Lectionary 32: Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
27Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28and 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. 29Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30then the second 31and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”34Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35but 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. 36Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37And 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. 38Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”
Jesus is in Jerusalem (Palm Sunday events happen in Chapter 19). So we have an event happening during the week leading up to the crucifixion.
I often get the kinds of questions the Sadducees ask Jesus. They are questions that can’t be answered directly because the question assumes a perspective that I might not share. Those who are answered often complain that I didn’t really answer the question, when I really can’t. The Sadducees ask a question that can either be understood as “entrapment” or “a polemic” against resurrection. It might be considered rhetorical because it can be heard as saying, “Look, the whole resurrection question is ridiculous because why would God let this kind of conflict or problem arise?”
There is the additional problem that the understanding of “everlasting life” in the days of Moses was that we live eternally through our children (specifically sons). As the “name” is carried on into the future, the “father” lives on. So at one level we have conflicting understandings of what resurrection/eternal life means.
I fully expect questions arising out of this lectionary reading about heaven and resurrection and what we might expect.
The second part of the answer of Jesus takes some unpacking. If, as the Sadducees believe, there is no resurrection and once people are dead … they are dead (nothing), then the active statement of God to Moses at the burning bush about being the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would mean that God was the God of nothing. If God is to be God of something, then those people must be alive to God. (Not the way I think … but then I’m not Jesus.)
So, as usual on Monday, I’m not sure where to take this on Sunday. I could talk about resurrection, heaven, or eternal life. I suspect people have a lot of questions about that … but will there be enough answers to preach?