Fifth Sunday in Lent
Through Faith, We Are Raised from Death to Life
These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.
(This Worship Help aligns with the lectionary readings from Christian Worship 1993 and Christian Worship: Supplement.)
God’s Word for This Week
We are drawing ever closer to Holy Week when Jesus undergoes the incredible events of his Passion. Now, one week before that begins, we hear about our progress from death to life. Through faith in Jesus, we are raised from our spiritual death to a new life in Christ, and we are nurtured in this new life through the Word and sacraments.
Traditional First Lesson – Ezekiel 37:1-14
How does the vision of the dry bones characterize God’s people in Ezekiel’s time?
The bones were many and very dry. This indicates the widespread condition of God’s people as they were exiled in Babylon. Their unfaithfulness had brought about God’s judgment, and they seemed beyond the point of resuscitation. Yet God’s grace is apparent.
What tool was used in restoring life to the dead bones?
The same tool we use today—the Word of God. “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”
Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 4:18-37
How does this story give comfort to us when tragedy strikes?
The story is heartbreaking: a barren woman gives birth to a promised child. All her hopes and love wrapped themselves up in this little boy until the day his head hurt. He died in his mother’s lap while she rocked him. Can you imagine the tears? Death is the bitter lot we inherited from Adam. But God wants us to know that even in the face of a death as heartrending as this, he promises that whoever believes in him will live, even though he dies. So he lets Elisha pay an advance on the inheritance waiting for the coheirs of Christ so that we might know and believe that Jesus one day will raise us from death to life.
Second Lesson – Romans 8:11-19
Through his Spirit, Paul says, God has breathed new life into our mortal bodies. What changes does that bring about?
Paul previously said that those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (See Romans 8:5-8.) We now seek to put to death the misdeeds of the body (8:13) and willingly share in Christ’s suffering with a view also to sharing in his glory (8:17).
Though life in Christ Jesus means sharing his suffering, what other observation is made?
Paul suggests a wise perspective: our present sufferings are “not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” As a runner endures the pain of the exertion by keeping his eyes focused on the finish line, so the Christian’s perspective will always be goal-oriented. What waits for us at the end far outshines the clouds that we encounter along the way.
Gospel – John 11:17-27,38-45
What does Jesus mean by saying that he is life?
More than saying that he is the source of life or the giver of life, Jesus for the first time (see also John 14:6) claims to be life itself. There is no life apart from him. Like life itself, final death is impossible for him. The events surrounding the raising of Lazarus occurred just days before the Passion events in Jerusalem. What a comfort to know that Jesus was confidently assured of the outcome of his upcoming battle with evil—he would be victorious!
How would Mary and Martha see the glory of God in the raising of Lazarus?
Jesus performed the greatest miracle of his ministry to prove to us the certainty of his greatest promise. When Christ saw the effects of death on his loved ones, he wept with them but also promised them that one day even this last enemy would be defeated. Martha often remembered for her busyness, should be remembered for her confession of faith—so complete, so noble—that encompassed everything Jesus had preached. She believed in Jesus’ promise of a future resurrection, and so Jesus gave proof to her and to us that his promise is true.