Summary: Our only hope for happiness and satisfaction in this life is found in the certain promise our Savior gives us for life in the age to come.
A Valpraiso University philosopher by the name of Gilbert Meilaender put the events of September 11th and their aftermath into context as he recounts a time in the not so distant past when the famous Christian preacher and writer C.S. Lewis addressed a gathering of college students in England, a nation that was being dragged into World War II because Hitler had invaded their ally, Poland. Meilaender writes, “On October 22, 1939, at the church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford, C.S. Lewis preached at evensong. To anxious undergraduates, many of whom would soon face death, and all of whom must have wondered what they were doing studying mathematics and metaphysics when their nation was in mortal peril, Lewis said: ‘If we had foolish unchristian hopes about human culture, they are now shattered. If we thought we were building up a heaven on earth, if we looked for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul of man, we are disillusioned, and not a moment too soon’” (Christian Century, 9/26-10/31).
All of us were quickly reminded of that reality as we watched the horror of September 11th unfold with our own eyes. That is why against the backdrop of this present reality our celebration of Saints Triumphant, which in years gone by may have passed without much notice, is today filled with eternal significance, and everlasting comfort. This morning we celebrate the reality that for God’s saints the hope for a great life isn’t built on the evolutionary promise of the gradual betterment of humanity, nor will is it found in our own ability to somehow create a heaven upon this earth. As God’s saints we give thanks that our lives here on earth are but a brief pilgrimage that leads to the greatest life there is - found in our true home in heaven. This morning we celebrate the goodness of our God who has already brought many of our brothers and sisters in the Christian faith to their eternal resting place. As we give thanks for their deliverance we are moved to press in our fight contending to keep hold of the Christian faith that God has so graciously planted in our hearts as we eagerly look forward to the resurrection when all of God’s saints will be united to spend forever in his gracious presence.
As we wait eagerly for our final redemption we gather at our Savior’s feet to hear his words of comfort as he confidently assures us in the words of the text for this morning: You are counted worthy of the resurrection. How do we know for certain? Jesus tells us that we can be sure because I) our hope is not based on the power of our minds. Jesus reminds us that we can be sure because II) our hope is based on the Word of God.
Jesus understood the world around him very well. He understood that people’s hearts and minds from conception are completely tainted by sin. They are steeped in spiritual blindness and are hamstrung by sinful presuppositions. The Sadducees in the text are a prime example of this. The Gospel writer, Luke, points out their fatal flaw when he writes, “Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection” (Luke 20:27). Even though God’s Word clearly states that the life of the soul continues on after the death of the body, since such a thought didn’t make sense to their rational minds these Sadducees refused to believe it was true. But it wasn’t enough just for them to reject the ongoing life of the soul and the future resurrection of the body. They wanted everyone to reject that notion - so they approach Jesus, who is the chief proponent of the resurrection, with a question. Of course, their desire was not to learn from Jesus. Rather their desire was to grandstand their marvelous new teaching and their supposed achievement as great thinkers. In their arrogance they expected to make the Son of God look foolish.
While the mind is certainly a tremendous gift that God has given to men, the mind was never meant to replace God. It was meant to serve him. That’s why when it comes to spiritual things a heart that is cloaked in unbelief and a mind that is blind to spiritual truth cannot reason correctly. Unfortunately the Sadducees weren’t spiritually smart enough to understand this. As a result we hear their spiritually ignorant approach to Scripture that attempts to find flaws in God’s Word and make it sound contradictory. They proudly bring Jesus a “what-if” kind of question that they figure will make them look quite smart and at the same time stump the Great Teacher – Jesus. They cite a law given by Moses to the people of Israel called the law of the levirate marriage. That law said (Deuteronomy 25:5,6) that if a woman should become a widow, her brother-in-law was required to take her in marriage and seek to father children with her who were to bear the dead man’s name. The law was instituted both to keep the family name alive because it could have been the human line of the Savior as well as provide an heir for the family property. With this law in mind the Sadducees construct this almost absurd scenario concluding it with a real zinger of a question, “Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” (Luke 20:33).