Sermon 11/11/2007 – “They’re So Sad, You See”

November 14, 2007 at 5:55 pm Leave a comment

The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection from the dead.

That’s why they were sad, you see.

It’s a pretty bad joke,

but it’s true.

The Sadducees didn’t find the resurrection of the dead in the five books of Moses,

the Torah of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy,

and so they didn’t believe in it.

They used to drive the Pharisees crazy with brain-teaser puzzles like this one.

The Pharisees did believe in the resurrection of the dead,

and so for a laugh, a Sadducee would ask a Pharisee a question like this:

“In the Resurrection, will a resurrected person need ritual cleansing

because he is in physical contact with a dead person,

namely, himself?”

There is no answer to this question. 

There was never meant to be.

It’s designed to show the absurdity of this whole idea,

that there can be a resurrection of the dead.


When Jesus shows up in Jerusalem

after his long journey from Galilee,

and is preaching and teaching in the temple area,

the Sadducees try one of these arguments out on him.

Maybe they were trying to sound him out on his beliefs,

or maybe they already knew them and wanted to make fun of them.

Nevertheless, the story about the wife and the seven husbands

reveals more than they think it does about their misconceptions

about the Resurrection.

Like many people today who don’t believe in God

because they have a false idea about who God is,

the Sadducees have a false idea about the Resurrection.

They think that it is a re-animation;

a mere continuation of earthly life.

If a woman’s husband died, she was free to marry another.

If that one died, she was free to marry another,

and so on, and so forth.

But if all eight were raised,

who would get her?

It seems an insoluble problem,

but it really reveals a set of assumptions.


The assumption is that our earthly relationships

define our relationships in the Resurrection.

And that is the point where Jesus attacks the argument.

He points out that marriage and family

no longer have the defining force in heaven as they do on earth.

Because in the resurrection,

we are defined out of our relationship with God

and we wholly live out of that relationship.

Not that we will lose contact with those who love us in this life,

but we won’t name each other my child, my spouse, my parent.

Instead, we’ll all have one familial relationship –

God’s child.

God names and claims us as his own –

that is the only relationship that totally defines our lives.

And for Jesus, going to the five books of Moses,

the mere fact that God can name the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

after they have died is an sign of resurrection, of re-creation.

If God speaks a name, then that person is not out of God’s reach,

that person is not dead to him, but that person lives in him.


It would be sad, you see, to think

that the life after this one

was defined by the conventions of this present age.

If it were so, then wars would continue,

conflicts would continue,

seven men would desire one woman as their own,

we would continue to live out of our possessing and being possessed.

But the resurrection life is the life of knowing all from the perspective of God’s love.

And that’s how we can start to live in this life as well.

To start to live a life when we are no longer concerned with what things are mine

because all things are God’s

is to have a foretaste of the resurrection.

 To start to live a life when we are not so concerned about having someone that is mine

is to have a foretaste of the resurrection.

Let there be no mistake,

marriage and family are good things,

and many of us are called into marriage and parenthood.

But we Christians especially should be wary of making being in a relationship

the greatest good.

It’s a lesson that our teens could use, that single adults can use,

maybe even that we married folks could use –

it might take the pressure off.

We are defined by our baptismal relationship to God in Christ.

That is our primary identity,

and our relationships in this life flow from this baptismal relationship.

 To start to live a life when we are not so concerned with hanging on to my life

is to have a foretaste of the Resurrection.

For Jesus, arguing with the Sadducees in the temple,

the question of the Resurrection was far from a mere academic debate.

The question was real,

for his life was hanging in the balance even as he spoke.

To believe that his name would not be forgotten by his God,

to believe that his life was in God and could not be taken from God,

was to believe that he did not have to cling to life no matter what the cost,

that he could confidently go forward in obedience to God and love of neighbor

no matter the threats against him.

It meant being able to forgive those who deprived him of freedom and of life

because he could see them all from God’s perspective –

sinners desperately laboring under the necessity to control and define their lives.

He would free them from that, and therefore he laid down his life,

confident that it was his to take up again, in the love of God.


The transformation of resurrection begins now –

it is completed by the resurrection.

The Sadducees were sad, you see, because a continued life

with our own limited perspective

and others with their own limited perspective

would be a resurrection not worth having.

But Jesus describes a God who transforms the world,

and who transforms us

into who we were meant to be,

into who we are in baptism,

his own daughter or son.

Not Americans or Saudi Arabians or Mexicans or French or Brazilian,

not white or black or any other color of the rainbow,

not in this family and not in that one,

not rich or poor, winner or loser, slave or free person,

none of these terms which define us or by which we define ourselves

will be used in the age that is coming,

but just God’s son, God’s daughter:

child of God.

Entry filed under: Sermons.

Praying the Psalms with Christ – Divine Word, Human Word Sermon 11/25/2007 (Christ the King) – “Today”

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