Give them their due. It was a clever question in keeping with their commitment to the text of the Law (Luke 20: 27 – 38). While liberal in engaging with the world around them, they were fundamentalists when it came to handling the scriptures. They were also consistent in their approach. They did not believe in the resurrection because it was not mentioned in the teachings of Moses.
The question put to Jesus could have come straight out of Deuteronomy (25:5) and may well have been one of those eternal essays assigned to every class of trainee Sadducees in their respective training courses. So, of the seven brothers, whose wife will she be at the time of resurrection?
Whatever of the possible rationale supporting family, land, inheritance and the perceived blessing, in and of children, which underpinned the teaching of Moses promoted here by the Sadducees, Jesus appears to allow the questioners their fundamentalism. He does not challenge their use of the words of Moses. He does transcend, however, their interpretation of the scriptures using them to challenge the Sadducees’ position on the resurrection.
Yet more than this, Jesus also pushes the hearers to consider their value before God. A value which is not based on whether or not people have children but on the reality that each and every one of them is a child before God!
Thus, it seems Jesus is trying to encourage the questioners, and any others who are listening, to realise primary family connection is through each one being a child of God. When this is acknowledged and recognised all other family arrangements become secondary and therefore less relevant. So the key point at issue is not whose wife is the childless woman going to be in heaven, but to whose family does she belong as a child of God.
This may well be a challenge to many today who promote an understanding that when we reach heaven we will remain within our families and see those loved ones who have gone before. While not directly challenging this, Jesus’ words again reminds us that being with our loved ones is secondary to being primarily loved by God and belonging to his family when we reach heaven.
Here, not only will we be counted as children of God, but we will be equal to the angels in relationship with him!
So in this week to come,
- may we acknowledge the integrity of people where they seek to live out lives of faith based on their understanding of scripture, even when it does not accord to our understanding nor practice
- may we find ways to dialogue that share understanding and enable constructive insights to be gained
- may we ever affirm people as children of the God and who are each counted as equal to the angels before him; and,
- may we strive faithfully to bring the heavenly resurrection into earthly living that all may live in him today
Amen; Lord, have mercy…