Luke 20:27-38; Haggai 1:15-2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 and 13-17
In the Gospel we heard this morning, we have another question intended to ridicule the teaching of Jesus. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection nor in angels, says Luke in Acts 23:8 but the Pharisees and Jesus did. With their question about resurrection, the Sadducees tried to ridicule this belief of resurrection by using an illogical example to make nonsense of it: they asked, In the resurrection what is the situation of a woman who had seven previous husbands? Which, if any, would be her real husband? We know that the Mosaic Law forbids a woman from having more than one husband. Thus, all seven could not morally be her husbands and, presumably, there would be no immorality in the resurrected life. Therefore, resurrection does not exist and if it exists, is an immoral life because of cases like this. This was their logic.
Sadducees -its believe- were the descendants of Zadok, whose line can be traced back to Eleazar, son of Aaron; they were granted the privilege of officiating as priests in the Temple after the return from the Babylonian Exile. These “Zadokites,” from which evolved the word “Sadducees,” formed the nucleus of the priesthood in the Temple of Jerusalem in the first century Palestine. They were like the Jewish aristocracy in those times. This group was made at this time of both priests and laity. They were well known for their Greek lifestyle; they were a very Hellenized group and because their religious life was centered in the temple and the sacrifices they disappeared from Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.
The Sadducees were a very conservative group, limiting their beliefs to what was written in the law only; the first five books of the Old Testament. The word “Resurrection” is not mention in the whole Old Testament. Therefore, if it is not mention, they did not believe in resurrection.
When the Sadducees came to Jesus with this question, they were quoting Deuteronomy 25:5, where it says that a man shall marry the widow of his brother and raise up children for him. The name for this sort of marriage is levirate from the Latin levir, “husband’s brother or brother-in-law.” According to this law, the eldest surviving brother was obligated to marry a dead brother’s wife to procreate a son for the dead brother. This would continue the man’s name and his family could be able to keep his property. The custom was widespread in the ancient Near East. However, by New Testament times, the custom seems to have fallen into disuse among the Israelites. So, the question was more academic that practical.
Let us see Jesus answer, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels.” Jesus’ answer reveals that the resurrected life is so different from our earthly life and that there is no marriage at all in heaven.
Jesus says here that there is a sharp difference between life, as we know it here on earth and life in eternity. In the “age to come” people will not need procreation because we will live forever; we will not need marriages to protect our properties because we will not need children to continue our name, our line; we will not have to worry about properties, because everything belong to the Lord and His people.
Jesus continues with His answer and I believe verse thirty-seven is the focus of Jesus’ lesson. Remember, the question was about resurrection and Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. Jesus says that the resurrection of the dead is a reality and it is supported by Moses. Moses who according to tradition wrote the first five books of the Bible. Jesus uses the Passage from Exodus 3:6 and the scene of the burning bush to point out to them that there is, indeed, scriptural basis for believing in the resurrection from the dead… It is significant that he quotes from the Pentateuch because these first five books were the only ones the Sadducees recognized with authority.
Long after the deaths of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God, appearing to, and speaking to Moses, spoke about them as their God. I am God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… Saying that He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
The concept of resurrection is an important doctrine for us, Christians. The whole New Testament is full of the hope of resurrection. For Jesus this was important; whenever He spoke about His death, He also spoke about His resurrection… and not only His, but ours too. He said that He was going ahead to prepare for us a place, so we can be wherever He is. For Paul, resurrection is also important, in 1 Corinthians 15:14 he says: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”. Hope in our resurrection is the core principle of our faith.
Resurrection my sisters and brothers is one of many ways God tells us “I love you.” How do we know it? John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. Eternal life is the result of Jesus’ presence and love in our lives. Therefore, I believe eternal life begins when we are aware of Jesus presence, and His love working in our lives. And by working, I mean transforming, changing us, or as Paul expresses in 2 Thessalonians 3:5, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” In other words, God works His resurrection in our lives when God directs our hearts to His love and Christ’s perseverance.
This love showed in the resurrection that John 3:16 is talking about is not just a two-way love; is not just God loving me and I loving Him. The love we see in God sending His son to die and resurrect for us overflows and becomes a multi- ways love. Its love from God to me and from me to Him and others. Listen to 1 John 3:14 “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters”.
This is the beauty of resurrection, we do not have to die to enjoy it; if we love each other, we have passed from death to life. This is our hope, this resurrection that can happen here and now, can make things different; life will be better because if we love each other we will not hurt each other. Our practice of love in this world, the kind of love described in 1st John 3:14, must be modeled after God’s love for us and His entire creation. This love is active and engaged and ever oriented toward justice and mercy for all God’s children and for this beautiful earth. In other words, must be committed with life, with resurrection. “Anyone who does not love remains in death.” Says 1st John. All the hate we see in this world; all the death we see in this world; all the destruction of God’s creation it is because humanity is dead in transgressions and that make us incapable to love each other. Therefore, the solution for our sinful condition is Jesus and His resurrection; it is Jesus and His transforming power. If we do not preach and live the message of resurrection our preaching is worthless. May God help us to live and love as resurrected people.