23rd Sunday After Pentecost

November 10, 2013


What’s the Point?

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God the Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Moments ago Luke presented us with the story of the Sadducees’ questioning of Jesus. A look through chapter twenty shows us that it was their turn to try and catch Jesus off guard and stump him. The chief priests and scribes took a shot at Jesus’ authority at the onset of this chapter then later spies were sent to get Jesus to choose between Caesar and rebellion. As you might remember both attempts backfired and the questioners were silenced. This brings us to the Sadducees’ question and after two failed attempts I guess the Sadducees felt that the third attempt would do the trick.

Certainly they had Jesus this time!

Here was the scenario. Six brothers had a married brother who died childless. Now according to Moses’ law – the husband’s brother must take in his brother’s wife in order that he might preserve his brother’s line through the birth of a son. Therefore one of the remaining six brothers took in his brother’s wife but died without producing an heir. In the same way the next five brothers each attempted to fulfill the law but each one died leaving the women and her deceased husband still childless. After all this, the woman also dies. With that background, the Sadducees’ question seems to be a natural one to ask: whose wife will she be in the resurrection?

However, the question is not so straightforward. John informs us that the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection – yet they ask this question anyway. Why would the Sadducees even care about this scenario if they do not believe in the resurrection? What’s the point?

Is it about marriage? Is it about resurrection? Is it about both? Is it about the Sadducees? Can it also be about us? Well, yes to all! This passage that Luke recorded for us is a teachable moment. The point here is to see who our God is and how we relate to him. GOD IS THE GOD OF THE LIVING NOT THE DEAD AND ALL LIVE IN HIM.

27 Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), 28 and they questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that IF A MAN’S BROTHER DIES, having a wife, AND HE IS CHILDLESS, HIS BROTHER SHOULD [a]MARRY THE WIFE AND RAISE UP CHILDREN TO HIS BROTHER. 29 Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; 30 and the second 31 and the third [b]married her; and in the same way [c]all seven [d]died, leaving no children. 32 Finally the woman died also. 33 In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For [e]all seven [f]had married her.” 34 Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage,
At the conclusion of these first seven verses Jesus summarizes the first relationship people have to him. He explains that people of this age marry and are given in marriage. Jesus’ response here sets up a contrast between “sons of this age” and “sons of that age” whom he talks about later in our text. We must first at look at what is characteristic about the “sons of this age.” If we reflect once more we see that we have already heard one of the characteristic qualities of this age which is marriage.

Marriage is defined implicitly within this passage as it is linked to its purpose which is for procreation. Procreation is the underlying goal of the Levirate marriage code which prevents every married man’s name from possibly being removed from the Israelite nation. However it goes back further than this code. It goes back to the first mention of the gospel in Genesis. This is where, as you might recall, God promises that the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. God’s plan for salvation uses the procreation of marriage to bring forth the Savior.

From that point on marriage was pointing to the promise. Every child born could be thought of as a reminder that God was going to save his people. We see this immediately with Eve. In the original Hebrew, Eve says when she gives birth to Cain, “I have acquired a man the Lord.” She honestly thinks that she gave birth to the one God had promised. We all know that Eve was mistaken and she quickly realized this because Cain was a sinner just like his parents. However the promised seed was on her mind. The anticipation was there with each birth as the promise of God was carried from generation to generation through the procreation of marriage.

This promise implies something else characteristic to this age because the promise arose in response to the consequences of the Fall. The Fall introduced death into the world. Man and woman were kicked out of God’s presence destined to die because they were cut off from the source of life. Death is the other characteristic which is linked to “the sons of this age.” Death is unique as it reminds us that this age is not perfect – for in Adam all died. It even taints marriage and the life it produces. With every new birth and moment of new life this age cannot help but be reminded that in the background looms death. It is the inevitable goal of this age – a vicious cycle which removes hope and happiness.

There is no escaping this age either. Each one of us is born into this age of death, and in spite of our impending doom we try to ignore it. Instead of acknowledging reality we try and recreate our own destiny – a fake reality which we control. In this fake reality we continue to watch as the original intention for marriage is distorted and destroyed. The purpose of marriage was twisted after the Fall and procreation quickly became an old fad. Sadly nothing has change so many years later we have lost sight of marriage’s purpose and what it pointed to. The promise of the Savior is covered up and the blessing of children is no longer a reminder of the very seed of the woman, Jesus, who came to usher in a new age.

35 But those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

Jesus did usher in a new age even though we might not always believe it! It is an age that is very unique because death no longer exists in this age. It is the age of the resurrection. Jesus explains this is the age where people are no longer separated from God for they are sons of God who are counted worthy.

Where does their worthiness come from? Their worthiness comes from outside of themselves. It is a worthiness granted to them through faith – a faith which believes that Jesus has brought the kingdom of God to earth in his death and resurrection and it is a faith which Jesus works in the heart of the believer; it is faith which also refocuses marriage.

You, as believers in Jesus, are also part of this age of the resurrection. You are also counted as worthy not by your own merits but by the life of Jesus Christ. It was to his life that you were connected in your baptism – connected to his death and resurrection. It was also in your baptism that faith was created to believe this wonderful news and now Jesus continues to strengthen your faith with his words written in Scripture.

You are members of both ages. In the midst of this age of death you possess the hope and assurance of the age of the resurrection that is here and is yet to be completed. There is a tension in life now until Jesus comes again when there will no longer be two ages but one. One age of the resurrection where you will be united to your Lord and Savior and the tension of this life is no more!
37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB.

38 Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.” 39 Some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” 40 For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything.

Until that day when the resurrection is fully realized and the tension of the two ages is resolved, how do we live? We carry on with the knowledge and hope that our God is a God of life and it is in him that we live. We have been restored to our life source. He is the God of Abraham of Isaac and of Jacob who anticipate the resurrection. But He is also the God of you and me who also anticipate the resurrection.

As members of two ages we live in God. We still marry and are given in marriage for the purpose of procreation. However marriage has a new focus. Marriage and procreation still point back to the fact that God fulfilled his promise to save his people but now they also point forward reminding us of the promise of the Second Coming. With each birth hope is restored as death no longer looms in the background but the resurrection shines through. We anticipate the new promise with each marriage. This is the promise – that Christ, the bridegroom of the church, comes again to take his bride the church those whom he has made worthy, with him to paradise in the resurrection.

We live in anticipation of this full realization of the age of the resurrection. Overjoyed that death is no longer our end and even a bit confused what becomes of marriage after he comes again. We do not have all the answers – try as we might to question the Bible there might not be a satisfactory answer this side of heaven. We do know that what we need to know God has given us. We can trust that he will continue to provide for each us as we live from this waning age of death and continue into the age of the resurrection into its complete fulfillment.

My dear friends in Christ, you who are counted worthy to attain the age of the resurrection by God’s grace this is what we take with us today to our homes and everywhere else we go. We know who God is – he is the God of the living. Our relationship to our living God is restored by Jesus who made us alive in our baptisms. We have the sign of the empty tomb which we cling to even though the world wants us to forget that Jesus rose. But Jesus has risen and nothing the world can do can cover this up.

Now as people of God and people of the resurrection we live in these two ages waiting for the return of Christ. We continue to use the gifts God has given including marriage for those so blessed with this gift. For marriage reminds us that God fulfilled one promise to save us and keeps us waiting and anticipating the complete fulfillment of the second promise when Christ the bridegroom returns for his bride and raises all to new life in him. As we wait and live:

May the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep our hearts in Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.

Dan Sheafer





Bible References

  • Luke 20:27 - 40