The prophet Ezekiel is around at the time when most of the chosen people are in exile in Babylon and have been for a generation. But the international scene is changing and a new leader, Cyrus, will displace the present ruler and he will have a policy of repatriation. However, many of the exiles have settled into their new surroundings and have no guts for returning to what will be the broken city and delapidated temple of Jerusalem. Having no guts in this sense might well be what the prophet means when he says the bones must come to life again. It is a passage, however, that can be interpreted as foreshadowing the belief that there is life after death and especially so at this time in our Christian calendar. But in the origianl it might be a message to us not to get settled in our way of life, but to enliven ourselves to live more Christian lives.
In this excerpt from Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul is contrasting flesh with spirit, which we might nowadays think of as the difference between selfishness and the concern of love for others. There is in all of us I suppose, somehting of both flesh and spirit – but the spirit here is most challenging because it is not just living a lively life but it is the spirit of Christ -devoting oneself entirely to loving others as Jesus did and is now wanting to continue doing through us.
The raising of Lazarus is the gospel reading. We know that in John there is always going to be a deeper meaning under the stories that he tells. And the main one here is about rising from death to living a risen life; and we know as Christians that this risen life is the life of Christ. It is a life in which we share – are supposed to share. Notice some of the significant touches in the story. The delay of two days before travelling to Martha and Mary. The different attitudes of those two ladies. The worry the disciples have of going into hostile territory. There are all sorts of difficulties climaxing even in death, yet Jesus leads his disciples into these and shows they can be overcome. These thoughts are appropriate as we draw near to Easter, to teach us something of the significance of death and resurrection in our present situations.