Tonight, Christ is confronted by the Sadducees. We might compare them to modern theological liberals, but that is an oversimplification. It is enough for us now to know that they denied the teaching of the resurrection of the dead.
These Sadducees ask Christ who will be married to whom at the resurrection. If a woman married seven different men, who will be her husband after this world passes away? This question amounts to the Sadducees mocking the resurrection of the dead. It is so ridiculous, they think, because if there were a resurrection, then it would be impossible to sort out who is married to whom. They think they are so smart, and whoever believes in the silly idea that dead bodies will come to life is stupid.
Christ, on the other hand, had been prophesying for a long time that He would die and rise again the third day. This exchange in the Holy Gospel takes place in Holy Week, only a few days from the moment that Christ would leave His own tomb bodily, fully alive. Perhaps we can see the irony.
Christ answers the Sadducees by rebuking them for doubting the Word and power of God. Their cold hearts disbelieved basic teaching of Scripture that even the Old Testament contained, even before Christ made that teaching an incarnate reality on Easter morning. The Sadducees were not only mocking a teaching that they found unbelievable. They were disbelieving what God said.
May we never be found to do the same.
Christ goes on to explain that in the resurrection there will be neither marrying nor giving in marriage. Instead we will be like the angels in this way, since angels do not marry.
Now, some of us say, “Wait! I want to be married to my spouse forever!” That’s nice. But Christ denies that. Marriage is till death do you part. Our marital love does not overpower the words of Christ. Is this bad, that we are not married in heaven? No. Marriage is simply not part of the perfection of the life to come. Instead something even more wondrous takes its place. Exactly what that will be like is beyond our knowledge, and we will have to wait and see. But think of it this way: If marriage at its very best is not as good as what awaits us at the resurrection, then eternal life will be fantastic indeed.
Christ also adds this teaching, and pay close attention to what He says: “Concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
People often draw a conclusion from this that is wrong. They say that Christ is saying that Abraham and Isaac and Jacob were still alive with God in heaven. This is not what Christ is talking about, because He said, “Concerning the resurrection of the dead.” It was also the topic of conversation with the Sadducees all along. He is therefore NOT talking about the spirits of the dead dwelling with God in heaven.
Is it true that the spirits of the faithful rest with the Lord? Yes. That is a teaching of Scripture. But that is not what Christ is talking about here.
Instead, what does Christ mean? Christ is speaking about the future resurrection. He is saying that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who are dead, will most surely be raised on the Last Day. This is so because God is the God of the living and not the God of the dead. Therefore, as the God of Abraham, it cannot be that Abraham will remain dead forever. He will, without a doubt, rise. The same with Isaac and Jacob, of course.
That’s it. Pretty simple. We confuse the issue often in our day because we water down the evil that is death. People often talk and act as if people don’t die at all. If so, then how can you raise the dead, if people are not dead? But that is the kind of confusion we sometimes arrive at in our times.
So take this away with you today. The Lord promises you resurrection from the dead. Of course, He will raise everyone. But for you, it will be as it will be for the Patriarchs. As they will rise to be with God and the saints in glory forever, blessed in a perfect life that is even better than the best marriage ever, so will you.
Is there a doubt? Maybe Christ got it wrong (our flesh might say). But notice that Christ was not only quoting Scripture. He was there. The quotation He makes about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is from the burning bush. Who exactly said, “I am the God of . . .”? It was the Angel of the Lord, who is the Lord. In other words, the Son of God who is equal with God, the Second Person of the Trinity. That Second Person who spoke to Moses also stood before the Sadducees, and also speaks in His Word to us today. He can promise that the promise of God is true because He is the One who makes the promise.
He is the Bridegroom of the Church, and will be forever. That marriage does not end with death, but continues forever. He promises continuing, eternal, flawless love and communion with us.
How should we trust these promises? They sound impossible to our natural reason. Remember that our sinful flesh is just as scornful and disbelieving as the Sadducees. So our natural reason wants to mock. Dead people coming to life? Immortal bodies living forever? We’re gonna need some pretty convincing proof, right?
So Christ says, “Okay.” And He went to the Cross and removed the sting of death, which is our sins. And He was buried, truly dead, and then was raised the third day. Easter is the proof that resurrection is true. His resurrection shows and demonstrates to you that you will be raised like Him, to live forever. Death will have no more dominion over you, as it now has none over Him. He has paid the price, and He has performed the proof that His promises will not fail.
Therefore trust Him. Believe His Word and do not mock, as some do. Eat His Meal, where His holy Body and Blood seal His eternal promises. Be strengthened for the long and difficult road that is this present life. And by the Spirit’s grace, we will wait patiently for the glorious Day when all things are consummated by our Lord’s power and grace. Amen.
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