Summary: Our relationship with Jesus not only transforms our daily, physical lives, but it also provides us with hope beyond our physical lives.
Luke 20:27-38 “The Beginning of the End”
Antagonists of the Christian faith occasionally offer arguments that they believe beyond a shadow of a doubt invalidates all religious beliefs. One of my favorites is, “If God is all-powerful, then is God able to make a rock bigger than God can lift?” There is also the age-old “Why,” question, “If God is a loving God, then why does God allow such terrible tragedies to happen?”
In the gospel story for today, a group of Sadducees—the ultra liberals of Jesus’ day—approach Jesus with such a question. The question involves the Levitical law that directs the brothers of childless deceased men to marry their sister-in-laws and produce offspring. The Sadducees’ question deals with the resurrection—even though they did not believe that there would be a resurrection and eternal life. Their question is simply to prove the impossibility of the resurrection and to trap Jesus.
In Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees, the truth of the resurrection is not only underscored, but we also catch a glimpse at how the resurrection affects our lives today.
AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE
The Sadducees lacked an eternal perspective because of their rejection of heaven. Their life view was limited to their present physical life.
• Without a resurrection, they were able to ignore God. God might play some role in their present life, but they didn’t need to worry about a judgment in the last days. They could be more Epicurean in their approach to life, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.”
• They were a self-centered group of people. They did what benefited themselves and not others. They quickly became collaborators with the Romans attempting to raise high in the pseudo government and betraying their fellow countrymen whenever it was necessary to do so.
American society has been called “functional atheists.” This is to say that we may say that we believe in God, and even that we have decided to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, but our actions are similar to those of the Sadducees. We look for enjoyment, comfort, and fulfillment in the things of this world. We are extremely self-centered, and we have no intention of allowing any belief in God to mold our lives, let alone transform them.
We, as Christians, are challenged to allow our acceptance of the truth that there is a heaven to affect our lives today by giving us an eternal perspective on life. There are several ways that such a perspective will transform us.
• The trials and tribulations of this life will not be as overwhelming. Paul writes that he does not consider his present sufferings notable in light of the overwhelming blessings of heaven.
• The allure of the world is lessened. It makes sense, if all we have in our existence is this present life, then we should eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die. If there is life after death and a heaven, then there can be a deeper meaning in life and purpose in life than merely making ends meet and fulfilling as many of our desires as we possibly can.
AN ETERNAL LIFE
Jesus tells the Sadducees, in his reply, that people who are counted worthy of entering heaven will be like the angels, in that they will never die.
First we need to briefly address the question of “who is worthy of entering into heaven?” The Pharisees would have said, “Those who keep the law and therefore live righteous lives.” The Sadducees would not have cared because they didn’t believe in the resurrection. According to surveys of Americans, most of us believe that good people who do good things are those who will eventually enter into heaven.
The core of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that humankind can never be good enough to get to heaven. Because of this, Jesus was sent to live, suffer, and die on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, and to enable us to experience a new relationship and a new life with God. Jesus died for the sins of the world. Because of what Jesus Christ did, we are all worthy of entering into heaven.
One definition of heaven is being in God’s presence; because wherever God is there is heaven. With this definition in mind, we can say that our eternal life—the life that will never end—has already begun.
• At our baptism, we died with Christ so that we might live with him. We were also filled with the Holy Spirit—the presence of God—at the time of our baptism. Though we still do not know God fully, and we have not seen God face to face, we are able to live a heavenly existence.
• We live in a personal relationship with God. We are able to call him our Father and he calls us his children.