When Jesus stood at the grave site of his friend Lazarus and wept, He, too, felt the pain of loss and despair. But Christ remembered the promise of His father to Ezekiel, "And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people" (Ezekiel 37:13
). As the Son of God snorted His divine breath through His own nostrils; echoing when the Triune God created humanity by breathing life into the nostrils of human beings, Jesus commanded Lazarus to "Come out" (John 11:43
)! Lazarus began clawing and kicking at the grave dirt as he struggled to step out into the blinding sunlight. Jesus told them to unbind the burial bandages and set Lazarus free. God's breath suffocates Death.
In the book of Romans, Paul reminds us of the good news that we proclaim in the midst of death and despair. "But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through the Spirit that dwells in you" (Romans 8:10-11
). The breath of God that raised Jesus from the dead will raise us too. For on that Friday, when Jesus went to the place of dead, dry boney death called "The skull" (Calvary); Death thought it had won again. But Easter morning saw another grave open and death eternally defeated when Jesus Christ resurrected and promised His followers eternal life. The very breath of God, in Jesus Christ, had suffocated death forever
Today, we mourn the death of Whitey. Standing in the Cardiac unit valley of dry dead bones, death filled the family waiting room. There was no movement of air when the doctor pronounced his death. "We tried everything, but his heart simply stopped beating," he said. "It was too late to help him." In despair, the family prayed for Jesus to come and to heal their loved one. But they all stood beside Mary and Martha as Jesus arrived too late.
But this is not the end of the story. For Whitey felt the breath of God throughout his life. It began blowing through the waters of his baptism. The Holy Scriptures filled his ears with breath-filled inspired words. God's breath inflated the meal gifts of Christ's Holy Supper. The prayers of his family and church moved over the still valley of death. Whitey knew the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ whose Easter breath suffocated Whitey's death.
Brothers and Sisters: we are the people of God who will live and be resurrected because of Jesus. This is the message we need to share as the body of Christ. As the minister ended the service, after reading these scriptures, he said to the congregation," Let us all sit down quietly and when you can affirm that your bones live, please stand up. After a while, a few of them stood and then some more, until the whole congregation was on its feet. They sang the doxology and left worship that Sunday a renewed people of God."1 For they really knew and believed, as I pray we do, that God's breath suffocates Death.
1William Holloday, Long Ago God Spoke. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995) p.211