The following is taken from the message I gave on Easter morning this year. A small group from our church went to the top of a local hill that looks over our city for a time of worship and prayer over our city.
Good morning! We are gathered here, on top of Arrowhead to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 2,000+ years ago, the greatest man to ever live, the perfect sinless Son of God most High, was beaten, mocked, and ultimately executed in the cruel fashion of Roman crucifixion. We remember this every year on Good Friday. Jesus was laid in a borrowed tomb, and his disciples scattered and went into hiding.
Ezekiel 37:1 – 10
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.
I love how the prophet answers God’s question, “Can these bones live?” In all human wisdom there would be no possible way for bones to rise again. These were not just bones but dry bones which means that the very marrow had dried out. These bones were one step away from returning to dust. Yet, in the face of that, Ezekiel displayed faith and answered, “O Lord God you know.”
The disciples were in a similar situation, Jesus was dead and buried. They had seen Him raise the dead, Lazarus, the widow’s son, the daughter of the centurion. Now this great teacher, prophet, the man they believed to be the Messiah lay beyond human hope, He laid dead in a tomb.
Beyond human hope! That describes the condition of every single person in our natural state. Romans 3:10-20 Clearly shows our state before God!
as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Ephesians 2:1-2a “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world.”
Dead in our trespasses and sins. If Jesus had stayed in that grave, it would have been the end of the story, game over, just one more Jew killed by the Romans. There would be no answer to the question Paul asked in Romans 7:24 “O Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” But this is not the end, this is the beginning of a whole new story.
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, shattering the stronghold of sin and death! On the cross Jesus paid the penalty for the weight of sin of the whole world; by raising Him to Life again, God declared the sacrifice acceptable! The resurrection of Jesus defeated the power of death forever. Just as the story of Jesus as Savior does not end with the cross but continues with His resurrection, so too our story does not end with repentance.
When we repent and turn to follow Jesus, God does something miraculous! God breathes life into our spirits, and our very nature is changed.
Romans 8:1-2 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death”
Romans 8:11 “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives in you!”
II Corinthians 5:17-21 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
God reconciled us to himself by the death and the resurrection of Jesus. Paul writes here that the old has passed away, but what are the old things he is referring to?
I Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
And such were some of us. We were all dead in our sins, but read verse 11 again – “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The beauty of resurrection life in Jesus Christ is the change in nature. It is not that from the day you repent you will go forward sinless and perfect, rather your heart desires will change. When you do sin, your heart will break, not in fear of the punishment you deserve, but rather because you see the sin for what it is, an affront to the Glory of God whom you now love. You will find your joy in communion with your Creator.
In Ezekiel 37:6 as God was commanding his prophet what to prophesy God said, “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 know that I am the Lord.”
That is one of the most beautiful parts of resurrection life, knowing that Jehovah is the Lord.
I selected this passage in Ezekiel for a very specific reason. As we stand up here in the cold, looking over our city, we are very much like the prophet. We are looking over a city full of people who are dead in their trespasses and sins, just as we once were. We are called to go forth into all the world and preach the Gospel, which means that like Ezekiel we are called to go forth and prophesy to those that are slain by their sins. Also, like Ezekiel, the power is not our words, or our clever arguments, or passionate appeals, the power of regeneration, of resurrection life is in the movement of the Spirit of God. This is all possible only because of the life, death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have a responsibility though, just as Ezekiel did, to go and proclaim the Word of the Lord. To boldly proclaim that Jesus is not in that tomb, He is Risen as He said!