The Holy Spirit

Pentecost. Ezekiel 37:1-14.

Rev. David Domanski

5/19/20243 min read

Today is the Festival of Pentecost, and we are celebrating what we confess in the Divine Service when we repeat these words of the Nicene Creed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.” This is the very Spirit of the Lord who hovered over the face of the waters, bringing creation out of chaos as God spoke the universe into existence, is the same Spirit that Jesus calls the Comforter or Helper, whom he breathed on his disciples on the evening of resurrection Sunday, giving them joy and peace in the forgiveness of their sins. This is the same Spirit poured out fifty days later to Jews from every nation, bringing them to repentance and faith in the crucified and risen Savior. There, on that first Pentecost, the Spirit was poured out, and through preaching and Baptism, the Father creates a new Israel for himself, as those who were so dead in trespasses and sins that they killed their Christ by nailing him to a tree are brought to life in his name.

In Ezekiel’s Pentecost, there was a rattling of dry bones as God’s Spirit proceeded to connect bone to bone. In Acts chapter 2, we are told of the Spirit who, like a rushing wind, rattled through the house in Jerusalem where the disciples were. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the apostle Peter did what Ezekiel did. He preached, and through Peter’s preaching of Christ crucified, the spiritually dead were raised to life with God through faith in Christ Jesus. Our Old Testament Reading for this Pentecost Sunday provides us with a picture of how the Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life.

We see in Ezekiel’s episode that bones that are bleached and bare are about as devoid of life as you can get (vv 1–2). Lifeless bones are all that is left over once death and decay have had their way. These bones are the grim reminder of a life that was, but can never be again. Lying before Ezekiel was a nation of skeletons, the remains of those slain. This is the whole house of Israel overcome and butchered by her enemies. They are dead under God’s judgment and wrath.

And as it was for Israel, so it is for us. Where human beings go their own way, there is only death. Recall the Garden of Eden: God’s solemn word to Adam proved true: “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17). Through Adam’s sin, we inherit also his death (Rom 5:12). We know it’s true. We’ve lost loved ones—we know that our day is coming.

Without the Lord and giver of life, we are left dead in our sins. The outcome of this death is hell itself. The Good News though is that “Where the Lord’s word is, there his Spirit gives life in his name” (v 3). Because of God’s Word, there is life even in the Valley of Dry Bones.

There is an old Reformation altarpiece that depicts the cross of Christ erected over Adam’s skull with blood dripping down on the cranium. The artist wanted to portray the truth that the blood of Christ brings life to Adam and his descendants. This picture is a visual portrayal of the Gospel. Christ shed his blood to redeem us from sin, to rescue us from the devil, and to restore us to life with God.

We are told in Romans 10:17 that “Faith comes through the hearing of Christ’s Word.” This is true in Ezekiel’s time when God’s words carried the Spirit, who brought life to the corpses. Jesus’ words are “spirit and life” (Jn 6:63), and these words bring life to you in the forgiveness of sins. The absolution carries within it the power of the resurrection of the dead! Ezekiel’s Spirit-filled words brought bones to life, and Jesus’ words of “spirit and life” do something even greater.

God used Ezekiel to do the impossible: through his preaching, the Spirit worked to restore Israel to life. And God uses Jesus’ words—the words proclaimed into your ears even as you hear this sermon—to give you eternal life. Every Baptism in the name of the triune God and every Gospel-delivering sermon is a continuation of Pentecost. God’s Word and Spirit cannot be separated. The Spirit works through the Word to bring sinners to faith.

So today, we see that the miracle of Ezekiel’s vision is magnified on that first Pentecost, and it continues in our midst today as God pours out the Spirit, who brings Christ to us and us to Christ in the waters of Holy Baptism. Here there is a new creation.

We learn from Luther’s catechism that we cannot believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to him by our own reason or strength, but the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel. No more than the disconnected and dried-out bones could pull themselves together and regain life could we walk out of the living death of sin into life with God. The Lord and giver of life has accomplished the impossible. He has brought you to faith in Christ Jesus. That’s why we celebrate Pentecost as the culmination of Easter. So we say it once more, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” It is his resurrection life that the Lord and giver of life bestows on you, calling nonexistent faith into being that you might have life with the Father now and forever. Amen.