Summary: This is a sermon about living with unanswered questions by focusing on Jesus as the great answer to human need and doubt.
“Answer In the Questions”
A Sermon Based Upon Luke 20: 27-38
By Rev. Dr. Charles J. Tomlin, DMin
Flat Rock-Zion Baptist Partnership
25th Sunday After Pentecost, November 10th, 2013
“Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” (Luke 20: 38, NRSV).
Life is full of questions isn’t it? We start asking questions quite young. Can’t you remember that younger brother or sister, nephew, niece or grandchild who kept on asking you “Why?” Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why do I have to go to the dentist? Why can’t I have my cake before supper? Why? Why? Why? Too many questions can drive you insane. You probably ask a lot of them too.
Our lives are filled with more ‘questions’ than ‘answers’. Humans are the only species on this planet which have this powerful, even maddening capacity to reason, to imagine, to doubt and to question. The animals that I have had, even the smartest ones, do not question things, but they react to things. People however, raise questions concerning things they know little or nothing about. We have strange and even complicated curiosity. We encourage our children to raise questions, because asking questions can make us make us smart, or maybe it will turn us into what my mother called me a couple of times, a ‘smart aleck’.
Certainly, in the Sadducees in today’s Scripture could have been called ‘smart alecks’. Several times in this chapter various religious leaders come to Jesus with questions. In fact, the whole chapter is built upon 4 questions, 3 which came from religious leaders themselves and one which came from Jesus. All the questioning in this chapter starts with one very big, leading question: “Tell us, (Jesus) by what authority are you doing these things?” The question that comes in our text near the end of the chapter builds upon this one. The Sadducees, as Luke explains-- ‘those who say there is no resurrection’---came to ask Jesus a question (vs. 27) about the resurrection they did not believe in. Of course, they were trying to trick Jesus into giving a wrong answer. The answer they got gave them a big surprise. The greatest rabbi in Judaism often answered questions by raising even bigger questions. It was a culture which said you ought to think through and answer the biggest questions yourself.
CAN JESUS TELL US WHAT HEAVEN IS LIKE?
Let’s begin with a look at the actual question the Sadducees asked. It was a question about the Resurrection of the Dead. As a part of the conservative and wealthy elite in that day, the Sadducees only considered the original Bible, the Torah, that is, the first five books of Law, as their Bible. Since the teaching about Resurrection did not develop until many years later, after the Exile, they did not believe it. They didn’t’ think any true Israelite ought to believe in anything more than this life.
While it might seem to us that this ‘question’ about the resurrection is silly, is really isn’t. We all have questions about what’s on the other side of this life---what’s heaven like, will we have a body, what is life like after death? John Killinger tells about a certain bright-eyed, comical little woman was the kind of person who enjoyed a joke till the day she died. During her last years she was a diabetic, and the doctors restricted her from adding sugar to her coffee and salt to her food. She managed very well without sugar for her coffee, for there were marvelous sweetening substitutes. But she never got used to doing without salt, for the salt substitutes were not so effective. We heard her say on more than one occasion, as she stared at the unsalted breakfast eggs on her plate, "If heaven is the way it is supposed to be, I am going to spend my first thousand years licking on a great salt block!" (From a sermon by John Killinger, “What Is Heaven Like” at www.good preacher.com).
None of us know anything about heaven or about the resurrection, except through faith, so we are free to imagine all sorts of things. C. S. Lewis, the famous Christian writer, said he hoped heaven will be filled with good cigars that never burn up. Karl Barth, perhaps one of the greatest theologians who has ever lived in the modern world, loved the music of Mozart. He said, in heaven, the angels play the religious music of Bach when God is around, but they play Mozart when God isn’t listening.
Most of us who believe, have some image of heaven and resurrection in our minds and in our hearts. But the Bible is wise to remind us that heaven can’t actually be described in earthly terms. The apostle Paul wrote, “Eye has not seen nor has it ever entered into the human heart, what God has in store for those that love him.” Heaven, Resurrection of dead bodies, or Eternal life, are images of hope and final salvation that defy human imagination, except in some kind of the zombie-like images people imagine in the movies.