Job 19.23-27a I know that my redeemer lives
2 Thessalonians 2.1-5, 13-end May the Lord strengthen you in
everything good that you do or say
Luke 20.27-38 He is God, not of the dead, but of the living
‘Now he is God not of the dead, but of
the living; for to him all of them are alive.’
Well, this morning’s Gospel reading puts
a big question in front of us.
I suppose you could put it like this: if
our Easter faith, in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, is true, then what
happens to us when we die?
This is the question underlying the
passage we have heard read.
The Sadducees frame the question in a
totally theoretical, and almost comical, way.
It is a hypothetical scenario of a woman
marrying seven brothers in turn, as each one dies.
The Sadducees who come to Jesus are
developing a scenario from the Law of Moses, known as Levirate marriage.
Now the first thing to be aware of is
that the Sadducees were a Jewish sect at the time of Jesus who rejected any
notion that there is a resurrection.
They were out to disprove and ridicule
the notion of resurrection.
In that sense they were very different
from the Pharisees, despite being lumped together as opponents of Jesus’
ministry and mission.
The Pharisees did accept the promise of
resurrection, albeit they did not see it as embodied in Jesus Christ.
It’s like that today.
There are people who, like the
Sadducees, think that life after death is not a thing.
Our existence on this earth is all there
is, they say, there is no hope of heaven and so we live our lives ethically and
well, but that’s about it.
Now that is a standpoint or worldview
that can itself be challenged. But we don’t have time for that just now.
Similarly, like the Pharisees, there are
people today who have a belief that ‘there must be something more’ and a vague
notion of an afterlife, but that belief is rather undefined.
That is close to, but not the same as,
the Christian hope of resurrection.
The Christian hope of resurrection is
not a generalised hope that after I die something will happen or that, somehow,
I’ll meet up with deceased relatives and friends, but it is a hope embodied in
the person and resurrected body of Jesus Christ.
When Job says, in our first reading, ‘I
know that my redeemer lives’ he is instinctively identifying what Christian
theology holds, that if we are raised from the dead then there is a redeemer
who makes that happen.
It’s much like salvation needing a
Saviour: resurrection and salvation are not unspecific, generalised concepts,
they are real, embodied experiences and utterly dependent on the Resurrection
of Jesus Christ.
St Paul, himself brought up and trained
as a Pharisee, so hitherto comfortable with a generalised resurrection, came to
see this because of his faith in the actual bodily resurrection of Christ, who
he encountered on the road to Damascus, and mused: ‘If Christ has not been
raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins’. (1 Corinthians
The passage that quote comes from,
chapter fifteen of St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, is like an extended
meditation on this morning’s gospel reading.
It really addresses the Big Question
about what happens to us when we die.
It’s interesting the Sadducees chose
marriage as the scenario to test out Jesus’ teaching on resurrection.
Marriage in the Bible is not just about
husband and wife, a man and a woman, though it is profoundly about a man and a
Marriage is also an emblem, a sign, of
God’s relationship with his people and the fidelity of that relationship: we
see that explored in the book of the prophet Hosea.
Marriage and consummation, is also a
sign of the union of Christ, the bridegroom, with his bride, the Church: that
is powerfully explored in the book of Revelation which speaks of the marriage
banquet of the Lamb.
It is inclusive, in the sense that in
the life of husband and wife, marriage aspires to reflect and echo to everyone,
married or not, the fidelity of God to Israel and Christ to the Church.
Marriage is a Biblical image because all
the while God remains faithful even when we err and stray.
So here’s the absurd, syllogistic,
scenario again: a woman marries seven brothers in turn because one after
The next step of the scenario assumes that
marriage endures in the resurrection.
Hence the question: when they have all
died who will she be married to?
The Sadducees were taking the mickey
really by asking this question.
Jesus responds clearly.
Marriage is something that exists on
earth as a sign of fidelity and the fruitful coming together of two different,
but complimentary, persons.
In the resurrection, when the redeemed
are raised from the dead, then marriage is not the primary relationship or
purpose they have, and nor is biological relationship or friendship.
That may be a source of sorrow for some
to contemplate, and perhaps a source of relief to others.
So back to the Big Question and Jesus’
In the resurrection, the defining
relationship is with the Living God, just as was the case with the Biblical
patriarchs: God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
So, Message One to take away from this
Gospel: those who have died are not dead to God.
You are not, and never will be, dead to
God, for in baptism you have died with Christ and been raised to life in him.
Jesus points out that the Sadducees have
made a category error: they’re talking and thinking in earthbound ways and not
the ways of the resurrection.
Belief in the Resurrection means we
cannot look at ourselves, human destiny or the world in the same way again.
Let us, of course, nurture and cherish
now all the relationships we have in this life; siblings, spouses, friends
knowing that the relating of heaven is very much more.
Message Two to take away today is that life
in the resurrection is a total transformation of life as we know it or can
conceive of it; it is life lived in all its abundance and fullness, without the
inhibitors of human neediness, wilfulness, infidelity or sin. For Christ will
be everything and in everything.
‘[For] he is God
not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’