A Serious Question
The text this week is Luke 20: 27-38. This is a passage that sees Jesus fielding questions from a group known as the Sadducees. The members of this Jewish sect did not believe in resurrection, and they were directing questions at Jesus to bolster their theology.
They devised an elaborate thought experiment about a man whose bother dies leaving a widow, who was then widowed by that man and so forth until the poor woman had been widowed seven times. The Sadducees then wanted Jesus to tell them who would be the woman’s husband in the resurrection.
It is worth noting that the number seven comes up here, as it symbolizes completeness or totality. Interesting that the Sadducees would use such a symbolic number, but it does point to the fact that agree or not they were certainly immersed in the Jewish tradition.
This story and the subsequent questions may strike us as petty and picayune, along the lines of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” type question. Yet, Jesus takes them seriously and treats them with respect. It seems He recognizes their place in the Jewish tradition and gives a thoughtful answer.
Beyond Our Comprehension
The thoughtfulness and respect with which Jesus responds does not mean that He does not disagree. This is a good example that you do not have to questions another’s motives simply because you disagree.
The answer He gives is quite instructive. He points out the fundamental difference between this age and the age to come, that is eternity in the resurrection. Verse 34-35 states that “ ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 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.” Jesus points out that they cannot die and are like angels and are children of God (Verse 36). All this points to an eternal, resurrection life that is totally beyond any frame of reference that this age could give us. What God is giving us because of our faith is an eternal relationship that transcends anything we could possibly conceive. That is totally good news.
That Jesus, He Sure Knows the Bible
Having dealt with the human incomprehensibility of resurrection life in eternity, Jesus turns to deal with the notion of the resurrection of the dead in the first place. Pointing the Sadducees to the Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus points out that Moses, talking to the bush, speaks of the “Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Verse 37). Jesus asks, how could Moses be talking to God in this way if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not alive in the resurrection? As this Scriptural logic concludes in Verse 38 “Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’”. Jesus comes to the texts in faith that they are what God has told us, but He uses human reason to discern the meaning. A great lesson in how to approach Scripture for all of us.
In the end, Jesus offers us two powerful lessons in this passage. First, that the resurrection life is incomprehensibly more joyous and transcendent than we could ever possibly imagine. Second, that Scripture is a document that requires thought and nuance when discerning its meaning. All this is simply a part of our believing and obeying.
Praise Be to God