22ndSunday after Pentecost

November 10, 2019


Luke 20:27-40 Ascension/ Good Shepherd/ Redeemer10/11/19

There came to Jesus some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him. ”Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well”. For they no longer dared to ask him any question.(Luke20:27-40ESV)

How many marriages does a person have to have before the ‘eeww’ factor comes in? … When we think something just isn’t right? We accept death and divorce happen and so someone having more than one marriage is not unusual. My guess is that 2 doesn’t raise an eyebrow but 3 gets us curious and when it comes to 4 then things are entering the salacious zone and minds are becoming prurient as one thinks through the details of what living intimately with multiple people might entail–whether in marriage, co-habitation, or one-night stands. I think the numbers don’t have to go too high before the ‘eeww’ factor kicks in.

I could be wrong but I think that the emotional reaction / response we might have is part of the intended effect of the Sadducees trying to mock and show up Jesus for his foolish belief in the resurrection. The Sadducees are the priestly class –followers of Zadok (from Solomon’s time) who were known for having an emphasis on the first five books of the Bible, pragmatism in dealing with foreign powers while maintaining their control and oversight of the temple, controversy with the Pharisees (a laymen’s group focusing on righteousness) over such things as a belief in the resurrection or living after death, controversy with the Essenes (another priestly group) who decried the Sadducees’ pragmatism and sought to follow the Law as God intended. Why they target Jesus isn’t really clear. My guess is that as a layman, Jesus looks at first glance too much like a Pharisee and he’s getting too much attention from Jerusalem, so it’s time to ‘knock him down a peg or two’ and they wade into the fray using the only tools they have –not insubstantial at all –the Law of Moses –about the levirate marriage of brother marrying sister-in-law (when her husband has died without having any children) so that she can have children in the dead husband’s name. Yes, it’s practical, it preserves the tribal lineage and property, but there’s also an ‘eeww’ factor I think –in all the practical aspects that must occur in such a situation.

We’ve no idea whether the story the Sadducees tell is true or a ‘what if’ –a hypothetical application of the law which remains legal but, of course, troublesome if there’s a resurrection. And that’s the point! Their target is the resurrection –the marriage is just the foil –to skewer both the concept of the resurrection and Jesus himself.7 husbands … 1 wife … eeww … whose wife is she in the resurrection?

Consider carefully what has happened. The Sadducees have thought of the resurrection as life extended –our life here extended –the same life here but no ending. They’ve taken this world and just removed the end –stretched this life so to speak. They have taken this world and pushed it into the next one –and sneered and said ‘it doesn’t work’ –look, your resurrected world produces wacko things like 7 husbands for 1 wife –eeww. And of course the Sadducees are right! If the resurrected world is just this life extended then let me die!

Jesus’ answer is pretty blunt. You, Sadducees, really don’t understand that the resurrected life is the next world coming into this world and changing things –now and forever! You should know this because God is God of the living. And Jesus takes them, in their minds, back to Moses and the burning bush and God’s clear revelation of himself as the God who created the world –the bush doesn’t burn even though it’s on fire –and the God who chose his people through Abraham –an act of his grace –and who is about to become the God of the exodus –the rescuer of his people from slavery in Egypt –and this is all significant because people live with God and not just in this world. God created and humanity destroyed creation with sin and death and ruined God’s intention but, in mercy, God now steps into this world of death with his life –this world in which we do nothing but sin –no matter how nobly individuals may act, no one is perfect –for our creation is the ultimate ‘eeww’ but God loves us so much that he enters our world again to rescue us. However he can’t enter it as before because his holiness and our sin is a deadly combination – for us!!! – our sin condemns and destroys us – and so God uses masks and paradox so that we can do what was always intended – live with him! The clue – the hint – and the declaration –is in the name God revealed at the burning bush – ‘I am who I am’ and ‘the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ (Exodus 3:14,15). God wants his people always to live with him –not like companions with Doctor Who – to live and enjoy him and each other forever.
In this world generations come after each other and marriage is the relationship to generate generations. In the next there are no more generations and so marriage is not required. It is a new world – defined in a new way – much of it we can’t see – it hasn’t been revealed – but it all focuses on one person – God and particularly the Lamb who was slain for us – and one activity – rejoicing, praising, partying – and here there is a hint of a wedding because life in this new world will be like a wedding feast – where Jesus and his bride (the Church) now live in harmony.
You want details – wait and see – but that picture surely is enough for our minds to realise that the world beyond is different than here.
So, yes, promote marriage here – have rules about it – but keep it – live it as God intended and don’t use it – or anything in this world except a cross and empty tomb to look into the world of the one to come. The truth of this planet – where true meaning is found in this world –can only be in the person of Jesus. He was the target of the Sadducees’ scorn but their arrogance tripped them up. In that the Sadducees are a good description of humanity which thinks it is lord of this world and wants to shape everything around the strongest – the survival of the fittest – but all that produces is a jungle and death.
Only Jesus gives hope and meaning in this world – gives purpose and possibilities for all aspects of this world –politics, the economy, education, friendship you name it, Jesus brings a richness to it –and that includes all relationships –marriage included – marriage especially – and so the Church continues to proclaim and live the truth that in Jesus we meet God – the only true and living one – who still rescues his people for life with him.
And the real message is that life with Jesus – eternal life – begins in this world with words, water, bread and wine – Jesus is with his people now – and death is just the time when faith gives way to sight.

Bible References

  • Luke 20:27 - 40