Lent: Day Thirty-One

By March 16, 2016Formation, lent2016

Luke 20:27-47
Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and 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. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but 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. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And 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. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him another question. Then he said to them, “How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son? For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Reflection
Judaism, at the time of Jesus, was divided into different constituent groups who took different postions on different issues. (This is of course, just like Judaism or Christian today.) Two of the main Jewish groups that we see in the New Testament are the Pharisees and the Saducees. There were many differences between the two, but one of the biggest was their belief in the general resurrection.

The Pharisees believed that there would be a day when the righteous dead would rise to live again. Before this resurrection, they believed that everyone who had died were “asleep,” and whether you were righteous or not was the dependant factor for resurrection. They got this belief from various places in the Hebrew Bible which speak of “The Day of the Lord.”

The Sadducees, however, did not believe in a general resurrection. They actually believed that there was no such thing as an afterlife, or anything that resembled a reward or punishment after death. They focused their attention on the first five books of the Bible, who they believed were written by Moses, and didn’t give much regard to the the later writings which had those references to a “Day of the Lord.”

In today’s reading we see the Sadducees picking on Jesus for his belief in a resurrection – and we see Jesus picking on them right back by quoting Moses as a reference point for his position on resurrection! From this, we might think that Jesus, and the early Christian movement, was aligned with the Pharisees on this point. But, the concept of resurrection gets greatly expanded by Jesus’ teachings on resurrection (mostly in the Gospel of John), by Paul’s teachings on what constitutes righteousness (found most explicitly in Romans), and by what happens on Easter morning when the tomb is empty.