Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, Teacher!” And no one dared to ask him any more questions. (NIV)
Grace to you and peace from God our creator, from Jesus the Christ, our redeemer and friend and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
Christ is Risen! (I hoped the congregation would respond “He is Risen Indeed!” They did!)
Today we have an Easter theme. We’ll focus on the resurrection of Christ, so it is going to feel and sound a little like Easter, but that is OK. Each Sunday is a mini-Easter anyway. Even during Lent the Sundays are days of celebration rather than the repentance of the rest of the season. The Sundays in Lent aren’t even counted in the 40 days of Lent. That is part of why we have the paschal candle burning every Sunday. It is a reminder that Christ is with us. Christ is alive! The Christ is in our midst! The living flame is our reminder.
In our passage today, the Sadducees were trying to trap Jesus.
Now in the Jesus’ time, the Sadducees were just one of the groups that had different perspectives on how to live the faith. There were also Pharisees, Zealots, Essenes and a few others. Think of how in our day there are Lutherans and Presbyterians, non-denominationals, Roman Catholics and a whole host of others. Each has a little different take on how to live the faith even though the vast majority of what we all believe we have in common. There are many scholars that think Jesus was possibly trained as a Pharisee. He tangled with the Pharisees in the way of a reformer. He tangled with the Sadducees in the way of an opponent.
We have come to the realization that we are all, across Christian denominations, on the same team. When I was growing up, we saw the other denominations as the competition. We were competing for members from the people of the town. That is much like the groups in Jesus’ time. They were competing for power, the loyalty of the people, the supremacy of influence in the empire. It is no surprise that the Sadducees would want to trap Jesus.
The Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection of the dead. But they were using an obscure law that probably wasn’t even used very often, and used it as a device. They put that old law about levirate marriage as the trap, and baited it with their opponent’s belief in the resurrection. But they didn’t take into account who they were talking to. Jesus didn’t take the bait. And in the end, Jesus shut them down. No one dared to ask him any more questions. Jesus, the man, didn’t know yet how it would all play out in his own life, but he knew resurrection. He knew life beyond the grave was a thing with God. And he knew God doesn’t get confused, even by a confusing hypothetical scenario. He knew that in God, all are one. There is no separation. In here among the congregation. Out there in the community. There are no categories. All are one.
Let’s be clear.
The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. Throughout most of early Jewish history there is no thought of the resurrection of the dead. There was Sheol, the underworld, the place of the dead. It wasn’t a place of ongoing life, though. It was the place, upon burial, where the dead disappeared. The Sadducees weren’t even remotely thinking about the kind of resurrection Jesus would have in a few short days after this conversation took place. They never imagined someone could come back from the tomb and walk around on earth and talk with his companions. They were thinking more in terms of what we would call life after death. The Sadducees believed death was the end. That was it. You better make the most of this life because that’s it, there ain’t no more.
While I would agree that we better make the most of this life, it isn’t because there is nothing more. It is because I don’t want you to carry less than your best into the life to come. The fact that we are resurrection people means that we have to take this life MORE seriously than less. Some have supposed that this life doesn’t matter. They say, “If God is truly loving and saves us by grace through faith, what we do in this life does’t matter.” That is crazy talk that misses the point about as badly as the Sadducees missed the point. What we do in this life does not earn or deny us our salvation. So in that regard, what we do in this life isn’t the point.
But it DOES MATTER.
It matters greatly because we are all children of God and how we treat our ‘spiritual siblings’ matters. God loves each one and when we hurt one another it hurts God. God created this beautiful world we live in and when we treat it with disregard, that hurts God. It matters because how we act is part of who we are. Our actions form our character as much as our character forms our actions. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. When we remember that we are resurrection people, the whole of who we are gets carried with us into the next life; even the parts for God to redeem.
This life matters. It is a gift from God. And God doesn’t give junk.
This life matters because God has freely given it to us. it is ours to live as we see fit. We are given this life and it is built by the many things happen to us; things that are beyond our control, the things we choose to do and the people who are in our life. God has given us an identity and a unique set of characteristics, talents and interests as building blocks. Then we add the building blocks of our experiences, our education—both the formal and the informal one—and our inspiration. It is our task in life to continually integrate all these parts into who we are and in doing all that to live as a blessing for those around us who are (hopefully) doing that with their lives too.
Mindfulness keeps it all going.
Forgetfulness is the wrench thrown into the system that messes it all up. When we forget to give thanks for all that God has given us, we begin to think we have done all this on our own. Pride and arrogance sprout and grow. When we forget to forgive our neighbor, spouse, child, friend for when they have hurt or disappointed us, we forget that we can be forgiven. We hide. We distance ourselves from others. We put up a false front and community diminishes. Then when we forget to consider the needs of our neighbors both near and far, we become self-centered rather than God centered.
Mindfulness is the key. Keep in mind the goodness of God. Keep in mind this is all a gift. Pay attention to the great and small ways God is speaking to you through nature, through your neighbor, in your own spirit. Keep in mind we are a resurrection people and how we treat each other matters. We are a resurrection people and how we take care of our earth home matters. We are a resurrection people and how we live together as family, as a congregation, as a community, as a nation… it all matters. Treating others with respect and dignity matters because they are children of God just like you are, just like I am. Flawed? Yes. Broken? Surely. But loved and forgiven too. And that is the most important thing to keep in mind. We are loved and forgiven resurrection people.
In the few moments of silence, take some time to be thankful. Take some time to be compassionate. Take some time to be forgiving. Sit with what it feels like. Take some time, and then when you go, be sure to take it with you…
Silence for Reflection
Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church for the good of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Blessings to you,
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.