Summary: This sermon focuses on how Jesus, who is life in himself, came to die, so that we might live. The latter part of the sermon focuses on how Jesus' resurrection ultimately recalls us to life.
Recalled to Life—Act 4
Ez. 37, John 1, 11, etc.
Introduction: Dickens and the Robertson Fire
Most of you have heard of Charles Dickens’ book The Tale of Two Cities. Many of you may have read it. If you have, you might remember a phrase from early in the book, “Recalled to Life.” Early in the story we are introduced to Dr. Manette, who has been imprisoned in France for eighteen years, apparently in almost total isolation. The effects of this imprisonment have been so severe that Dr. Manette is reduced to a death-like existence while still alive in the body. Those who care about him or ready to receive him out of prison and they use a phrase to describe what they will do for Dr. Manette, “Recall to life.” Dr. Manette had known death, but his friends want to call him back to life.
Our world considers death as the point of no return. Therefore, the phrase “recall to life” is an oxymoron in the ears of many. You can’t be recalled to life once dead. But the Bible, and our Christian story, tells a much different story. It tells a story about when conditions were at their worst, when hope was dead, that God through his Son Jesus Christ came to us to recall us to life. We are not created for death. We were created for life, but unfortunately we chose death in that Garden so long ago. We were in a prison of our own making and there was no escape until we were recalled to life.
I stood on the ashes of Steve and Alisha’s house this week and looked at death. No, there was no human death, but there was the death of a home, a dream, vegetation, and even animals. The fire had left death in its wake. Can God recall us to life in the midst of such tragedy? Many of you have stood on your own pile of ashes, sometimes literal, sometimes figurative. You have seen your dreams destroyed, your loved one taken, your self-worth demolished. Your life may have been as much a pile of rubble as this once proud house. I don’t know what reasons brought you to be with us this Easter Sunday, but I know the question that must be addressed in your heart: What can Jesus do with the rubble of my life? Can he make it live again? Can he restore my dreams and my hopes? Can he recall me to life instead of death?
A man named Ezekiel once encountered the same questions. His nation, his temple, and in many ways his faith were a pile of rubble. Ezekiel and his people were in exile. As a nation and a people they were dead; the dream was over. Then God came to Ezekiel in a vision and asked him a question that would change everything, that would recall Israel to life. Read Ez. 37. 1-14.
Move 1: Can these bones live?
We have been going through the story of the Bible in six acts and have covered the first three. Act 1: God alone creates a very good world and places man and woman in a garden to be stewards over creation. Act 2: Satan leads humans away from God by enticing them to rebellion, and as a result creation ceases to be what God intended, evil proliferates, and falls into crisis. Act 3: God chooses Abraham and his descendants to counteract the damage caused by Satan and human rebellion with the intention of blessing all nations through the chosen nation of Israel. It is in this “act” in which Ezekiel finds himself and in many ways it is the most difficult.
It appears that things have not worked out as God intended when he chose Abraham. Instead of being a blessing to the nations, Israel has been unfaithful and profaned the name of Yahweh before the nations. They have been exiled to Babylon and their temple and capital city lie in ruins. Ezekiel himself was from a priestly family and took great personal pride in his service to the temple. Now that symbol of God’s presence was rubble, no more than a heap of ashes. Ezekiel may have been a prophet, but he was not immune to discouragement and maybe even despair.
So, God gives him a stunning vision, a way in which God often communicated with Ezekiel, but this one is personal. Ezekiel sees a valley of dry bones, innumerable to his eyes. Can there be any doubt as to what they represented? This is Israel, their hopes, their temple, their nation, and the majority of their people all lying before Ezekiel as bones that are called “very” dry. They are long dead and forgotten.
God asks Ezekiel a stunning question, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel can’t bring himself to say “yes.” What God is asking is impossible. He prefers to pass the buck and so says, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” Ezekiel doesn’t want to completely give up hope, but he can’t muster it within himself. Have you ever felt like Ezekiel? Your life and hopes lie before you like dry bones and you want to believe they can live, but you just can’t get your hopes up again. That is Ezekiel.