25th Sunday after Pentecost—Year C—November 10, 2013
Preached at Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
Raise your hand if you have spent a fair amount of time (based on your own definition) thinking, reading, or talking about the resurrection of JESUS.
Raise your hand if you have spent a fair amount of time (based on your own definition) thinking, reading, or talking about the resurrection of YOU.
We normally do not talk about the afterlife that way do we? Most of the time discussions about what is to come tend to focus on what heaven is going to be like, and for that matter mostly what it will look like…the pearly gates, golden streets, angelic choirs. But rarely do I hear people consider exactly what the bodily resurrection part will be like.
That is the disagreement that the Sadducees and Jesus are having this morning. Remember, the Sadducees are the group that was mainly in charge of the temple in Jerusalem during Jesus’ lifetime. They only thought that the first five books of the Bible—the Pentateuch or Books of Moses—were authoritative. Therefore, they did not believe in a physical, bodily resurrection. The concept is referred to mainly in the other books of the Old Testament.
So today we hear the Sadducees try to trap Jesus and at the same time shame their rival group, the Pharisees, who do believe in a physical, bodily resurrection.
But Jesus is too smooth for them. He knows that they only accept the Books of Moses, and so he is sure to pull out a verse from there to make his point:
“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. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living for, him all of them are alive” (Luke 20:37-8).
It is maybe not the best logical argument that I have heard, I am not sure if it would hold up to the rules of a mathematical proof, but for Jesus, it is a well formed Rabbinic argument using scripture that the Sadducees respect…so Jesus wins!
But ultimately, this text is not just about winning or losing, we know the historical outcome. Jesus “wins” this argument, but that just leads the Pharisees and the Sadducees to want to kill him all the more. Eventually they get him to say something that violates Jewish law and equally upsets the Romans. He is arrested, mocked, convicted, tortured, humiliated, killed, and RAISED from the dead.
But the question remains, an especially hot topic on some theological blogs right now, what is the resurrection like…is it bodily, physical, or spiritual. Will we look the same, will we recognize one another, will people who are blind still be blind, will the deaf be able to hear, will those of us with bad knees still be in pain?
Jesus does not clear up all these questions in one-fell-swoop this morning. Maybe you have never really considered that line of the Creed we recite almost weekly “I believe in…the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” Maybe you are left with more questions than comprehension.
But from this obscure, at times confusing story, we are assured of two things about the resurrection:
(1) It is real! Not just for Jesus, but for all God’s children.
(2) The resurrection life is qualitatively different from this life.
Think about what we know about the resurrected Jesus. We know he was eventually recognized by his friends, and that he ate fish, and that his wounds could be touched, but we also know that he looked a little different, almost a little disguised.
We are not told exactly what we will look like, how we will relate to one another, or many details to expect. However, we are told that resurrection life will not just be some return to a golden age of the past. Many of our social constructions will have no place, or at least be of little importance.
But no matter our inability to know and comprehend resurrection, “this passage nevertheless invites us to proclaim with confidence our faith that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob raised Christ from the death and promises to do the same also for us. For God is the God not of the dead, but of the living, both then and now.” (David Lose, Dear Working Preacher)