Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
He Is the God of the Living - November 10, 2013 - Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27) - Text: Luke 20:27-40
You may have noticed, or not, but our liturgical color is back to green this morning as two weeks ago we celebrated the reformation of the church and the work of Dr. Martin Luther and our liturgical color was the celebration color of red, and last week we celebrated all the faithful saints who have passed on before us and the liturgical color of white and purity were on the altar. This week we move back to continue our Pentecost season of growth with the color of green. Counting today, we have three more Sundays in this present church year and on Sunday, December 1 we will begin a new church year with the season of Advent, but more on that when we get to that Sunday.
I am fascinated by people of some denominations who make such interesting statements as, “We are a Bible church and we don’t have any creeds.” Usually this is a misunderstanding of our denomination and the fact that we do have our confessional statements of faith in what we call the Book of Concord which is what we are studying in Bible Class and I would invite everyone to come and study with us. Perhaps you will learn how to be better able to give an answer to such interesting statements. Personally, I would like to respond in a snide way and say, “Oh, we threw the Bible out.” And I would like to point out that their statement is a creed of sorts, a bad creed, but a creed, or a statement of faith nonetheless. But that would not be answering in a gentle way. Anyway, the reason we have our confessional books and statements is that, as we hear in our Gospel reading for this morning, God does not gives us a systematic description of Himself as we have laid out in our confession, rather God gives us a historical narrative of Himself and through that historical narrative we learn a little about Him at a time. Thus, as we hear in our text for this morning and as we have been hearing in our text throughout this Pentecost season, not only did the Pharisees and teachers of the law get it wrong about Jesus and the Bible, so did the Sadducees.
As we get into our text, as we have been touring along with Jesus, He has been teaching and preaching, doing signs, wonders and miracles as proof of His divinity and humanity, of His Messiahship and all along the way the Pharisees and Scribes had been questioning and testing Jesus. Of course, as we have been hearing, they have failed every step of the way as well, yet they remained unconvinced and unconverted.
So, now in our text it is the Sadducees time to have their turn. About the Sadducees we should make note that although they do believe in the Mosaic law and the Pentateuch they do not believe in the resurrection to eternal life. As one comedian punningly stated it, “the Sadducees are sad you see, because they do not believe in the resurrection.” As we will see, they do not believe in the resurrection because of their own misunderstanding of God’s Word, which reminds us, again as we have discussed in Bible Class, there is only one interpretation of God’s Word and a whole lot of misinterpretations because of the sinful nature of those who misinterpret God’s Word. So, how do we know we get it right? We know we get it right by going back to the Word which points to Jesus. We get it right when we point to Jesus and Jesus is running the show.
It is the Sadducees turn and so they ask a question in order to trap Jesus. The Sadducees poise a rather ludicrous scenario according to Mosaic law as proof of their denial of a resurrection. They asked, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. 30And the second 31and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32Afterward the woman also died. 33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife” (v. 28b-32).
A man marries a woman and dies, his brother marries her then dies. All seven brothers were married to the woman. All seven died without leaving an heir. Then the question is asked, “Whose wife will she be in heaven?” The Sadducees think they have come up with the perfect scenario to prove their denial of a resurrection. You can imagine the smug look on their face after they asked this question as they wait for Jesus to squirm and be unable to answer. But their self-satisfaction is short lived.
Jesus responses, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him” (v. 34b-38).
As we said earlier, there is only one interpretation of the Word of God. There are many misinterpretations and here we see that the Sadducees have indeed misinterpreted the Word of God and Jesus, who is the author of all Scripture explains to them where they have failed in their understanding. First Jesus explains that the Sadducees do not understand the distinction between life in this world and life in the world to come, especially and including marriage. Marriage is God’s gift and blessing for this world. His blessing of companionship, chastity, and children. In heaven there will be no marriage because in heaven there will be no need to populate the earth, nor will there be a need for companionship and chastity as we will all be perfect and in perfect companionship with one another.
Not only does Jesus address the issue of the resurrection, but He also addresses another issue of misinterpretation of these Sadducees, that is of their lack of believing in angels. You may have missed it, but Jesus says that in heaven we will be equal with angels suggesting that in heaven there will be no marriage because we will be like the angels (v. 36), whom we know are perfect, sinless and sexless, in other words procreation will not be an issue in heaven.
The Sadducees do not understand marriage on earth or in heaven, they deny God’s creation of His messengers, that is His angles, and they also do not understand the resurrection. Jesus is attempting to teach the Sadducees, as if they have come to be taught. They are actually like many people in our congregations today, those who have a misunderstanding of what God says in His Word, but rather than attend Bible Class and learn appropriately they would rather stay away and remain in their ignorance so they think they have an excuse in being wrong. I cannot tell you how many times I have taught classes on church doctrine, such as why we have closed communion only to have those who disagree not attend so they might not hear the correct understanding and instead remain in their ignorance and complain about why it is not the way they want it. Anyway, Jesus reminds the Sadducees of Moses calling God the God of the living Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and this is after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been physically deceased for over 2000 years.
And so, Jesus reminds the Sadducees that God is not a God of the dead, but a God of the living. Those who have passed on from this world, those who have physically died, are not dead, but their souls are in heaven with the Lord. There is a resurrection of the dead. There will be a day of judgement and the ignorance and denial of the Sadducees will not negate the truth and validity of the Word of God. Quite a warning to these Sadducees and to us even today.
Interestingly enough, although Jesus may not have convinced these Sadducees, He did gain some respect from the Scribes, who no longer dared to question Him. Again, a reminder to us, as we have been following along through this Pentecost Season, this season of growing in our faith and as an invitation to our regular Sunday Bible Class, it is through our study and hearing God’s Word that the Holy Spirit uses what we have heard and learned so that as we have the opportunity and as we are asked we too can, with God’s authority and promise to be with us, give an answer for the faith we have in Jesus as our Savior.
So, what does this mean? Jesus gives us instruction concerning the difference between this world and heaven, especially the explanation that marriage is a blessing for this world only, in heaven we will be members of the bride of Christ. This world is a place of imperfection and sin. We are conceived and born in sin in this world. Every intention of our heart continues to be evil all the time. Our nature is to sin and then to run and hide from God. Our nature is to not want to get up on Sunday mornings and be in Divine Service, rather our nature and our natural inclination is to stay away. Of course the devil continues to encourage our nature, because he does not want us anywhere near where the gifts of God are given out. Yes, we live in this world, but we are to remember that we are not of this world. This world is only a temporary weigh station for our permanent dwelling in heaven. Certainly while we live in this world we are to take advantage and enjoy the life our Lord has given us, but not to the detriment of our eternal well being. Thus, God has given us our day of rest. He has given for us to have an opportunity to be refreshed in our faith, to be strengthened in our lives so that we might bear up under the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh. And His desire is that we desire to be where He gives the gifts He has to give.
God’s Word is so important to us and we see how important His Word is especially as we hear in our text for today. Apart from God’s Word we might end up like the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees. We might end up with a complete misunderstanding of the Word of God. We might end up denying angels, and even worse, end up denying the resurrection even our own resurrection. Our text is important as we hear Jesus give proof of the resurrection in the lives of the previously earthly departed saints, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And notice how Jesus Himself uses His own Word as its own interpretation always pointing to Himself.
God’s Word is so important and that is why our making use of His Word is so important. God has given us His Word as a means through which He comes to us, as we have been learning over the past few weeks. It is through God’s Word that He comes to seek and to save the lost. It is God’s Word which tells us the correct and true account of human history including the creation of the world. It is God’s Word which speaks to us of the reason the world is in the mess it is in, because of Adam and Eve’s sin and the curse of the world. It is also God’s Word which tells us of God’s promise to make all things right, that is His promise to restore our relationship with Himself. It is God’s Word which tells us that it is only by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus, faith given to us through that Word, by the Holy Spirit that we too have eternal life in heaven. It is not we who save ourselves, as we are conceived and born in sin. It is Jesus who is the one promised of old. Jesus who is the one who is the sinless Son of God, truly God and truly man. It is Jesus who fulfilled all the promises of the coming Messiah and who fulfilled all the ceremonial laws which pointed to Himself and the once for all sacrifice on the cross. It is Jesus who took our sins and paid the price, the eternal spiritual death penalty for us in our place. It is Jesus who suffered, died and rose and who has sent the Holy Spirit to come to us, to give us, to strengthen and keep us in faith and indeed to stir in us a response of faith. As we said last week, our faith shows itself in our desire to be given the gifts God has to give and to respond in giving ourselves, our first fruits, our tithes even offering our time and talents in service to our Lord, serving Him as we serve others.
As we hear Jesus Words this morning we rejoice in our loving, gift giving God who pours out on us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give and who stirs in us to respond saying, to Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.