November 6, 2022
"Seven Weddings and a Resurrection"
Let’s take a deep breath and open our hearts, mind, soul and spirit to receive the message that God has for us this morning. Let’s focus our thoughts on the mystic presence of the Holy One. Let us pray: Lord God, Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, please let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Strength, our Rock and our Redeemer. In Jesus’ name, amen.
I’d like to begin today’s sermon message with Hebrews 4: 12-13, which reads, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
A family feud is usually an argument on more than one level. For example, the Parents and the teenager may be arguing about a curfew, but on a deeper level it is a conflict about responsibility and authority. Today’s Gospel lesson describes a controversy within the Jewish faith family of the time of Jesus. A question about what happens after death was, on the surface, a question about the interpretation of scripture. But by asking this question, the Pharisees and Sadducees challenged Jesus on what he had been
doing throughout his ministry. This is where we get the title for today's message, “Seven Weddings and a Resurrection”, because the Pharisees and Sadducees of that time liked to pose trick questions for Jesus and others, as they tried to use the Laws of Moses to trap Jesus and make Him look less than Messianic. Jesus had been preaching and teaching about a new way of living as God’s people, and the parables he preached, of the wicked tenants, then of his cleansing of the temple, and his lament over Jerusalem all have been nuisances to the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were committed in trying to trap Jesus and make him look bad. The Sadducees were the priestly and aristocratic class within Judaism. They were socially and theologically conservative and wanted to keep order and maintain the status quo within the temple organization, worship activities and society at large. They considered only the Torah, the first five books of the Bible to be authoritative. And, since the afterlife was not described by Moses, they did not believe in it. The Pharisees were more active in the local synagogues. Their teaching of religious law offered interpretation based not only on the Torah, but also gave consideration to the writings of the prophets and the oral tradition that held a belief in the resurrection from the dead.
So, the question is, "What will resurrection life look like” (?), which addresses the question that the Sadducees posed to Jesus. By remembering that the Sadducees are trying to trick Jesus, we can see that they are more concerned with the letter of the Law of Moses than with God's law. Jesus refutes the question of the woman who had seven weddings, and seven husbands, by making two observations. Jesus says, "The people of this age (in the here and now) marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection." In other words, resurrected life will not be like life as we know it. Jesus tells us that the redeemed will be like the angels.
Jesus implies that God offers the everlasting power of eternal life to the living, in the here and now. So as believers, we live in eternity now, but that eternity will be an eternity where angelic values will supercede the earthly values that the Sadducees tried to use to trick Jesus. The Sadducees valued the Mosaic Laws that pertained to widowhood more than the subjective Godly ideas of freedom, faith, justice, equality, liberty, grace, love and mercy that Jesus refers to as being heavenly virtues. So, Jesus exposes the unjust assumption that life for women and men in the resurrection will be a system in which families, men in particular, own women as chattel or are the property of those men, who then can hand them down the chain of brothers to fulfill the family's patriarchal desire for heirs. Jesus turns the Mosaic model for marriage on its head, by reflecting on a misperceived afterlife that brings to light an unjust social system.
Jesus says, "those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection." Jesus is telling us that the important laws of God, which are to love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself, are more important than all the rest of the Mosaic Law combined.
You can see that handing a wife down from one brother to the next diminishes the life of the woman by reducing her life to slavery to a patriarchal idea. She becomes a slave to a patriarchal system. I can't imagine this to be any part of God's design for us, to make slaves out of its better half. Yet, this was the end result of Mosaic Law, which the Pharisees and Sadducees were arrogantly clinging to. Jesus then comes onto the scene to tell them that they are misleading themselves by thinking that those laws were more important than God's love. Jesus tells them plainly that they are living in a dream world, a dream world that makes slaves out of its women, reducing women to chattel, and ignores the laws of God that speak of grace, love, mercy, justice, liberty, freedom and equality. Jesus also said, have you never heard, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice?"
His opponents have tried to force Jesus into a corner, but Jesus quotes Moses to refute those who used Moses as their model. God did not consign Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to the emptiness of death. Jesus declares that to God who created them, they are alive in God. Jesus goes on to proclaim that new meaning and purpose are available for God’s people right now, from the “God not of the dead, but of the living; for to [God] all of them are alive.”
This has been a hard lesson for we humans to learn. We know this because those laws have been used by God fearing Christians for the last two thousand years everywhere to hold down various peoples in all types and forms of slavery: the slavery of human beings during the first four hundred years after the discovery of the new world; economic slavery, slavery to class structure and slavery to the idea that equality is a value best reserved for a specific race, like the Aryan race of the NAZIs, or the idea that women shouldn't have the right to vote, or that LGBTQ men and women are all going to hell, so therefore should be treated like sub-humans.
These are all ideas that Jesus came to dispel and put to an end, and the Pharisees and Sadducees were so threatened by the teachings of Jesus that they nailed Him to a cross to suffer, die, and disappear into the rat hole of a lost history. By killing Jesus, they figured that His radical ideas of love, grace, justice, freedom, equality, mercy, liberty and forgiveness would die with Him, and they then could continue to look for an earthly Messiah that would lead them in revolt over the Romans. Jesus would be gone; dead; forgotten; deceased: nada, a stiff, gone with zero legacy. All gone.
But wait! Remember that the title of today's message is, "Seven Weddings and a Resurrection!" In an attempt to trap Jesus, the Sadducees have contrived an outrageous scenario in which a woman marries and is widowed by seven brothers. In their wanting to know whose wife she will be in the resurrection; they are trying to assert that the idea of resurrection is absurd. Jesus then observes that in the resurrection, there will be no need for families reproducing themselves because people in the afterlife will not die, thus eliminating the need for procreation. Jesus doesn't say that wives and husbands won't know each other in the afterlife.
Then, Jesus takes His point one step further and says, "But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord God, “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of
Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." If we look at Exodus 3:6, we read that God said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God."
Did you notice when Jesus said, "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive!??" ALL ARE ALIVE! Resurrected life is not some absurd, weird, strange, and unbelievable concept, as the Sadducees would have us believe. NO! It is the standard and norm, it is the rule and the model and the benchmark that God applies to every person! "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive!" And Jesus Christ, the first fruits of the new age, proved this to us by appearing in His resurrected self, and in physical form; and not just to a selected few, but to over 500 people at one time.
Friends, this is Good News! This is reason enough for thanksgiving, that Jesus Christ has reminded each of us that we live in eternity now, and that the calling into eternity by Jesus Christ to each of us is the standard, and yet it is so fantastic, that we could not expect it to be contained to just a few selected people. It cannot be withheld from ANYONE, and it points to the FACT that God loves us, each and every one of us so much, that we are now and will be forever, alive in Jesus Christ, His Son. Amen? Let us pray:
Rev. Jan Ekstedt MDiv.