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Visions from The Catacombs, Week Before November 6, 2016

Luke 20:27-38

27Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30then the second 31and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” 34Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37And the fact that the dead are raised 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. 38Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

What I Am Learning:

The Sadducees were wealthy collaborators with the Roman Empire. They had a vested interest in keeping things as they were. They knew that if revolutionaries forced the Roman Empire to withdraw, they had a lot to lose. They would be seen as traitors to their nation and would not be dealt with kindly.

So they did their best to tamp down any revolutionary energy, to turn people to passivity in the face of the despair of the day.

One great source of the revolutionary energy was the idea of the resurrection from the dead. The idea here is that there had always been a faithful remnant. When the messiah came he would raise them from the dead so that they might experience life as it should be. Resurrection was not just about life after death, even though it is partly about that. Resurrection means that God has your back, so that if you die for what is right death and the death-dealing domination culture of Rome would not have the last word. It was an invitation to courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable injustice.

When the messiah came to set all things to right, to bring about the kingdom of God, he would raise the faithful from the dead. Here is a visualization of that.

typical-first-century-viewSo the Sadducees fought against the idea of resurrection.

In today's text they came to Jesus to present their argument. They saw Jesus as a revolutionary who was using the idea of resurrection and the coming kingdom of God (what we call God's way of mutuality) to motivate people to love of neighbor and to resist the Roman Empire.

They tried to show that the idea of resurrection was silly by talking about a woman who was married seven times. They asked: To whom would she be married to in the day of resurrection?

Jesus' answer was that the one time you get to marry and have children is before the resurrection. After the resurrection you don't.

Then he goes on to argue from the Torah that God is the God of the living, not the God of the dead. In other words, he argues that resurrection is something inherent in the Jewish faith. God is a God of life who not only gives life, not only sustains life, but gives it again after death. Therefore we have God's promise that death and the death-dealers of our day do not have the last word.

Here is a visualization of Jesus' view of the coming kingdom of  God.

jesus-viewThe difference between Jesus' view and the typical Jewish view is that his resurrection would mark the beginning of a transition from the kingdom of domination to God's way of mutuality. Christian scriptures and theology understand that we live between the Messiah's arrival and the completion of his work to restore and heal all of creation.

As followers of Jesus, we live in hope. We see the world as it is and long and work for the world as God envisions it.

As followers of Jesus, our actions are full of purpose and meaning because God will weave all our acts of love into a world made new.

Everything we do, no matter in what arena of life, is taking part in God's ongoing work of bringing healing and creation to the world.

Today, as in the first century, the key dynamic is one of despair - that there is nothing we can do.

Jesus calls us to join him in hope.

We may not live in a culture in which despair is argued about in terms of resurrection from the dead. Today we see movies about zombies, asteroid strikes, space alien invasions. Today we are fearful of economic changes in which automation is replacing human beings and environmental collapse. Today those on the extremes seem to on the rise. Today the passivity of so many of those in church to their neighbor's need is theologically justified.

However, the argument is still the same: to hope or to despair.

Jesus chose hope. And for those who trust him, he not only chose hope but inspires us to it.

This does not mean that we live like those resurrected ones after death. We still have normal everyday life to live. We still marry and are given in marriage. With a horizon of hope to walk toward we find meaning in each stride we otherwise would not know, taking each step in Jesus' journey of hope.