The Fifth Sunday of Lent – Sermon 199

29th July 2012 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

The Fifth Sunday of Lent

10 am Holy Communion CW

10th April 2011


Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ





Impossible happenings –

sobbing – wailing – pointless questions about who and why it happened –


The sort of words that might be used at any of the events we’ve seen recently – in Japan – in parts of Africa – in Lybia


For Ezekiel too it must have seemed like a hopeless situation-





First Point Ezekiel


It had been 10 years since the Israelites had been forced into exile by the Babylonians –


Thousands of soldiers had been killed – defending their nation – Jerusalem was destroyed – the temple was gone-


In our reading Ezekiel has a vision – of the nation of Israel – as dry bones – scattered across a sun-bleached desert like valley


It’s possible that – the valley of the dry bones – was something that Ezekiel had actually seen – and – had stayed vividly in his mind –


but what came next was a clear instruction from God – as to how things were going to change


There are two stages to Ezkiel’s vision –


the first to the bones – telling them to hear –


and the second to the Spirit – to bring new life and inspiration –



The first must have seemed like – Ezekiel’s – professional qualification – telling lifeless people to listen to God – after all he was a preacher – and one that was used to going to extreme lengths to get his message across –


pantomime – drama – dangling from ropes – setting fire to a scroll – you name it – he tried it –


but no matter how much effort was put into it – the effect was limited –


some things did change – but his hearers were still like dead men –


The second action was equivalent to praying – calling in the power of the Spirit – to breath life back into the people –


and this time the results were devastating –

“breath came within them – and they lived – and stood on their feet, a vast multitude”


what preaching by itself failed to achieve – prayer and the Holy Spirit – made a reality – the bones came to life and became a mighty company –


Dry bones are probably – the worst congregation any preacher might have to face – lifeless – static – dead – not a flicker of a response anywhere – (pause?) – an impossible situation – but through God all things are possible –


God promised – Israel new life – and a new beginning – which will begin with a return to their own land –

“I shall put my spirit in you” – He said, “and you will come to life”


Point 2 Lazarus – Jesus gives life –


Which brings us on to our gospel reading – and the fulfillment of that promise through Jesus –


Here Jesus gives a practical demonstration of that impossible act – foreseen by Ezekiel – literally bringing His friend Lazarus – back to life –


John’s Gospel is the only book to record this miracle – The others tell of events where Jesus healed and brought people back – after they had just died – but here – Lazarus had been dead for 4 days and his body had started to decay – his bones were well and truly – lifeless – there was no doubt that he was dead –

Jesus – is told of Lazarus’ illness through a letter – form Mary and Martha – but waits and leaves after a further two days –

He could have heal him at a distance – but doesn’t – because He knows that “ through it God’s glory is to be revealed”


It was also a test for those closest to Lazarus – and Jesus – when He finally meets Martha & Mary – instead of looking back – at what has been – He invites them to look forward – to what will be –


‘Your brother will rise again’ – he said to Martha – which she interprets as – a happening on the last day –


But Jesus stuns her- and those around her –


‘I am the resurrection and the life’ – said Jesus ‘those who believe in me – even though they die – will live – and everyone who lives and believes in me – will never die -‘


Jesus has moved the events of the last day – forward to the present –


Those who put their belief and trust in Jesus – will receive the gift of eternal life – today – and live as people who know they will live forever –

even though our body dies – we ourselves – will live on – and experience eternal life in all its fullness.


Jesus tells us that the Resurrection isn’t just a Christian doctrine – its a person – its Jesus Himself – and He stands before us encouraging us to believe it – and to make that huge jump of faith and hope in Him –


When Jesus is led to the tomb – He openly weeps at the sight of all the pain and despair around Him – and calls for the stone to be taken away –


From here on the fate of Lazarus and Jesus become connected – and as Jesus prays for Lazarus and then raises Him to life – He knows He will soon be walking towards His own death – on a cross – and be dependent on the Father’s will – for His own resurrection –


When Lazarus emerged – he was still tightly wrapped in bandages and Jesus called those near to unbind him – to let him go –


Jesus brings freedom – and a new beginning – to all who believe and trust – in Him –


The bringing back to life of Lazarus points the way to Jesus’ own resurrection to come – and the new life waiting for us all –


Point 3 The Spirit brings life


Dry bones – are a picture of the lost – everyone without Jesus is as dead as the bones in Ezekiel’s valley – but God’s Spirit can change all that – and bring new life and peace –


As Paul reminds us – we are under new management – the management of the Spirit – and

we need to move our minds – from mortal things – and death – to the Spiritual things and life


The Father sent the Mosaic Law to stir us up and bring us together as a people – but- like Ezekiel’s preaching – this on its own – was not enough – it was only a first stage – New life comes only through the Spirit – which has been brought to us through the Son –


when the Spirit is in us – the Son is in us – and the promises made by God – have been fulfilled –


We are now 2 weeks away from Easter – next week is Palm Sunday – when we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and the beginning of Holy Week –

Jesus not only went into the valley of the shadow of death – but was plunged into the darkest place of evil – and came back – not dead – but alive forever – and the power of sin over us – defeated – forever


Words – alone cannot bring life – people can only change – when God and the Spirit – changes their hearts – Only through the Holy Spirit – will the impossible be made possible – and hope be restored and answers given –


Has God breathed life into our bones – today?

We’ve heard His word – now lets pray for the coming of His Spirit –


Closing prayer

Heavenly Father we pray that your Spirit will bring new life and new freedom – to us today – t Let us live to please you – let the Spirit of Jesus live in us – and rule in us – fill us with His love and peace – and bring us eternal life – through Jesus Christ our Lord – AMEN