O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on 2 Kings 13:20-21
Preached on April 20, 2014
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
The text for the sermon this morning is two verses from 2 Kings 13.
So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and His Son, our risen and living Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Fellow baptized saints, an old "Alfred Hitchcock" TV show was about a woman in prison who became good friends with the prison caretaker. When a prisoner died he would ring the bell, get the body, put it in a casket ... and nail it shut. Then, placing the casket on a wagon, he would take it to the graveyard outside the prison walls and bury the corpse.
Knowing this routine, the woman devised an escape plan and shared it with this caretaker. "The next time the bell rings," she said, "I'll leave my cell and sneak into the coffin with the dead body. Nail the lid shut and take the coffin outside the prison with me in it. Bury the coffin," she continued, "and because there will be enough air for me to breathe for some time, you can come back to the graveyard that night, dig up the coffin, and set me free."
The caretaker agreed to the plan.
One day this woman heard the ringing of the death bell. She arose, walked down the hallway, found the coffin containing the dead body and climbed in. Soon she heard the pounding of hammer and nails. The coffin was lifted onto the wagon and taken outside to the graveyard. After the dirt was poured on the coffin she began to giggle out loud, "I'm free, I'm free!"
Feeling curious she lit a match to identify the prisoner beside her ... and in the glimmer of light she discovered that she was laying next to ... the dead caretaker! In classic Alfred Hitchcock fashion this final scene fades as we hear the woman screaming ... screaming ... screaming ... then silence.
Have you ever been buried like that? Sure you have, and so have I.
We've been buried in questions--"If God is so good, why do I hurt so bad?" "If Jesus is the light, why am I in the dark?"
We've been buried in disappointment--"You're just not like your older brother!" "You're just not like our last boss!"
We've been buried in responsibilities--"Here's a 30 page case study--be ready to discuss it tomorrow." "Honey, the kids have their hockey and soccer games ... tomorrow."
We've been buried in the past--the minute we lost our temper, the hour we lost our purity ... the years we lost our priorities.
And on top of it all--literally--we're buried in our daily self-assertion, self-righteousness, self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency and self-will.
We are buried, boxed in, six feet under, right here, just now--it's dark, tight, claustrophobic and the enemy has nailed the lid shut. And if there isn't any screaming, well, there are heavy sighs and lifeless looks and empty hearts.
Buried, boxed in, six feet under--so also the man in our text: "Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raid-ers; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb."
Talk about adding insult to injury. Okay, so he's dead, right? This is not a good thing. Neither is the fact that the writer doesn't even tell us his name, tribe, or even his home town. But it gets worse. During the funeral procession some malicious Moabites show up. The funeral is suddenly in-terrupted and the dead man is hap-hazardly thrown away ... like a hot pota-to!
But, as God's direction would have it, the pall bearers throw a strike, they hit the bulls-eye, the jackpot and yes ... the corpse lands on Elisha!
And in the 9th century BC if you were buried, Elisha was your man. He parted the waters of the Jordan river, cleared a spring of impurities, prom-ised a son to the barren woman and then resurrected the child from the dead. He nullified poisonous gourds planted by one of the prophetic guilds, fed one hundred men with twenty loaves of barley and healed Naaman of leprosy.
But the most awesome work was done ... in his death. "When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood on his feet."
Just like his mentor Elijah, Elisha is called "The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" Meaning what? Meaning that when defeat seemed certain ... these prophets marshaled the power of horses and chariots for a stunning come-from-behind victory!
Ah ... but there is an even greater prophet in our midst, and because we're buried, boxed in and six feet under, he's our Man. This prophet parts the heavens when he is at the Jordan river, clears the temple of its impuri-ties, resurrects the widow's son, Jairus' daughter and Lazarus. He nullifies the poisonous platitudes planted by the Pharisees, feeds over five thousand men with five loaves of bread and heals lepers.
But His most awesome work was done ... in the frailty of this Son. It was high noon at the OK Corral and "the chariots and horsemen of Israel" ... put down his gun! "Go ahead," he said, "Take your best shot--shoot me!" And the enemy marshaled every weapon of mass destruction. Judas, Pilate, Herod ... thorns, nails, spear ... darkness, sweat and screaming ... screaming ... screaming ... until there was total ... silence.
It all ended "crucified, dead and buried." Nothing is as bottomless as a pit, as lifeless as a grave, as hopeless as a tomb. Smell the mildew, the odor of blood, the stench of death. See the confines, the darkness, the sealed stone ...
What is all now the charred evidence of a divine explosion to life! "The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" "Jesus Christ is Risen Today"--"I Know that My Redeemer Lives!--"Ye Sons and Daughters of the King"--"Jesus Lives, the Victory's Won"--"This Joyful Eastertide"--"The Strife is O'er, the Battle Won" ... "Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds!" There is nothing dead about our Jesus!
Cramped by the chaos, suffocating in the stillness, trapped in trans-gressions and sins, screaming in the silence, let's light a match and see who we're buried with because if we're buried with a prophet we come to life ... we will stand on our feet!
Well get this--Romans 6:4: "We were buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life!"
And again ... Colossians 2:12: "In Christ you have been brought to full-ness - having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead."
Through water and the Word you and I have been buried and raised with "The chariots and horsemen of Israel." Our certain defeat has been turned into a stunning, bottom of the ninth inning, come-from-behind ... victory. So now our buried, boxed in scream is forever changed into a baptized, blood bought, forgiven, Spirit-filled ... endless ... Hallelujah! Beloved, Christ is Risen! In His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr