The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:1-14 ESV)
February 1, 2015 will mark 6 years since my father died at the age of 59. He was declared brain dead after a massive heart attack. My son was 10 months old. We had seen him over Christmas, and, admittedly, he had looked a bit ragged. However, I thought it was just due to the long drive from Chicago to Texas that they had taken to visit us. His death shattered us all in different ways. My brothers are younger. One was married and the other was finishing college. We were all too young to lose our father. He was too young. You’re always, in a sense, too young to die. We weren’t made to die.
Yet, every day we face the reality of bones and flesh that are drying out and growing weary. Maybe our own, maybe that of a loved one, maybe those of a friend’s child battling a horrid disease. It’s always there before us: the specter of death. The reality of all those dry bones already dead and buried stares us in the face.
But Yahweh had a solution to our dry bones…to our deaths. He Himself would breath life into those bones once again. They would be gathered together, the sinews and flesh would return, and He would breath His life into them. He promised Ezekiel and the people of Israel that He Himself would raise them from their graves and make them to live again.
In this Epiphany season, the promises of Yahweh come to fruition as Jesus takes on our flesh, enters this world, and reveals Himself as the Messiah for Whom Ezekiel waited. He reveals Himself as the Messiah who would open our graves. In His Baptism Jesus makes this great exchange. He takes on our sins, He takes on our death, and He sets His face toward that cross and that mount where He will finally, fully, put our death to death. As He walks that way of the cross He offers us glimpses of that final restoration: He heals the sick, makes the lame to walk, makes the blind to see…He even raises the dead. And in the final confirmation, He rises from the dead also so that His death becomes our death (a death which cannot hold) and His resurrection life becomes our resurrection life — a fleshly life where dry bones are gathered, flesh restored, the breath of life breathed for all eternity. That is the reality, the promise that sustains us in the face of death as we lose loved ones far too soon, as we watch our own bodies waste away.
Jesus has risen and we shall arise: Give God the Glory! Alleluia! (Lutheran Service Book 474, Refrain).
Lord Jesus Christ, You are our resurrection life, grant us hope and faith in the resurrection of all flesh as we face the darkness of disease and death so that we may endure to the end and ever live with You; for You live and reign with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.