The Question about the Resurrection
27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him28 and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man[a] shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30 then the second31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”
34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”
This is an odd story…it’s about marriage, but traditions that we don’t understand.
I’ve been thinking about what marriage has meant through the centuries. I remember this scene from a movie that gives one particular view of marriage.
So, our message this morning is about marriage…or “twu wuv”. Lets dig deeper.
Our gospel story this morning is about a group of folks called the Sadduccees. They understood the law of the day well, they were also a part of the power structure of that day. They came to Jesus with a question about marriage…but, they really were not interested in a conversation about marriage. They wanted to debate, to work towards a “gotcha” moment with Jesus. The Sadduccess, along with the religious leaders, the Pharisees, sat on top of the proverbial social order. They had it made. Along comes Jesus making all sorts of statements, interpreting things differently, having a different take on the temple and its future, talking about relationships over institutional preservation…saying things like the Kingdom of God is here, in our midst.
So, the Sadduccees did just that, they presented Jesus with an issue to try and trip him up. They were devout Jews, but they were also rational thinkers and didn’t believe in the resurrection. They believed that when you died, you died.
The Sadducees brought up this issue of a woman marrying someone, then her husband dying without a son, marrying his brother, then the same thing happening several times, but still without a son. She would die eventually without an heir, therefore, with Jewish custom of that day, she would not have a strong identity. Because she had no children, no one could make claim…so, in the resurrection, who’s wife would she be? This was a patriarchal society, and even this question has undertones of 1st century sexism. But, they were trying to trick Jesus into either denying the resurrection, or making a social statement about marriage.
Jesus, gives a wonderful answer. It’s interesting to note the tone as well. Jesus is being treated in a very condescending way, he’s also being pushed into an argument that he doesn’t really care to win or lose…that’s not Jesus’ way…winning or losing. Jesus is more interested in people and authentic friendships, Kingdom living….real living than some philosophical question about marriage in the resurrection.
Jesus knows that this question isn’t about marriage…it’s about power, control, and the Sadduccees wanting to prove their worth by trying to get Jesus in a gotcha moment.
Who was going to be married to who in heaven wasn’t an issue…marriage is a gift in this life to be shared equally between folks, but even the question of would there be marriage in heaven is moot. In the resurrection, there is only pure relationship, real life, and it’s not necessarily hierarchal or sexist. It’s interesting to note that he mentions casually that no one is “given” away in the resurrection…thus a simple statement that takes away the patriarchal system of giving women away at the time.
He goes on to paint a picture that in the resurrection, one is with God and with others in perfect, loving unity. That’s the way of the Kingdom, that’s where we want to live and find our being, now and in the future.
They were using a trap, but Jesus steps over it. He also quotes from Moses at the burning bush. When Moses asks God what his name is, Moses responds by saying that he is the God of Jacob, of Isaiah, etc. The God of the living, not the dead.
Friends, how is this applicable to us today? Well, my hope is that you see many things in this passage in Jesus’ actions to not get caught up in trying to prove yourself through winning arguments…which is a good reminder in this election season. But, to also see that God calls us to be alive, truly alive. We do experience death…not only physical death, but relational death with others, and even within ourselves. We see this often in how we treat others or are treated by others in ways where we try to somehow “win” rather than simply love and work towards unity or true friendship. Yet, there is a better way. As Jesus followers, we are called to love as Jesus loved, to practice true love if you will. How did Jesus love so well? Because he allowed himself to die to himself and others…daily, and at the end of his life…knowing that love always wins and leads to resurrection. A new and fresh start. We spend so much time living the way we’ve always lived or thinking and acting at how we always have, but God calls us to follow the way of Jesus and to die to ourselves in order to have resurrection and to truly find ourselves.
Our church, Fleming Road UCC, is experiencing resurrection…I see it, glimpses of it all of the time…we are having lots of good discussions around here, and in the midst of those, we are moving towards new life as we let go of winning and let God move and dance in our friendships with each other and with others in our neighborhoods and families.
We are invited to live into this resurrection life daily…we are all one body.