November 19, 2019
Pastor John Hering
27 Some of the Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to him. 28 They asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother should take the wife and raise up children for his brother.[a] 29 So there were seven brothers. The first took a wife and died childless. 30 The second took her as a wife, 31 and so did the third, and in the same way the seven died and left no children. 32 Finally the woman died too. 33 So in the resurrection, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as a wife.”
34 Jesus said to them, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy to experience that age and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 In fact, they cannot die any more, for they are like the angels. They are sons of God, because they are sons of the resurrection.
37 “Even Moses showed in the account about the burning bush that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord: ‘The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all are alive to him.”Luke 20:27-38
No one wants to die alone. For instance, Martin Luther was not alone when he died. And you could tell by the way he talked. In his last moments, he prayed to the Lord. “My God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.” For dying Luther, the only thing left that mattered was his relationship with the Lord.
An aged king, who spent years ruling over, caring for and protecting his people, finally lay on his deathbed. His son was by his side and he turned to him and said, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. So be strong and walk in the way of the Lord (paraphrase of 1 Kings 2:1-3).” For dying King David, the only thing left that mattered was his relationship with the Lord.
Or do you remember the death of Stephen? He tried to witness his faith to the religious leaders who had Jesus crucified. In their anger against him, they took him outside to stone him. He prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” For dying Stephen, the only thing left that mattered was his relationship with the Lord.
There are no distractions when someone is dying. All the worries of life, the concerns of the world, simply fade away. What you planned to do in a year or a month or next week no longer matters. When someone is dying, what matters and what doesn’t matter, what lasts and what doesn’t last – all these are made clear. The purpose of life is obvious – this is our time of grace to learn of God and trust in him. Death brings an end to so much, separating a person from all the things of this world, except this: death cannot separate God from his children. Today Jesus teaches us:
“When you hear ‘resurrection,’ think relationship.”
Death is not a laughing matter. But for the Sadducees, the resurrection was. During Holy Week, Jesus was teaching in the temple and way too popular among the people for the Sadducees to sit back and watch. They came to the Teacher to poke fun at him and his teaching of the resurrection. “If a married man dies childless and his brother takes his wife in obedience to the law of Moses, but then he dies and the next brother takes her as his wife, and so on, whose wife will she be at the resurrection?” “A-ha – see, this resurrection teaching doesn’t make sense. She had seven husbands in her life and there’s no good, logical answer for whose husband she’d be in heaven!” You know those memes on Facebook? The Sadducees just drew one of those. Picture their meme with this woman standing at the pearly gates scratching her head saying, “Which guy should I marry?”
So it still goes with the teaching of the resurrection from the dead. In our human experience, there’s no evidence, no proof, of a resurrection. The only thing we can see is that someone breathes their last breath and that’s it. From ancient Egypt to modern religious, people feel comfortable saying whatever they want about the afterlife. It’s like a blank page and you can write whatever you like. When was the last time you were at a funeral and the dead person went, “To a better place?” Have you ever been to a funeral where people didn’t think that went to a better place? But say, “They died and went to be in the arms of Jesus!” Oh no! You’ll get looked at funny if you’re that clear! But Jesus is the Truth and can reveal what human experience can’t. Today, Jesus fills up that blank page. His words alone fill your heart and mind so that when you have your one-time experience with death you can say, “I am God’s child for Jesus’ sake.”
Jesus explains using these words: The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. [There’s a way things go in this life – people marry and have children and they die…] 35 But those who are considered worthy to experience that age and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 In fact, they cannot die any more, for they are like the angels. They are sons of God, because they are sons of the resurrection. It strikes me that when Jesus teaches the resurrection and the different life of the age to come; he’s talking only about God’s children in heaven. He doesn’t mention hell or eternal death – because that’s not living, that’s not real resurrection or what it means to be truly alive. The definition of hell and eternal death has no connection, no relationship with the living God – cut off from him and any good thing that comes from him. That’s hell.
But the resurrection Jesus mentions here is for the children of God. True life, true resurrection, comes to those who are considered worthy of life from the dead. Well, who does the considering? God does! These are people considered by God to be worthy. That’s a relationship! God is planner, player and pronouncer of this resurrection!
So the question is: does God consider me worthy? I love that question. Not because I’m full of myself and think I’m perfect. But I love it because that question is very different from “Am I worthy?” You and I are born sinful, born dead to anything that pleases God. And every new hour of our lives provides more evidence of that fact. You and I must confess with the prodigal son that we are lost and not worthy to be his children. But the question is: does God consider me worthy? That is the grace of God. It knows that I am unworthy, yet still he considers me worthy. How can that be? Through Jesus. God made room in his house for the unworthy through Jesus. Jesus was worthy as a Son in my place. With him God was well pleased. The punishment he bore on the cross, he bore for the sin and guilt that made me an unworthy child. And God raised him from the dead, with the promise that all who believe in Jesus are considered God’s children too – his adopted children – but children of his house nonetheless, and therefore, children of the resurrection.
I’m a child of the 80s. Generation X. All that means is I have a connection to the 80s and that group of people because of when I was born. Here Jesus says that as children of God we are children of the resurrection. You are connected to the resurrection, to the eternal life God promised. Just as I can say it’s a fact that I lived in the 80s and experienced life in that decade, so you can say with faith’s confidence, “I am a child of the resurrection. I will be raised to life as Jesus was. I will be like the angels and no longer die. God will wipe every tear from my eyes. No more death or mourning or crying or pain. Because that’s the life God promises for his children, that they are children of the resurrection.”
Child of the resurrection, God’s power to raise the dead is power to raise you when you die. God will make you new. God will raise you imperishable and transform your body to be a body of glory that will never die. Take that truth with you to your deathbed. You are not there alone with death. God is with you and will connect you to the resurrection he promised for Jesus’ sake. When you hear resurrection, think relationship!
Jesus also used the story of Moses at the burning bush to show the resurrection relationship between God and his people: “37 “Even Moses showed in the account about the burning bush that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord: ‘The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’[c] 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all are alive to him.” When God called Moses from the burning bush, it was a miracle. The bush was on fire, but it did not burn up. And what God said was also a miracle – that even though Abraham and Isaac and Jacob had died long ago, he was still their God because they were still living with him. “I am the God of Abraham…I am the God of Isaac…I am the God of Jacob.” When God spoke those words to Moses, at the same time he could look in the risen eyes of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. To God they were alive and in his presence! That’s the resurrection! That’s heaven!
There are tons of beautiful pictures of heaven given to us in the Bible. I know, so many people are worried about whether their dog will be in heaven some day. Really? The greatest part of heaven is what Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me!” Heaven is certainly pictured as the perfect paradise. But don’t be mistaken. Heaven is much more than some glorified retirement destination. The best part about heaven is being in the presence of God.
Brothers and sisters, right now God is the God of your forefathers and of your ancestors who believed. Rejoice that he is still their God today too. He is near them. They live in his presence. They see his face always. The God you praise and worship and thank for countless blessings in your life is the God who shares eternal life with his children.
Fill in the blank with your name and those dear to you who believe – God is the God of grandpa, of grandma, of my uncle, of my spouse. Take heart that he is ever the God of the living! No wonder God’s Word would say: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of one of his saints” (Psalm 116:15). God with his saints forever – it doesn’t get any better than that! When you hear resurrection, think relationship – a relationship with God that will never end. This means No Christian is alone when they die. Death may take away Luther, King David and Stephen—and someday you—from this from this life, but nothing, not even death, can take away your relationship with God through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.