Ezekiel 37:1-14 • Psalm 130 • Romans 8:6-11 • John 11:1-45
Much like Psalm 121, which we looked at on March 8, Psalm 130 is a ‘Song of Ascent’ – It was a song for a journey, especially a journey to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was built on a hill so no matter how travelers approached the city they would have to go up. Imagine from a distance seeing Jerusalem sitting on a hill as Israelites were on a pilgrimage to the temple. The image seen would differ drastically depending on the time of day and the weather. This Psalm depicts a different tone and attitude of heart than Psalm 121, there seems to be a deeper depth of despair mixed with hope. Both Psalms, however, come back to the same God and the same source of true hope. Read both Psalms together and compare the two different attitudes conveyed – can you identify with one of these more than the other? To where is your journey leading you in your searching for hope?
The prophet Ezekiel is speaking hope to the Israelites who were in exile, and slavery, following the Babylonian defeat of Israel and Judah. In this, the well known ‘Dry Bones’ story, Ezekiel is taken into a valley, by God, which is full of dry, lifeless, bones. God brings the bones back together but there is no life until God breaths his spirit into the reconnected bones. The story is not depicting a resurrection of passed individuals, but of the nation of Israel, including a reunification of the Judah and Israel. However, the point is that apart from God, God’s spirit, life is impossible.
Remember the state of the Israelites’ prior to the exile, they were going through the emotions of religion as their religious institutions and governmental institutions had become so intertwined in a nationalistic frenzy that it was difficult to tell the two apart apart. In their political agendas, the two usually opposing institutions, had turned to using each other to gain their own goals. They had subscribed to a ‘the ends justifies the means’ philosophy removing God from their lives.
Ezekiel’s prophesy was a strategic recognition for a people hoping to go home, the home that they had known before the exile. Ezekiel, tells them that God is going to bring it about but it cannot be just about them and their agenda, they must turn back to God fully and sincerely.
“Romans 8:6-11 fits into a larger discussion about the way believers take on the form of Christ. In these verses, Paul builds on his description of the believer’s life in Christ, for which he has laid the foundation in Romans 6. There, Paul exposes the incongruity of sin in the life of the believer (6:1-4), and then develops a series of contrasts to explain the radical new life in Christ: it is characterized by the movement from one state of being to another (death to life), from one master to another (sin to God), from one principle to another (law to grace), and one kind of activity to another (wickedness to righteousness). Robert Tanehill comments, ‘Christ’s death and resurrection are continuing aspects of the ‘form’ of Christ … so that believers take on the same ‘form.’ That is, believers become like Christ; they are transformed into his image by dying and rising with him.”
Lecturer in New Testament Studies, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland, UK
Compare and consider the message of Romans 8:6-11 with the message in Ezekiel 37:1-14.
We often fail to realize how few earthly resurrections, raisings from the dead, are actually listed in the Bible. With the exception of the unknown saints that rose as Christ was crucified (Matthew 27:52-53), and the exception of resurrection of the Jesus, there are only nine resurrections in the entire Bible. Of these, only three were completed through Jesus. The resurrection of his good friend Lazarus was probably the third of the three. This is a significant context to understand as the conversation with Martha, and then Mary, just prior to the resurrection of their brother – both women were most likely aware, not only that Jesus could heal but that he had also given life to the dead twice before his arrival at Lazarus’ tomb.
Another essential context to consider as you read this account is the relationship of Mary, Martha, and brother Lazarus with Jesus. They were his non-biological family. Most will remember that it was at the house of the three that Martha scolded Jesus for not telling her sister Mary to come help in the kitchen. Next, we see Martha, Mary, and Lazarus hosting a meal to honor Christ and later, Jesus will return to their home to rest during the heaviness of Holy Week. To understand the closeness of this family and Jesus, and his attachment to them, we can better understand why Jesus wept when he saw the pain of the sisters Mary and Martha at the death of their brother.
As you read this familiar passage attempt to change you viewpoint of the two women. Don’t read Martha’s words of ‘If you had been here he would not have died,’ as accusatory but simply fact (possibly said in a loving sisterly manner); also consider the fact that resurrection does not seem to be a part of her considerations. Next, look at the impact of the emotional response of Mary at the tomb on Jesus – go back and read her anointing of Jesus with the expensive perfume (John 12:1-8).