3-Week Series: Double Blessing


Summary: Year C. Luke 20: 27-38 Heavenly Father thank you, for making us children of the resurrection by our faith in your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen. November 11, 2001 Title: “We are children of the resurrection.”

Year C. Luke 20: 27-38

Heavenly Father thank you, for making us children of the resurrection by our faith in your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

November 11, 2001

Title: “We are children of the resurrection.”

The Sadducees pose a question to Jesus about the resurrection of the dead asking, which, if any, of a woman’s seven earthly husbands would be her husband after the resurrection. Jesus’ answer reveals that the resurrected life is so different from earthly life that there is no marriage at all.

Here we have an example of a mocking question, intended to ridicule the teaching of Jesus. For the first and only time in Luke the Sadducees play a role in the narrative. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. The Pharisees did and so did Jesus. They attempt to ridicule this belief by using a far-fetched example to make nonsense of it: in the resurrection what is the situation of a woman who had seven earthly husbands? Which, if any, would be her real husband? The Mosaic Law forbade polyandry, the condition or practice of having more than one husband at one time.

Thus, all seven could not morally be her husbands and, presumably, there would be no immorality in the resurrected life. Therefore, it does not exist.

In verse twenty-seven, Sadducees: The descendants of Zadok, whose lineage can be traced back to Eleazar, son of Aaron; cf. 1Chr 5: 30-35 were granted the privilege of officiating as priests in the Temple after the return from the Babylonian Exile. These “Zadokites,” from which evolved the word “Sadducees,” formed the nucleus of the priesthood staffing the Jerusalem Temple of first century Palestine. They were like an aristocracy, composed at this time of both priests and rather well to do, laity, and were quite Hellenized. The status quo was good to their wallets. They disappeared from Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

No resurrection: The Sadducees were conservative, limiting their beliefs to what was in the written law. They maintained that the oral law, that is, the scribal, later, rabbinical, interpretation of the written law, extending it to apply to every imaginable circumstance, was not revelation and, therefore, not to be believed. On the other hand, the Pharisees, largely a lay movement sect, bought into the oral law hook, line, and sinker. The Pharisees also engaged in speculative theology and believed in angels and the resurrection of the dead, two doctrines not explicit in the Pentateuch, the first five books Hebrew Scripture. Jesus will appeal to these two implicit doctrines, angels and resurrection, by quoting from the Pentateuch, Exodus 3:6. The belief was not like that of the Greeks, the immortality of the souls, but the resurrection of the body, the whole person, that is, an embodied spirit.

In verse twenty-eight, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. The name for this sort of marriage is “levirate,” from the Latin levir, “husband’s brother, brother-in-law.” The eldest surviving brother was obligated under the law to marry a dead brother’s wife and sire a son if the dead brother had no son. This would continue the man’s name and keep his property “in the family.” The custom was widespread in the ancient Near East, in vogue with the Assyrians, Hittites, and Canaanites. By New Testament times the custom seems to have fallen into disuse among the Israelites. So the question was an academic one.

In verse thirty-one, all seven died childless: Since all seven married the widow and died without siring a child, none could be considered her “real” husband, at least in terms of having begotten an heir.

In verse thirty-three, whose wife will the woman be?: Here was the trick question. The Sadducees thought they had Jesus. All seven could not be her husband, given the prohibition against polyandry. If the question was impossible to answer, so also was the situation provoking it absurd, and so was belief in a resurrection. This proves it, or so they thought.

In verse thirty-four, this age marry and are given in marriage: Jesus speaks first of the condition of this present life. Marriage and procreation are necessary for the continuation of the human race, for “children of this age” to continue in being.

In verse thirty-five, neither marry nor are given in marriage: Jesus says there is a sharp difference between life as we know it here on earth and life in eternity. In the “age to come” people will not die, nor will children be born. Hence, there is no need for marriage and procreation. Life will be different, not a mere continuation of this life in, imaginary, ideal terms. Now, Jesus speaks here only of the saved, not of all departed, those “deemed worthy,” not those who tried to earn their way in by virtue of their merits. He does not speak of the resurrection of the dead, the general resurrection at the End Time, but of resurrection from the dead, the resurrection of the righteous who are among the dead. In this new age people are not involved in marriage relationships. Personal relationships will transcend to a new level, making procreation unnecessary. Jesus is not saying earthly husbands and wives will not know each other or continue to love each other or be close, only that “marriage,” as such is a condition quite foreign to the new age.

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