Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Resurrection, 5th Sunday After The Sleebo Feast
Volume 8 No. 504 October 12, 2018
 
II. Lectionary Reflections: Luke 20:27-40

Text: Luke 20:27-40
Luke Chapter 20

27 Then some Sadducees - men who believed that death is the end of existence, that there is no resurrection - 28 came to Jesus with this:

"The laws of Moses state that if a man dies without children, the man’s brother shall marry the widow, and their children will legally belong to the dead man, to carry on his name. 29 We know of a family of seven brothers. The oldest married and then died without any children. 30 His brother married the widow and he, too, died. Still no children. 31 And so it went, one after the other, until each of the seven had married her and died, leaving no children. 32 Finally the woman died also. 33 Now here is our question: Whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all of them were married to her!"

34-35 Jesus replied, "Marriage is for people here on earth, but when those who are counted worthy of being raised from the dead get to heaven, they do not marry. 36 And they never die again; in these respects they are like angels, and are sons of God, for they are raised up in new life from the dead.

37-38 "But as to your real question - whether or not there is a resurrection - why, even the writings of Moses himself prove this. For when he describes how God appeared to him in the burning bush, he speaks of God as 'the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' To say that the Lord is some person’s God means that person is alive, not dead! So from God’s point of view, all men are living."

39 "Well said, sir!" remarked some of the experts in the Jewish law who were standing there. 40 And that ended their questions, for they dared ask no more!
- Luke 20:27-40 (TLB)

Source: The Living Bible Translation

Questions About the Resurrection

by Prof. David Lose

The passage appointed for this Sunday is peculiar enough that it may bring some of the questions [about our belief in resurrection] to the surface.

Why peculiar? Because it assumes knowledge of two bits of bible-knowledge that a lot of folks don't possess:

a) who the Sadducees are; and
b) what levirate marriage is.

Without going into details, I'll move to suggest three questions that this passage may stir up for our people.

1) "What will resurrection life be like?"

I think this is an incredibly understandable question given that we are naturally curious about what comes next, both for our loved ones and ourselves. It will be important to note that the passage in front of us gives little specific or concrete details. It revolves, after all, on a hypothetical question the Sadducees ask Jesus in order to discredit him while simultaneously trying to embarrass their resurrection-believing rivals the Pharisees.

But even if the passage doesn't paint a vivid picture, it does insist that resurrection life is qualitatively different from life as we know it. This is, in fact, the mistake Jesus points out the Sadducees are making. Their question is premised on the assumption that eternal life is an endless state of "more of the same." But resurrection life, Jesus insists, is qualitatively different. The ordinary events and relationships by which we track our journey though this mortal life -- marriage, childbirth, graduations, retirements and so on -- do not characterize our eternal lives because resurrection life is not merely an extension of this life but something wholly different.

2) "Is Jesus saying we won't know our spouses, friends, and family members?"

This is an understandable next question given Jesus' words about not marrying and our previous emphasis on the qualitative difference of resurrection life. And it may be asked -- spoken or silently, consciously or unconsciously -- with some feeling, as most of us have a hard imagining eternity without our loved ones. But as important as that question is, let's be clear: Jesus isn't addressing it here. He does not say we will not know those who have been dear to us, only that resurrection life will not be marked by the same features as this one. Indeed, given his next statement about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it seems that the relationships defining our current life may persist, certainly with God and likely with each other.

3) "Is resurrection the same as immortality?"

Okay, so in actuality very few of our hearers may articulate this question explicitly, but you can nevertheless count on the fact that many of them regularly confuse these two things. Why? Because the immortality of the soul -- the belief that some essential or spiritual element of a person persists beyond the physical death of the body -- provides a measure of comfort to those grieving loss, assuring them that at least a part of their beloved has not, in fact died. In distinction to this notion, Christians have instead confessed that while we really and truly die, resurrection promises that the whole person will in some way be united with God (see I Corinthians 15, especially verses 35-49).

But here, let me be clear, even though I think this distinction matters, I don't ever want to scold someone for being unclear about the resurrection or in some way possessing a theologically inadequate piety. Instead, I hope that we can preach the resurrection in a way that offers the full-bodied hope of the gospel.

Allow one personal example. After teaching an adult forum on resurrection some years ago, a parishioner came to me afterward very upset. Her husband had died the previous year and her belief in the immortality of the soul had brought her comfort. As gently as I could, I said that I didn't want to take that comfort away, but rather to make it stronger, more complete. "What I want and hope for you," I said, "is more than the wispy essence of your husband. I want the whole person for you, the whole person created, loved, and now redeemed by God in and through Christ."

Over time, it seemed like that affirmation helped her reckon with her grief, not by denying it but by promising that there would be an end to it -- and, indeed, an end to all of our grief, tears, and suffering -- when God creates a new heaven and new earth and invites us all to live there together with God and in the fellowship of the saints.

Here's the thing: these are important issues, but let's face it: They are also issues with which none of us has direct experience! For this reason, I hope we will speak with some modesty about our beliefs and affirmations and avoid validating or defaming another's Christian profession of faith based on their adherence to our views.

At the same time, whatever the limits we may experience about describing resurrection life, this passage nevertheless invites us to proclaim with confidence our faith that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob raised Christ from 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.

Source: Working Preacher

What Will Heaven Be Like?

by Craig Condon

Gospel: Luke 20:27-38

The emphasis on the reading from Luke 20:27-38 is not about how and when our age will end. It is about what our futures will be after this age passes away and the time of human life is ended.

At the time of this story from Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is in Jerusalem in the days before his crucifixion. The Sadducees were not really interested in the resurrection. In fact, they did not believe in the resurrection at all. The Sadducees only believed in the first five books of the Old Testament, and nowhere in these books was the idea of resurrection mentioned. Their real purpose was to attempt to compromise Jesus’ authority.

Under the Law of Moses as mentioned in Deuteronomy 25:56, a man whose brother died without children was required to marry his brother’s widow. The firstborn child of that union was to bear the name of the deceased brother so that the brother’s lineage would continue. This law also benefitted the widow because it gave her financial security for the future. Procreation was necessary then as it is now, but it will not be necessary in the new life in Christ because people will not be subject to death any more.

Jesus’ understanding of God’s will is superior to ours or his opponents. Jesus’ reply to the Sadducees affirms that there will be a resurrection where the new life will be much different from what we think it will be. For example, many of you are suffering from the health effects of old age. In the new life after the resurrection, there will be no more suffering or pain-only hope, peace, joy and health.

We tend to think that the new life will be like life is now, complete with marriage. We will recognize our loved ones, including our spouses who have gone before us, but there will be no marriage in heaven. Our relationships with people will be deeper and different from what they were on earth. No longer will people be held captive by sin, age or health problems. In the New Testament, immortality and resurrection become linked in a “now” and “future” relationship.

We can’t understand things we have not seen. We have to accept them by faith, just like we have to accept God’s Word by faith. Even the world’s greatest preachers have trouble understanding the Word of God. Billy Graham once had a struggle with the truth of God’s word, but one evening he knelt by a tree stump and declared to God that he would accept God’s Word by faith.

It’s sometimes hard for us to believe in the big things in life when we have so many little issues and struggles that we let take up lots of space in our lives. When we are obsessed with the little things in life, it’s not easy for us to step back and understand everlasting life. We can only imagine what heaven will be like. Some people imagine it as a beautiful place with endless good times. Others imagine it as a place where there will be no sickness, old age or pain. Our ability to imagine what heaven will be like is our way of expressing our faith that our loved ones are alive and well and are getting along with each other.

For example, C.S. Lewis, who wrote “The Chronicles of Narnia”, once told the story of a woman who was thrown into a dungeon. Her only light came from a barred window high above. She gave birth to a son, who had never seen the outside world. He couldn’t reach the window to see outside, so his mother told him about green fields and waves crashing on the shore-but he couldn’t imagine what she was describing. Eventually, she persuaded the guards to give her some paper and charcoal so she could draw pictures to show her son what the outside world was really like-but what the boy came to understand was that the outside world looked like black lines on a white piece of paper.

The reality keeps returning to us, and it is stark. We have to let go of today’s relationships and trust God to give new relationships. Otherwise, our ability to accept the good news of resurrection and life after deaths is limited. Our loved ones are buried in a cemetery. Their gravestones are in a line, and mark the names of our loved ones along with the dates of their births and deaths. We wonder where they are and what they are doing. At times like that, we can turn to the Scriptures for comfort, especially the passage we heard today.

Jesus does not tell us what lies ahead for us in heaven. He does say that heaven is not a continuation of what we know here on earth, so we don’t need earthly things such as marriage or prosperity. We are to continue being children of God here on earth so that we will be in his arms when we die. Those who are willing to give their lives to God now will find that God will be there for them when the journey of their earthly life is over. We are to love one another just as God loves us and share God’s love for people in a way that excludes no one. In effect, marital love is extended and perfected, so that what’s best about human beings in this life is made available in an even better way to all of us in the next life.

If God is our God, and we are his people, death is not the end of the story. It is the beginning. Someone once said that “today is the first day of the rest of your life” and that will be especially true on the day we die. When we die, the Lord will not abandon us. He will be there to greet us. To be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord. We have Christ’s promise of the reality of the resurrection through Christ’s own death and resurrection. Because he lives, we too shall live. Living without the doctrine of resurrection, or the hope it offers, cheapens this life.

Bibliography

1. Exegesis for Luke 20:27-38. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org

2. The Rev. Charles Hoffacker, “God’s Novelty”. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org

3. Dr. Randy L. Hyde, “Seven Weddings and a Funeral”. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org

4. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 32nd Sunday, Year C”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org

5. Dr. Ray Pritchard, “Can We Still Believe in Life After Death?” Retrieved from www.keepbelieving.org

6. Fr. Dominic Ryan, O.P., “Unlimited Hope”. Retrieved from www.torch.op.org

7. The Rev. Martha Sterne, “Sermon for Proper 27”. Retrieved from www.day1.org/596-sermon_for_proper_27.htm

8. Abingdon Commentary, Luke 20:27-40. Retrieved from www.esermons.com

9. Unknown, “are there any Questions?” Retrieved from www.esermons.com

10. John Wayne Clarke, “Putting Eternity to the Test”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com

11. Johnny Dean, “The Seven Lost Words of the Church” Retrieved from www.esermons.com

Source: Sermons From My Heart

Confrontation – Scripture and Resurrection

by Fr John McKinnon

Luke 20:27-40 - Sadducees Question Resurrection

Verses 27-28

27 Some Sadducees, who dispute whether there is any resurrection,
came up to Jesus
28 and put a question to him,
"Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a brother,
having married, were to die childless,
then his brother must take the wife
and raise up family on his behalf.

Sadducees were not an organised movement as such. They embraced, however, a system of ideas and values common among the upper classes of Jerusalem (including many of the chief priests), that drew its inspiration from the first five books of the Law, the Torah (attributed directly to Moses). They did not acknowledge that the rest of the Scriptures generally accepted by others were inspired. Among other things they denied resurrection and the existence of angels. They were divided sharply from the Pharisee movement, particularly since the Pharisees held a deep respect for what they called their Oral Tradition. Belief in resurrection was a late arrival in Judaism. It was referred to in the Book of Daniel, and in the Wisdom literature originating from the Jewish communities living outside Palestine. These writings were accepted by Pharisees, but Sadducees did not recognise their inspiration.

The text they referred to was found in the Book of Deuteronomy:

When brothers reside together, and one of them dies and has no son,
the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a stranger.
Her husband’s brother shall go in to her, taking her in marriage,
and performing the duty of a husband’s brother to her,
and the firstborn whom she bears
shall succeed to the name of the deceased brother,
so that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. (Deuteronomy 25:5-6)
The concerns behind the law were inheritance and ownership of land.

Verses 29-33

29 There were seven brothers.
The first one married and then died without having a child.
30 The second brother
31 and then the third took the wife,
and so on with all seven.
They died without leaving any family.
32 Finally the woman died.
33 Well then, the woman, in the resurrection,
whose wife shall she be?
After all, the seven of them had her as his wife."

The question had been used often enough in debate with Pharisees with neither of the parties convincing the other. They thought it would be good enough to use as a to challenge Jesus and to lead to his losing face before the people. They did not dream that Jesus might be smarter than their professional scribes.

Verses 34-36

34 Jesus said to them,
"People of this age marry and are given in marriage.
35 But those who are deemed worthy
of attaining the next age and the resurrection from the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage,
36 nor are they able to die any more.
They are similar to angels,
and are children of God
since they are sharers in the resurrection.

Jesus said that the problem was theirs, not that of the Pharisees or himself. Inheritance issues had to do with the continuation of the bloodline, necessary because of its implications for the ownership of property. But it was a false dilemma. Resurrection made continuation of the bloodline unnecessary. Jesus went on to include his otherwise fairly irrelevant reference to angels since Sadducees precisely denied their existence.

Verses 37-38

37 And Moses himself pointed out that the dead are raised
in the passage about the bush,
where the Lord is called
the God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob.
38 God is not God of the dead but of the living.
As far as God is concerned, everyone is living."

Jesus went further to show that even the early books of the Torah, which they accepted as inspired, presupposed the fact of resurrection. His argument might not convince a modern logician, but the use of other connected (if not always relevant) quotations from Scripture was an accepted mode of argumentation within the culture. In this case Jesus quoted from the Book of Exodus:

When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see,
God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” ...
“I am the God of your father,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:4-6).

The Christian Letter to the Hebrews interpreted that text in this way:

All of these (holy people of Israel) died in faith
without having received the promises,
but from a distance they saw and greeted them.
They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth,
for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind,
they would have had opportunity to return.
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God;
indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
(Hebrews 11:13-16)

Jesus, too, made the point that God indeed has prepared a city for them...a better country, that is, a heavenly one. They were alive because they were all men who hoped for a better future. Though not explicitly mentioning the word resurrection, the meaning was still life beyond this earth’s (which was the essence of the argument).

Verses 39-40

39 Some of the scribes were listening and said,
“Teacher, you have spoken well.”
40 They were no longer bold enough to ask him anything.

Scribes of the priestly caste were mostly Sadducees. But other scribes were Pharisees. It would have been these scribes who commended the response of Jesus. His argument would have been different from any they had thought of; and it served to confirm them in their faith in resurrection. It also had the effect of their looking better than Sadducees in the eyes of the people.

In the “honour challenges” Jesus had won convincingly, and his standing among the people was virtually invincible. His adversaries no longer attempted to discredit him in public. Their tactics from now on went underground.

Copyright © 2016 John McKinnon

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