This passage is about death and new life. It is the story of the raising of Lazarus from death back to earthly life by Jesus who is the resurrection and the life. The OT passage read in some churches this week is Ezekiel 37:1-14. This is the story of a valley of very dry bones that are reassembled and renewed by the breath of God. These passages are about the moving of God bringing life to places that are death and without hope.
Easter is soon upon us. I have been reflecting on NT Wright’s new book– Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. This is a very important book advancing the discussion that the Christian life is not just about getting ready for heaven, but the Christian faith is also about, and maybe at least right now, most importantly about, hope and life breaking into to our lives and our world right now.
God breaks into our world! That is the message of Easter. The message of John 11 and Ezekiel 37 is that God is at work. God is doing something that human cannot achieve on our own, no matter how hard we try. God is at work, bringing life. This is possible because of the transformative work of Jesus in the death-resurrection- ascension- Pentecost event.
Wright notes: “the revolutionary new world, which began in the resurrection of Jesus– the world where Jesus reigns as Lord, having won the victory over sin and death—has its frontline outposts in those who in baptism have shared in his death and resurrection (p. 249).” He goes on: “the mission of the church is the outworking, in the power of the Spirit, of Jesus’ bodily resurrection (p. 264.”
The story of Lazarus is not just about one of Jesus’ friends having his life extended for awhile. This is a story that points to the resurrection of Jesus, an event that changes everything. It is not enough to focus on the life, teachings and example of Jesus, as important of a corrective that is. We are convinced that Jesus’ resurrection changes everything and thrusts the church into a mission that is sustained and empowered by the Spirit of the risen Jesus.
We pray “your kingdom come.” This is not just hopeful thinking about a new world order that we establish. We pray this prayer expecting that the God who will make all things new is beginning that transformation even now. The church is a sign, agent and foretaste of what God want to do in the entire cosmos (p. 200).
As Easter approaches, hear the question of Ezekiel: Will these bones live? The answer: yes, in the power of the resurrection of Jesus, through the agency of the church. That is a story to proclaim, and that is a mission to join.