Lent 5 – the readings for Passion Sunday

Ezekiel 37.1-14        Romans 8.6-11        John 11.1-45

God is the creator of all life, who opens our eyes to see the world upon which he has set our feet. We acknowledge that we owe him our very existence as we thank him and praise him for such acts of power and wonder. But the gift of life is not confined to our creation or to our birth: it depends upon God to sustain the universe in being from moment to moment. And so we should understand, as Ezekiel was made to understand, that this precious gift is both infinitely precious and eternal in its nature, according to the will of God who created us. Israel seemed utterly defeated, its cities in ruins and its people scattered or killed. Surely the end has come and there is no longer any hope? Even the dry and lifeless bones of the slain, which lie in the valley, are not beyond the power of God to restore to the fullness of life, binding them together once more with sinews and flesh and skin, breathing into them once more the life which to human eyes seemed irretrievably lost, but is safe in the mercy and power of the Lord.

Those whose eyes are fixed only upon this world may labour with all their skill and all their energies for the rewards which it offers, but these are only fleeting pleasures, to be followed by extinction and dust. Why toil for such things, why set our hope upon such empty baubles? Even the greatest wealth, the most powerful empires, the most dazzling beauty, are like flickering images on a screen, with only a brief existence in a material world which is passing away. If that is our choice we discover that we are bound by it, and worse, at enmity with God who asks us to love him above and beyond all else, and none other. Only when we commit our heart to him without reservation can we know his Spirit and share in the eternal life of Christ, who has by grace become our righteousness through his death to this world, and his resurrection to the new life of God’s kingdom. Though our body is mortal in this world, by God’s power we may live in the Spirit, and in hope of sharing in the risen life of our Lord.

Death is a mystery which we ponder while we live, seeking to comprehend the purpose of our creation and our existence. Without faith in God, in whose eternal love our future as well as our past is fulfilled, we can not understand, let alone have hope that life is of greater significance than merely for this earth only. That hope is embodied in the person of Jesus, who comes to Bethany too late to heal Lazarus, knowing that the events which follow will bring glory to God. After four days there is no doubt that Lazarus is very dead, as surely as the dry bones raised to life in the sight of Ezekiel. It seems that all had expected Jesus to heal Lazarus, had he come in time, but now that he is dead, what can Jesus do? As she pleads with him Martha hears the words spoken by Jesus but does not yet comprehend the significance of what he has told her. The raising of Lazarus brings life not only for him, but for his sisters and for many present, who finally believe in the salvation which God has sent through the coming resurrection and the risen life of his beloved Son, who stands among them.

Rev Stephen Trott