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Powerful Word

Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 20:19-31

Pastor Jason Zirbel

2nd Sunday of Easter
Grace Lutheran Church  
Greenwood, AR

View PDF file

Sun, Apr 8, 2018 

The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.

Today is often treated by many Christians as “Pick On Thomas Day.” I’ll admit: He makes it easy.  “Doubting Thomas.” That will forever be his name.  Not “St. Thomas.” Not “Apostle Thomas.” Not “Repentant Brother-in-Christ Thomas.” Nope.  “Doubting Thomas,” the one who didn’t believe, refused to believe, and needed proof before he would believe.  He’ll never be able to shake this.  Of course, others will always come along and play devil’s advocate, attempting to justify Thomas’ unbelief.  “The other guys got to see the resurrected Jesus, and Thomas wasn’t there when that happened.  Thomas only wanted the same experience as them.” Okay…so now it’s okay to covet and not believe, so long as we have good reason?  Devil’s advocate indeed!  Remember: Jesus called all of them foolish for not believing too!  Unbelief is never okay with Jesus. 

But this is where we tend to get off track and miss the whole point of today’s lessons.  You see, today isn’t about picking at and condemning someone’s stubborn and foolish unbelief.  Today isn’t about debating and justifying the motives and reasons for unbelief.  If that were the case, we’d be too busy addressing the fool in the mirror to have time to talk about anyone else!  “You believe only because you have seen, but blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Like I said just a few moments ago: This applies to all of Jesus’ disciples—women included.  If we really want to be fair, every one of those disciples—women included—needed to see Jesus before they would believe.  It wasn’t just Thomas.  Not one of them believed what they had heard over the past three years regarding Jesus’ resurrecting to life on the third day.  Not one of them believed the Law and the Prophets, which all spoke to and pointed to the death and resurrection of the Messiah.  Not one of them believed, even after the others (who had seen with their own eyes) told them.  They all disbelieved what they had heard.  They all had to see the resurrected Jesus before they would/could believe. 

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” The Gospel immediately goes on to tell us that Jesus had done many other miraculous things in the presence of the disciples that weren’t recorded, “but these are recorded so that you may believe…and by believing you may have life in His name.” This is the whole point of today’s lessons!  Faith comes through hearing; hearing the Word of Christ.

Turn your attention to the Old Testament lesson; Ezekiel’s account of the valley of dry bones.  (This account is also read at Pentecost, when thousands of people heard and repented and believed.) Ezekiel tells us that God showed him in a vision a valley full of bleached out, dried out bones.  There was no life in them whatsoever.  God commands Ezekiel to prophesy; that is, to preach His Word to those lifeless bones.  Ezekiel hears and obeys.  He preaches, and as soon as the Word comes forth from his lips, the lifeless bones come to life.  And this is certainly worth taking a moment or two on.  God is the Giver and Author of life.  Life is not our choice.  We’re not God.  We have no authority to decide which lives are worth living and which lives deserve to be snuffed out.  Life is a gift from God, and we are but mere stewards and caretakers.  But…I digress. 

God isn’t finished yet with Ezekiel and those newly resurrected bodies.  He again commands Ezekiel to prophesy.  You see, all the bones were made physically alive by God (representative of all men descended from Adam), but they weren’t truly alive; not in the spiritual, eternal sense.  They were essentially “walking corpses” (again, representative of all men descended from Adam).  “Prophesy to the breath!” Your Lord is commanding Ezekiel to call upon God, specifically the Holy Spirit, who works in and through God’s means of grace, to come to these lifeless bodies and give to them true life—life eternal.  Once again, Ezekiel hears and obeys…and the living breath of God comes into these bodies and they’re raised to the fullness of life; to the fullness of life in God.  Mere preaching accomplishes this miracle!  More specifically, the mere and unassuming Word of God accomplishes this life-giving miracle!

It is this same Word of God who became flesh and died and rose again; the same Word of God in the flesh, who bids Thomas to touch and see and believe.  It is this same Word of God in the flesh who enlivens Thomas to true and everlasting life.  “Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is this same Word of God in the flesh who comes to us today in, with, and under the mere and unassuming means of Word, water, bread and wine.  It is strange to think about.  It even seems a little contradictory.  Jesus Himself declares, “Blessed are those who believe and yet have not seen,” and yet He still comes to us in very real and tangible forms; things we can see, touch, taste, and feel.  He still bids us to come and taste and see that He is our Lord, and that He is still keeping His promise to be with us always.

And that’s where we want to direct our attention in these last couple of minutes.  We really don’t need to go on and on and on.  The Word of God works the miracle of life!  It’s that simple.  The Holy Spirit—the very breath of Almighty God—gives true and eternal life to all those who are dead in their sin.  Behold!  [Word and Sacraments] The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  Here is that almighty Word and Breath at work in your very midst!  Here is that life-giving Word and Breath at work, right where He promises to be, doing exactly what He has always done—giving life to death; giving hope and comfort and assurance to all those struggling in the blindness and despair of doubt and unbelief (and that does include each and every one of us; we all have our “Thomas moments”). 

I know it doesn’t look like much, but this is how God works this miracle of conversion; this resurrection miracle from death to everlasting life; from doubt and despair to sure and certain resurrection hope and confidence.  This is how He has declared He will care for and provide for His Church.  “Go and make disciples of all nations (all bodies), baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” That’s it!  Christ’s Word and Sacraments!  It’s all that simple.  It’s all that powerful and efficacious.  God Word accomplishes that which He purposes.  It never returns to Him void. 

Ezekiel heard and obeyed this Word of God, and God worked the miracle of life upon a whole host and army of men through the proclamation of that Word.  St. Paul tells us, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it [the Gospel] is the power of God for salvation to all who believe.” God’s Word is powerful.  It works the miracle of faith; of everlasting life.  This divine Breath and Word of God opens ears, opens hearts, and opens eyes to recognize and hold fast to Immanuel—God with us. 

May this almighty Word of God breathe life and joy into you.  May your eyes and ears of faith be opened to recognize and rejoice with the resurrected and victorious Christ in your midst and with you always.  May this truly life-giving Word and Breath of God also go forth from you as you navigate the valley of the shadow of death we dare to call “life.” May you, like Ezekiel, humble yourself to be the mouth from which God breathes His life-giving breath to those who are dead in their sin.  May you ever and always be blessed with the faith that is able to see and hear and recognize and hold fast to your Lord Christ who is with you and for you, now and into all eternity.

In His life-giving name.

AMEN



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