Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (C)
November 11, 2007
Text: Luke 20:27-40

Our God is not a God of the dead, but of the living. Our very life comes from God. Jesus is God in the flesh, the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He is the revelation of YHWH. He is Abraham’s promised Seed. Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus’ day. He saw it, and was glad (John 8:56). He saw it, for though his body had returned to dust hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, he continues to live in God. Though he died, yet he lives. He lives in heaven and awaits the resurrection. For God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. It is of God’s nature to give life to His people. He is the source of life, the Creator of all the living. And He is the source of our eternal life and redemption. He is the God who raises the dead. And since He has raised Christ from the dead, we confidently confess that on the Last Day He will raise all the dead, and give eternal life to all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Neither did they believe in any sort of afterlife, or angels, or miracles. But it was the resurrection with which they had the biggest problem. The article on the resurrection was the source of division within the Jewish religion. The Sadducees vehemently denied the resurrection. The Pharisees ardently defended it. So it was that the Sadducees sought to put Jesus to the test with a question on the resurrection. They wanted to trap Him using the levitical law of Moses. It seems there was a widow whose husband died before conceiving a child. Now, every good Jew knows the rule: when a man dies and leaves his widow childless, the man’s brother has a responsibility to marry the widow and have a child in his brother’s name. Well, there were seven brothers in all, and the widow married each one successively, and each one died leaving her without a child. The story is really quite far-fetched, but believability was not the priority here for the Sadducees. Rather, they sought to point out to Jesus the absurdity of the idea of the resurrection. “In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife” (Luke 20:33; ESV).

Of course, the Sadducees weren’t really asking about marriage. Again, they had a much more sinister agenda. But Jesus humors them and answers their question anyway. “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (vv. 34-36). Jesus outsmarted the Sadducees using the very Scriptures they thought they were citing against Him! The Sadducees neither understood the Scriptures nor the power therein. They were asking a question pertaining to this world. They had no understanding of the world to come.

Marriage is a wonderful gift of God given for our life in this creation. God has given us holy matrimony for our companionship, for the propagation of the race, and as the one and only proper outlet for His good gift of sexuality. It was given in particular to provide for the promised Seed of Abraham who would save the whole world from sin, our Lord Jesus Christ. But God has given marriage also so that Christians can reflect in their marriages that holy relationship between Christ and His holy Bride, the Church. In other words, marriage is an institution in this world that points to a higher reality, the love that Christ has for His Church, a love so deep that He gave Himself into death for her, to present her to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:27).

But this was not the real question in the minds of the Sadducees. Their real question concerned the resurrection, in which they did not believe. So once again Jesus outsmarts the Sadducees using the very Scriptures they were citing against Him. “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him” (vv. 37-38). The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had died long before Moses encountered the burning bush. Yet they were alive in God and with Him in heaven. In the same way, though they had died centuries before Jesus was speaking with the Sadducees, they were alive in heaven. And they are still, to this very day, alive in God and with Him in heaven, awaiting the resurrection from the dead.

The Sadducees, however, did not believe in the resurrection. And there are many today, beloved, who likewise deny the resurrection from the dead, along with angels, and miracles. They deny these sacred truths in the name of science, reason, logic. Many of these deniers even claim to be Christians. Do not be led astray by their lies. For the very substance of the Christian faith hinges on the truth of the resurrection. St. Paul puts it this way: “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:13-17). Woe to us if there is no resurrection from the dead. If that is the case, then we are still in our sins, and if we are still in our sins, then death and hell are our lot. St. Paul, however, does not leave us in a state of hopelessness. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (v. 20). And beloved, since that is true, death has been conquered and sin has been eradicated. For our God is not a God of the dead, but of the living. He has given us new and abundant life in Christ. He has raised us out of spiritual death, snatched us from the jaws of eternal death, and taken the sting out of temporal death. For on the Last Day, when our risen Lord Jesus Christ returns to judge the quick and dead, He will call every last one of us out of the grave. He has the power to do so, for He conquered death forever in His own glorious resurrection.

Perhaps it should go without saying that most if not all of us here this morning are not Sadducees. We do not openly deny the resurrection of the dead. If we did, we probably wouldn’t be here. But don’t fall into the trap of the Pharisees, either. Remember, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection. They even congratulated Jesus after He had outsmarted their opponents, the Sadducees. They commended His answer and His use of the Scriptures. “Teacher, you have spoken well” (Luke 20:39). But though they believed in a resurrection from the dead, they did not believe in the One who is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). They thought they would be raised on the Last Day because of their own righteousness, their own perfect keeping of the Law. But that is not why anyone will be raised on the Last Day. On the Last Day, every body of everyone who has ever died will be raised from the dead. But those who did not believe in Christ, who tried to make it on their own merit, by their own good works, or who despaired of salvation altogether, will be raised for everlasting death along with the devil and his evil angels. Those, however, who believed in Jesus Christ and trusted Him for their salvation will be raised to eternal life on account of His righteousness. Their good works will have nothing to do with it. The resurrection to eternal life is given freely on account of Christ to all who are His.

You are His. He has given you new life. He has given you new birth into His living Spirit in the waters of Holy Baptism. He has made you His own child and spoken you righteous. He has invited you to His feast. Our God is the God of the living. He fills us who were born spiritually dead with His life. He gives us life eternal and abundant. Knowing this, we pass through the valley of the shadow of death confidently, fearing no evil, for our living and life-giving Lord is with us, shepherding us, guiding us with His rod and staff (Ps. 23). Death is not forever for those who are in Jesus Christ. For He is risen. And if He is risen, He will not leave in death those who are baptized into Him. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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