22 PENTECOST—11.10.19—LUKE 20:27-38
A YOUNG preacher went to visit an elderly member of his congregation, Miss Eliza. Sitting in the woman’s parlor, the preacher asks, “Miss Eliza, have you given any thought to the hereafter?”
SHE REPLIED, “Oh, yes, Reverend John. Every time I walk into a room I have to stop and think, ‘Now what did I come in here after?’”
THE SADDUCEES were the last people to think about the hereafter. And Jesus knew that. So, what were they doing asking this hypothetical story about what would happen at the resurrection of the dead?
THROUGHOUT the Gospels Jesus seldom answers questions directly. Usually, when someone comes to Jesus with a question, he answers with another question, or with a parable or a challenge. In fact, author Philip Yancey says he once heard a theologian say that Jesus was asked 183 questions in the Bible, and he only answered three of them directly. Three out of one-hundred-eighty-three. So we need to pay close attention to Jesus’ answer here.
REMEMBER, this encounter took place in the temple in Jerusalem. This is the last week of Jesus’ life. He knows that he has only days left to share the good news of the kingdom of God with the people. By the end of the week, he will be lying dead in a tomb. So when I hear these words, I imagine Jesus spoke them with great conviction and urgency. What is Jesus saying to the Sadducees and to us?
FIRST OF ALL, he leaves no doubt that there is a resurrection from the dead.
STARTING AT verse 34 we read, “Jesus replied, ‘The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 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, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection . . .’”
I HOPE that’s how you feel about yourself—that you are a child of the resurrection. You are going to live forever because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
I SUSPECT that most of us know that deep in our bones—that we are going to live forever. Why do we know that? Because we have come to know just how much Jesus loves us.
AUTHOR ANNE Lamott, in her book Traveling Mercies, tells us that once she found herself broke, drunk, bulimic, depressed, and addicted to drugs. She said, “I could no longer imagine how God could love me.”
DESPERATE, SHE made an appointment with an Episcopal priest. She told him, “I’m so messed up that I don’t think God can love me.”
THE PRIEST replied, “God has to love you. That’s God’s job.”
HIS WORDS made a profound effect on Lamott’s life.
IS IT GOD’S “job” to love you? It’s definitely God’s nature to love you. Jesus says in this passage today that those who believe in him are children of God. Loving parents have an overwhelming need to protect and provide for their children. If we are God’s children, and if God is eternally alive, then God’s plan is for us to be eternally alive with Him. We have a God who is the Creator of life, the Giver of life. To know God is to know life.
IN JOHN 17, Jesus knows that the time has come for his arrest and crucifixion, and he prays for his disciples and for all those people who will believe in him until the day he returns. And this is how he begins his prayer: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
THE SADDUCEES’ question proved that they did not know the nature of God. And they did not know the mission of Jesus. If you do not know these two essential truths, you do not have a religion, you do not have a faith system, you just have empty rules and silly arguments and philosophical posturing. And more importantly, if you do not have these two truths, then you do not have life. In this passage Jesus leaves no doubt that there is a resurrection from the dead. We are children of the resurrection.
EVEN THE Old Testament testifies to the resurrection, for Moses calls the Lord “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
THIS HAS BEEN God’s plan from the beginning of time. The Bible tells us that death was not part of God’s original plan for creation. God created Adam and Eve in God’s image. He created them to live eternally with Him. Adam and Eve’s sin corrupted God’s original plan. God is a holy God and cannot tolerate the presence of sin. So the penalty for Adam and Eve’s sin was death. That was not God’s intent. That was the result of Adam and Eve’s sin.
I READ recently about a man in Michigan named Michael Luther. Michael was a video game enthusiast. He was such an enthusiast that when he died in 2007, his sister had a tombstone marker carved to look like an exact replica of the Pac-Man arcade game. On the front screen of the tombstone are the words inscribed in capital letters, “Game Over.”
GOD DID NOT create us so that He could declare on our tombstone, “Game Over.” And if death is the final act of all creation, then God’s ultimate plan for creation is forever left incomplete. Can a perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful God allow His plans to be left incomplete? No, of course not! So before God ever spoke the world into existence, He planned to come in human form to offer His own life as the perfect, sinless sacrifice, the death that paid the price for our sins and restored us to Him, and to eternal life.
THE SADDUCEES were negating the very reason for Jesus’ life and mission. They did not know a God who could love us this much, they did not know that God had a plan for the restoration of the world and for ultimate justice and peace and healing of all the wounds of our fallen state. Only a child of the resurrection knows that through death God has provided a way for us to be born again into a living hope.
DURING THE Second World War, when Hitler conquered France, he immediately shut down the borders to keep the people from leaving the country. But one small border town saw its population diminish rapidly, so the Germans searched for the answer.
IT’S A FASCINATING story. This town had a cemetery that straddled the border with a neighboring country, which was free from Nazi control. And so the locals opened up an ancient gate in the wall of the cemetery, and they kept having “funerals”–except the people attending those funerals, allegedly mourning their loved ones, never came back! They went out to the tombs, but they just kept on walking, right out the back gate, to their freedom.
IF DEATH is our ultimate end, then there is no purpose to life except to maximize our own enjoyment for our very brief time on this planet. But if we are children of God and children of the resurrection, then we know that death is not the end of us. It is the end of injustice and suffering and evil and pain, and the gateway to new life and freedom and the love of God. Thus it is an occasion of great and lasting joy.
SPEAKING OF great joy, when Antonia “Toni” Larroux of Florida died, her adult children wrote a very funny obituary in her honor. They ended it with these words: “(Her memorial service) will be led by Rev. Curt Moore of Orlando, Florida, a questionable choice for any spiritual event, but one the family felt would be appropriate due to the fact that every time Toni heard Curt preach she prayed for Jesus to return at that very moment.”
THE OBITUARY continued like this: “On a last but serious note, the woman who loved life and taught her children to ‘laugh at the days to come’ is now safely in the arms of Jesus and dancing at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
“SHE WILL be missed as a mother, friend and grandmother.
“ANYONE wearing black will not be admitted to the memorial. She is not dead. She is alive.”THAT IS THE ultimate message of Jesus to the Sadducees and to us. You are not dead. You are alive. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. God made you to be eternally alive. God’s nature is to love you and provide you with abundant and eternal life, even when that life requires God to take the penalty of death on our behalf through Jesus’ death on the cross. And God’s final plan is to restore all of creation back to God’s original plan, a world of justice, peace and wholeness. Children of the resurrection. We have been born again into a living hope, the hope of eternal life spent with a God who loves us and made us to spend eternity with Him. AMEN.