Resurrection or Not?
It seems so sophisticated and grown up to believe that all there is is this present life. Adoration is given to the wonders of nature discovered by science, and the great future hope is to look forward to becoming one with the cosmos at death. This rejection of personal life after death was not conjured up by skeptics in the 20th or 21st Century.
The Sadducees, the Jewish party in Jerusalem holding the religious power and purse strings in the 1st Century, defined themselves by denying the Pharisees’ belief in resurrection. They feuded over this, but the Sadducees and Pharisees united in their hatred of Jesus. So when the Pharisees failed to trap Jesus with their tax question (Matthew 22:17) a few days before the cross, the Sadducees mounted the next assault using a story that seemed to make belief in the resurrection ludicrous.
They began with Moses’ command about levirate marriage where a brother needed to impregnate his deceased brother’s wife so that his line in Israel would not end (Deuteronomy 25:5-7). Then they applied this law to seven brothers who tried to do this but failed. Finally, the woman, married seven times, died. The hook in their story was, “In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” (Matthew 22:28)
Jesus rebuked them. They hadn’t read their Scriptures carefully, and worse, they took God’s power out of the equation. First, their entire argument was based on a false premise that future resurrected heavenly life is identical to our present earthly life. Jesus, the One who actually knows what heavenly life is like, said that in the next life men would not marry and women would not be given in marriage (Matthew 22:30). They would be like the angels and procreation was not part of this existence. Therefore, their question about who the woman would be married to wouldn’t even come up in heaven. Then Jesus challenged their theology.
He took them to the heart of the Pentateuch where the LORD appeared to Moses in the burning bush and introduced Himself, “I Am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6). God didn’t speak of His relationship with the founding patriarchs of Israel in the past tense; therefore, they are still alive. I love Jesus’ assurance, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living “ (Matthew 22:32) . Jesus knew His Father was the God of the living before the cross. This is why He could confidently endure the cross because He knew the story couldn’t possibly end there. It had to be resolved in the resurrection.
LORD, if I’m there when another friend dies or I look at a corpse in the funeral home, I’m tempted to think, “Maybe this is all there is. How do I know that my dead brother or sister is still alive?” Thank you for your Son’s declaration that You are the God of the living. Your very existence as the life-giving God guarantees that you can give resurrected life, just like the glorious life you gave your Son after the crucifixion. I need You to increase my faith in this resurrection reality this week.
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