The prophet Ezekiel offered the Lord’s word of truth to the Israelites during the darks days leading up and the after the year 587 BC.
In that year, the last remnant of the Kingdom of David came to a terrifying end. The armies of Babylon invaded, ransacked the city of Jerusalem, desecrated and destroyed the temple, murdered the royal family and enslaved the survivors of this catastrophe. Those who managed to escape were scattered. The dreams of the Israelites to be great and mighty nation like other nations ended in a nightmare.
Ezekiel saw and experienced all this for himself, a fact that makes his words in today’s scripture very strange. He speaks of a new moment for the Israelites, pronounces that the terrors of the past will give way to new possibilities. Despite all appearances to the contrary, God has not abandoned his people- what was lost will be found, what was destroyed will be restored, what was desecrated will again be sanctified. The Israelites, despondent and scattered, will be raised up and gathered together to become again one, holy people.
And God will again dwell with his people.
The glorious vision of hope during dark time and in the face of a terrifying catastrophe is presented by the Church in the hours before the Church will commemorate Passion (Palm) Sunday is meant to correlate in our minds the memory of the dark days of 587 BC and the devastating loss of everything the Israelites held to be important with our memory of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus.
The suffering and death of the Lord Jesus is a catastrophe in which a darkness seems to envelope not only humanity, but God in Christ. The cross seems to be the end, for how could God still love us, forgive us, when humanity shows itself capable of such a terrifying refusal of God.
The refusal of God is what the cross displays to us- the cross is what that refusal looks like. Our refusal to love what Christ loves and serve what Christ serves looks like the cross.
Yet in that refusal God in Christ surprises us with an offer of grace that is as undeserved as it is unexpected. God offers us another chance. He is willing to forgive us and our refusal of his love is met with a love that is stronger than our resistance, stronger than our refusal, stronger than even death.
Ezekiel’s vision of God offering his people another chance, foreshadows what God imparts to us through his experience of the cross. The suffering we impose on Christ with our refusal he transforms through the power of his will to love us and in doing so gives us even more than what the prophet Ezekiel describes in his vision.
In the cross, God in Christ reveals that God dwells with his people in body and in blood, in life and in death.
Today’s Gospel testifies that Christ’s death will have a purpose- and though worldly powers think they know what the purpose of Christ’s death will be, they do not know what God is doing and why.
Worldly powers think that the purpose of Christ’s death will simply be to prevent the loss of those things that worldly people prize above all- wealth, pleasure, power and honors. They feared that if Christ lived they would lose their worldly treasures, and if he died, their worldly treasures would remain secure. They were wrong.
Many today, in their worldliness, surmise that Christ’s death was about nothing but politics or culture. They are wrong too.
The worldly do not understand the purpose of Christ’s death- that Christ’s death is a revelation about God- a revelation about who God is and what God is all about.
Precisely what God reveals in Christ’s death is absolutely shocking, so much so, that many cannot, will not, believe it to be true.
But the revelation of God in Christ’s death is true- as true as the word of the Lord revealed to the prophet Ezekiel.