Posted on Fri, Nov 15, 2013
November 10, 2013
25th Sunday after Pentecost
Gospel Text: Luke 20:27-38 - “God is Life”
The Question about the Resurrection
27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 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 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 second 31 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 any more, 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.’
I often tell my students, “Always tell the truth, because that means you have a whole lot less to remember.” As we look through the great “truth-sayers” in our history, we also learn that many of the spiritual masters also found themselves very much alone… maybe that is because what they have to say, is not what the public wants to hear, or expects to hear. As I was writing this sermon today, I recalled the B.C. comic that always portrayed the wise man sitting on top of a lonely cold mountain the person looking for wisdom always forced to make the dangerous climb to the lonely long bearded wise-man, only to learn that the truth is almost always as close to us as our very own nose. The problem again, is that the truth we seek, may be more closely tied to what we want to hear, than what we need to hear.
Jesus is simply teaching within the temple mountain in an area called, “the portico’s.” The portico is an area surrounding much of the public area of the temple with columns holding up a simple roof where rabbi’s, teachers and their students or disciples would come to teach and learn out of the sun, or rain. It was a public place where any Jewish person was allowed to enter.
It is late in Jesus’ teaching time, and he has become very popular with the average Jew, and therefore a seeming threat to every kind of Jewish leader, whether they were a Sadducee or a Pharisaic teacher. Check out chapter 20 of Luke and you see the Chief Priests and Sadducees trying to trick Jesus with rather strange and often two sided questions, and Jesus answering with a very cool answer that just reveals the hypocrisy of his questioners and the grace AND authority of God. The Chief Priests even called upon spies to spy on Jesus so that they could report Jesus to the Roman leaders. Thus revealing to the reader of Luke just who the Chief Priests seemed to be working for, just in order to save their skins…
But the strangest of all the passages is today’s Gospel. The question is from a group of Sadducees, about who we will be married to one woman after a gazillion brothers she is obligated by the law to marry, after they die and go to heaven… the strange thing about the question is that Sadducees are a group of Jews that are very zealous about the Law, but don’t even believe in the resurrection… let me give you some fun information, their group died out very soon after Jesus rose from the dead! Coincidence?
I wonder if they came on their own account or where just paid to ask this ridiculous question but asked him a question but they asked, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man 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 second 31 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.’
First of all, like I said, they don’t believe in the resurrection, so their question is meaningless to them, personally; and second, notice how they keep referring to the “seven” brothers who marry this one woman. Jesus liked to teach in hyperbole, exaggeration, but this time the Sadducees are essentially saying what if countless brothers, and eternal number of brothers married this one woman, in heaven who would be her lawfully wedded husband?
First my heart goes out to the woman.
But what was their purpose in asking such a ridiculous question? They weren’t stupid, just very zealous… or ‘jealous’ as Jesus had so rapidly become so popular with the people. They weren’t blind or deaf, they probably knew about the amazing things he did in Jericho and probably nearby as well.
Along with the Pharisees, scribes and teachers of the Law, were they afraid of Jesus and didn’t really know how to handle the Truth that Jesus was simply preaching?
Jesus brilliantly uses their question about resurrection to redirect them from being concerned about heaven and the resurrection, and used examples from their own stories about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to focus on their faith life with God RIGHT NOW! In the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the scripture demonstrates in the most amazing ways that God is faithful and alive in their lives now and will be faithful to them through all generations.
In this age we come together and form families, living in community, but in the afterlife, we all become literally like God’s Children living in the presence and glory of God. There is no need for more marrying and begetting, because that time is done, it is now a time of living within the Glory of God and that is to be looked forward to but not to be obsessed with… the important thing to do now is to live as a Body of Christ within the promise of God’s Faithfulness and live in the now.
This last week I spent many hours at the capital watching and listening to demonstrators of many stripes; they were all passionate about the same sex marriage law and they expressed themselves most creatively.
As I wondered around the rotunda, I saw many friends on both sides of the fence. On one side I saw many of the 27 or so ministers I traveled to Mindanao with to observe the work of Compassion International. You can’t spend that much time with people without sharing cares and concerns and becoming friends. It didn’t matter that I was the only one with a more liberal stand on almost every issue; but we all loved God and lived to preach and sing the Gospel. I was saddened however, that this week I did not feel welcome to talk to them, as I heard words and saw actions that projected judgment and even fear.
But from one side of the isle I had many other pastor friends and colleagues standing with people who just wanted to be treated the same way as straight people and live the way they understood God had created them to be…
I feel the cause of equality is right because Jesus is the lens in which we read all of scripture. Jesus said to love God and neighbor. If this is a problem, you will need my faith because I also expect you to love your enemies… if that requires a miracle, which is to be expected, Jesus suffered died, rose again and gave you the Holy Spirit to live as a Child of God as Jesus expected of us as a church.
But the two groups could not, or would not, be able to see or comprehend each other’s stand because of their own personal stand on the issue. Both were passionate in their beliefs yet, they were only screaming or demonstrating over each other. I was excited to see democracy in action, even though democracy is messy and sometimes very loud. Even though it was exciting, I must admit I oftentimes walked way with a prayer of lamentation in my heart.
Also during this week I also stood with a friend who was fighting for his freedom in a court of law as he was accused of serious assault charges. He had no family on the island, so I and a few other of his friends became his family and stood beside him.
It was a very emotional and long week.
I learned, that when there is judgment, there is fear. There is fear of change, and fear of loosing your future or your valued traditions.
Why would the Sadducees 2000 years ago care about who would be married to whom after the resurrection when they didn’t believe in the resurrection? In 2013 how can passionate people take Bible verses so out of context so that they could judge an entire group of people out of the Promise of God’s faithfulness and even our society? Are they so blind to silly questions about who will be married to whom in heaven that they totally miss the beauty and giftedness of the present?
Again, I spent many days this week with a prayer of Lament in my heart.
As I saw people screaming at each other without any real interest in what is Truth, the words of Judas from Jesus Christ Superstar kept running constantly through my mind this week:
“Listen Jesus to the warning I give
Please remember that I want us to live
But it's sad to see our chances weakening with ev'ry hour
All your followers are blind
Too much heaven on their minds
It was beautiful, but now it's sour
Yes it's all gone sour
Ah --- ah ah ah --- ah
God Jesus, it's all gone sour”
So many of us, including myself, have lived or are living with so much pain from death and suffering in the past year and a half. Very soon my family will be facing the death of my brother in law’s mother’s death. We are very close. As far as I am concerned, there isn’t one second to live in judgment or regret. The only thing that is to really meaningful in our life is the unconditional grace of God’s Presence and the reality of Jesus walking or sitting right next to us teaching, praying and healing us into faith as he did in those porticos in the temple about 2000 years ago.
Heaven and all its’ humanly perceived judgment will come sooner than you realize; rather than live in judgment, regret, anger or whatever distracts you from the beauty of the now, live in the promise of the Cross of Jesus and let go of your torment and let God pick you up and hold you, your dreams and your heart. Let your prayers of Lament, become a song of rejoicing and thanksgiving! Amen.
One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders 2 and said to him, ‘Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?’ 3He answered them, ‘I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: 4 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ 5 They discussed it with one another, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say, “Why did you not believe him?” 6 But if we say, “Of human origin”, all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.’ 7 So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’
9 He began to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. 10 When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.” 14 But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, “This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.” 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’ When they heard this, they said, ‘Heaven forbid!’ 17 But he looked at them and said, ‘What then does this text mean: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”?* 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’ 19 When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.
20 So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. 21 So they asked him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ 23 But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, 24 ‘Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?’ They said, ‘The emperor’s.’ 25 He said to them, ‘Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.
27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 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* 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 second 31 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 any more, 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.’ 39 Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ 40 For they no longer dared to ask him another question.
41 Then he said to them, ‘How can they say that the Messiah* is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the book of Psalms, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, 43 until I make your enemies your footstool.’ ”44 David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’
45 In the hearing of all the people he said to the* disciples, 46 ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’
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