This is the first of a weekly installment of "first" thoughts on the upcoming Sunday's lectionary readings. Every Monday, I'll post my initial thoughts, ideas, reactions, etc., and I would greatly value your feedback in the comments section; I'd love for this to serve as a medium where we engage in conversation over what God is saying to us through the Scriptures.
Luke 20: 27-38 (New Living Translation)
Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife but no children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name. Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children. So the second brother married the widow, but he also died. Then the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them, who died without children. Finally, the woman also died. So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her!” Jesus replied, “Marriage is for people here on earth. But in the age to come, those worthy of being raised from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage. And they will never die again. In this respect they will be like angels. They are children of God and children of the resurrection.
“But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—even Moses proved this when he wrote about the burning bush. Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, he referred to the Lord as ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead, for they are all alive to him.”
In this Scripture lesson from Luke, some Sadducees approach Jesus and pose to him a peculiar hypothetical question. Sadducees were a sect of Judaism prominent during the Second Temple period* who denied the notion of a bodily resurrection. They only recognized the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of our Old Testament) as authoritative, and believed that there was no doctrine of resurrection therein. In Luke 20, the Sadducees attempted to back Jesus into a corner and expose the belief in bodily resurrection as a foolish doctrine. Jesus responded by pointing back to their religious heritage - to Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob - and indicated that yes! Their witness points to their life in God's eternal realm. Here are a couple of my initial take-a-ways from this Gospel lesson:
We need to be willing to live into the mystery of God's eternal activity. The Sadducees couldn't imagine beyond the earthly realm. But thankfully, God is not bound by what humanity knows and understands. He is ultimately mystery. And in a world in which our lives are marked by death, God is about something more; He is about eternal life. We can't limit God; God will do what God will do. But are we letting our limited knowledge and understanding hold us back from being more deeply engaged in a relationship with God?
We don't need to fully understand in order to trust in God's promise. I can't fathom what the final resurrection will look like. I am not sure how God will raise people up into the reality of the fully realized Kingdom. Remember - "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine." (Isaiah 55:8, NLT). But I believe it will happen. Faith moves us beyond the reasonable and into a place of trust that God will accomplish the unbelievable.
What would you add? Comment below!
*This was a period of roughly 600 years (from about 530 BC to 70AD). It began with the return from Babylonian captivity when the second temple was built, and concluded with the Roman destruction of the temple around 70 AD.