likewise been captured, exiled and enslaved. His land, the Promise Land of God was now under the control of goys (Gentiles) and infidels. His Temple, the Holy Place where the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY made his name to dwell and where His glory was known was now a rubble of burnt bricks. The great bronze pillars, the plates of gold than lined the temple along with all the golden utensils were now sitting in the Nebuchadnezzar's store rooms. There was no son of David sitting high on the throne in Jerusalem. Instead, he and his family were living as defeated servants at the whim and wishes of King Nebuchadnezzar.
All around him all the prophet can see is dead man's dried out bones. Bones of people who once were full of life, hope and expectations. Bones that reminded him of His people, their land, their king and their faith. They too looked and felt like dead man's bones. All of their hopes, their expectations and even their faith had dried up like these bones. They no longer believed that they could be rescued, redeemed or even restored.
Our Evangelist John tells us that the city of Bethany was also in deep mourning. It had lost one of its leading citizens named Lazarus, who was the brother of Martha and Mary. Jesus and His disciples were coming to pay their final respects or at least it seemed that way. The scene John paints is one of overwhelming grief, sorrow and hopelessness. Even after four days the sisters emotions were still extremely raw and it seemed like their lives were paralyzed. As you read this story you get the feeling that they believed that life was over. You get the feeling that they don't know how to cope without their brother, Lazarus.
All around them people are whispering. The whispering gets louder once Jesus arrives on the scene. Our Evangelists lets us know that some begin to conjecture that if only Jesus had arrived earlier when he was summoned he could have done something to save Lazarus. They based their belief on what they had seen Jesus do earlier for the blind man. Surely, if Jesus could restore a man's sight then at the very least he could have prevented Lazarus premature death.
However, all of that is moot. The only hope now is their belief in the resurrection. Lazarus has died, his body has been prepared and it has been lying in a tomb for four days. The time for any other hope than the final resurrection is long past. The only thing that can happen now is a few hugs, a few kind words and at best some human comfort. No one is looking for Jesus to do any kind of miracle at all. All hope is lost.
In Romans 8 Paul shares with that if we are placing all our hope in the flesh we will only face sorrow, failure and death. Paul reveals us once more the impossibility of our flesh being able to live a holy life in and of itself. In Romans 5-7, our Apostle spends a great deal of time reminding us of how impossible it is for the flesh to please God and to lead us to a life of progressive holiness. The flesh, Paul tells us is hostile to God and can only lead us to physical and spiritual death.
On the surface it seems like all three passages focus on sin, hopelessness and death.
In Ezekiel 17 the exiled People of God are like the dry bones - they are absent life, hope and a future.
In John 11 the sisters of Lazarus and all their friends know that Lazarus' body is already decaying in his tomb. The time for hope is gone. All they can hope for is a final resurrection some day.