Summary: How Can I Be Certain of Life after Death? 1) Trust God's Power; 2) Trust God's Pronouncements
Apple or Android? Toyota or Honda? Hardwood or laminate? What kind of hard choices have you had to make recently? If you’re in the market for a car, you’ll do your research because you don’t want to pay good money for a vehicle that will break down in a couple of years. But with so many choices out there how can you be certain that you’ll pick the right one? You can never be sure that the car, computer, or condo you buy will live up to the vendor’s claims, but there’s not much you can do about it. Like everyone else you’ll have to plunk down your money and hope for the best.
Thankfully that’s not how we have to handle mankind’s biggest question: “Is there life after death?” In our sermon text today Jesus assures us that there is life after death because we can trust God’s power, and we can trust God’s pronouncements.
Did it surprise you to learn from our Gospel lesson (Luke 20:27-38) that there were people in Jesus’ day who did not believe in life after death? You would expect such skepticism from the rationale Greeks but not from the Jews – especially not from those who were members of a group called the Sadducees. The Sadducees were a religious/political group made up mostly of priests! You would think that they, more than anyone else, would believe in life after death, but such was not the case. By Jesus’ day many priests thought of themselves as intellectuals. They were too smart to believe all the stuff one might read in the Bible. It was this group that came to Jesus on the Tuesday of Holy Week with a question. Well it wasn’t really a question but more of a challenge. They wanted to make Jesus look foolish and so they brought up this implausible situation where one woman married seven brothers – not all at the same time of course. After one husband died, she would marry his next oldest brother and so on. Why would any girl think of doing something like this? Because in Old Testament times God had commanded that if a man died without a son, his unmarried brother was to marry the widow and in this way ensure that Jewish family lines would not die out.
The Sadducees brought up this scenario because they wanted to know who the woman would be married to in the afterlife. They didn’t believe in an afterlife and thought this situation would show how foolish it would be for anyone to confess life after death. Matthew, who also records this incident, reports Jesus’ response like this: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).
The reason the Sadducees didn’t believe in life after death is because they did not trust God’s power. They didn’t see how God could bring back to life a heart that no longer beat. They scoffed when they heard that God could put back together again a body drowned at sea. “How would he ever collect the decayed bones lost to the ocean tides and put skin back on them again? No. When you’re dead, you’re dead,” they reasoned.