This is week four of a series in Ezekiel 33-37, about God’s promised reboot of his people. If you’ve just joined, you can either go to the start of the series, or simply begin the new chapter with us starting with Monday’s post.
Yesterday we left Israel as a zombie army that had been reassembled from dried up bones, waiting for the breath of God to enter them and give them new life. When did this happen, and how?
When and how did this happen?
Now after four weeks I expect you can all give me the one-word answer. Everyone on three: Jesus.
Simple answer. But it gets a little more complex when we look at how. Let me take you first to John’s Gospel, chapter 5, where Jesus claims to do something that only God can do: he claims to give life.
John 5:21 “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.”
Sure, but when will this happen? Jesus seems to suggest now:
John 5:24-25 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”
But then a few verses later, he talks about it being in the future:
John 5:27-29 “And [the Father] has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming [but it’s not here yet] when all who are in their graves [you mean, like a bunch of dry bones?] will hear his voice [like the voice of the son of man prophesying?] and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.“
Again, a bit like that two-stage reanimation of the bones, we seem to have two resurrections going on. A spiritual one, now. And a physical one, at the future judgement.
Just two chapters back, in John 3, Jesus has told Nicodemus: “you must be born again.” And he explains that it means being “born of the Spirit”—born of the breath; again, same word. You need God to breathe life back into you.
John 3:7-8 “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
And after his resurrection, as we saw last week, what does Jesus do to his disciples?
John 20:22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
The breath of God leads to spiritual rebirth; a spiritual resurrection: new life. In some ways, it’s synonymous with that new heart we spoke of last week, from Ezekiel 36. It’s the Spirit within us, enabling us to live life the way God intended.
But Jesus is also talking about physical resurrection. And he illustrates it by actually raising dead people back to life. Firstly, a young girl who had died:
Mark 5:41-42 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.
And most famously Lazarus in John chapter 11:
John 11:43b-44 Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
The dead hear the voice of the Son of Man, and literally come out of their graves.
And then of course, Jesus goes on to defeat death once and for all. As the new leader of his people—as their representative—he fights in their place. He takes on sin and death, and emerges triumphant from the grave. The proof that death has been conquered once and for all. The assurance that we have new life now—God’s Spirit in us.
And because God’s Spirit is in us, even though we die, one day we’ll rise from the grave: this time into everlasting new life with God. The first resurrection—the spiritual one—that’s what guarantees the second resurrection will be to eternal life. As it says in Revelation chapter 20:
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them…
A powerful truth. That’s the confidence with which we can approach death, because of the new life God has given his people.
But as always, we need to ask: how did this get to be our story? More tomorrow…