Sermon 1684 Luke 20.27-38 November 17, 2019
I wasn’t a good varsity basketball player in high school (a little short), but I was a good student. I remember the coach hammering into us you looked at the guy’s gut when you were defending him. “He’s never going anywhere his gut isn’t.” His head could bob, his arm could shoot this way or that, but if his gut didn’t move, I may as well have been made of stone. I thought if I just remembered what the coach told us and worked hard I could get minutes in the game, but I found out when it came to athletic talent, I was a little short, too.
Misdirection is the chief culprit in our text today. Like a basketball player with the ball in his hand, faking this way and that to outfox his defender and get an easy lane to the basket, this text jukes and jerks all over the place, if we don’t keep our eye on its gut. It is sort of like those birds that, when a predator gets too close to the nest, they conspicuously pretend they have a broken wing and lure the fox away from the chicks. I don’t want to give you nothing but a mouth full of feathers today. This text isn’t going anywhere its gut isn’t.
Children of the Resurrection
Enjoy absolute freedom (27-36).
Enjoy absolute life (37-38).
There is a resurrection of the dead. That is the gut of Jesus’ words to us today. Don’t be distracted. Don’t be fooled. Jesus is not talking about the littlest angel, marriage in heaven or the dead watching us. He is talking about the resurrection of the dead. This text is going nowhere unless it is talking about the resurrection of the dead.
But Jesus’ enemies, well, you know how it goes. When you can’t prove someone wrong you throw up distractions. The Sadducees were the educated elite of Jesus’ day. Sophisticated, worldly, they did not believe in the resurrection. They didn’t even believe in the Bible, not anything past the first five books which Moses wrote, that is. Religion provided a bigger stage for a person’s life lived well. They knew Jesus was teaching a resurrection of the dead. They couldn’t win an argument with him, so they did what my dean of students in college did. No motorcycles were allowed on campus. But my roomie had a motorcycle and wanted to park it on campus. “No. If we let you have a motorcycle on campus, everybody will have a motorcycle on campus.” My roomie should have said, “Well, that’s absurd. Pieper wouldn’t have a motorcycle. He can’t even ride a snowmobile without tipping it over.” Well, the Sadducees pushed the point to absurdity as they dug up one of the laws of Moses. If a husband died before he could have children, his widow was supposed to marry the next available and closest relative. The child from their union would be counted as the dead man’s child so no family line would die out. Now this guy died and his widow married his brother, but he died, too. She married the next in line. He kicked the bucket. She went through seven brothers in all and there were still no kids. Finally she died. “Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her (33)?”
The whole point of this absurd question is that there is no resurrection from the dead, because it would be so messy, only lawyers would think it heaven trying to untangle everything.
Jesus isn’t faked out. The resurrection of the dead is the gut. He never loses sight of it.
“The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children since they are children of the resurrection (34-36).”
“Your point is absurd,” Jesus says, “because people aren’t married in heaven.” They are children of the resurrection. They are absolutely free. Then, to illustrate his point, he makes the connection with angels. “They are like the angels.” Angels are single. We do not hear of Mrs. Gabriel. We do not hear of the Gabriel family. God created all the angels there ever would be when he created them at the beginning of the world. There is no need for marriage to produce more angels. In the same way, all the people that will enter heaven will do so in the resurrection. There will be no need to produce more people.
Children of the resurrection will enjoy absolute freedom. Let’s look at that, first. Our sinful human nature always bashes heaven. It pictures heaven as boring. All we are going to do is sing around the throne of God. Well, at many times in life, singing is fun and how many of us don’t go through the day listening to music? The angels and saints have got to be better than Guns N Roses. The sinful human nature gripes we won’t have anyone to look after us. We’ll be all alone. The reason we have people to look after us is that there are a lot of dangers and needs in this world. I tell every couple going through my premarital counseling that one of them will save the life of the other. And it’s true! But there will be no dangers in heaven. Come to think of it, everyone will love us as much as that special someone loves us here on earth. Our society is ironically riddled with sexism and at the same time prudish rules. In heaven, when you take lust out of the equation, you can expand your world of friends by 100%. No one is going to be hitting on anyone, because we enjoy being around each other way too much for that to happen. We won’t be saddled with the sinful human nature that can only use people.
If I were God, with all the belly-aching that goes on even when we look at heaven, I think I’d just walk away and write the human race off. But he didn’t. He sent his Son into the world even though he knew they would say Jesus only walked on water because he couldn’t swim. He came to save sinners, even though they were so, so sinful. He played no favorites, nailing the high and the mighty for their equally damnable sins of arrogance and pride. God sent his Son even though he knew they would crucify him for telling the truth. God forgave us our sins even while we were ungodly.
I can’t explain it. I would never do it that way. I am glad God is God and I am merely an object of his great love which I will never be able to understand. And he loves you in exactly the same way.
That’s why one of the pictures of the believers in heaven is the Virgin Daughter of Zion. You women, imagine when you were the most free in your lives. Not as a child--Mom and Dad made the rules. Not when you became a Mom--the needs of your children came first. Not even when you first got married, because you gave up so many of the things you loved to do because it wasn’t his thing. It was when you were old enough to move out of your parents’ home, but before you got married. If you wanted to have popcorn for dinner and watch movies all night in your pajamas, you go for it, girl. If you wanted to go to that new French restaurant, just get the squad together and have at it. An unexpected ticket for Donny and Marie’s last show? Count me in. That’s how the Bible pictures out lives in heaven. The children of the resurrection have absolute freedom. No obligations. Nothing to tie us down. And up to our waist in people who love and care for us. There is a resurrection from the dead. We are children of the resurrection.
Children of the resurrection enjoy absolute life.
Jesus has set the Sadducees back on their heels. Not only could everybody see the absurdity of their question, everyone could also see how mean-spirited they were. Jesus didn’t go for any of their fakes. Instead, he moves in to strip the basketball away from them.
“In the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord, ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive (37-38).”
Remember, the Sadducees only accepted the first five books of the Bible, the ones written by Moses, as God’s Word. I would answer your questions about a Mother Goose story very differently than I would a question about something in the Bible. So Jesus goes into Exodus. When God appeared to Moses, God said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Am. If Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were dead and gone, God would have had to say, “I was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Was. When our parents die we say, “Susie was my mother.” She is not my mother now, because she is dead. She was my mother. “He was my father,” my children will say of me one day. But God doesn’t work with past tense when it comes to us. It is never “was.” It’s always “is.” He is our God. He will always be our God. Even when we die, he is our God, because we, children of the resurrection, enjoy absolute life.
“In him was life and that life was the light of men,” you will hear this Christmas (John 1.4). As God, Jesus is life. He has life. He gives life. “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent,” Jesus once prayed (John 17.3). God gives that life to the children of the resurrection. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10.10).” This promise of Jesus can only come true on the day of resurrection, when our souls and bodies are reunited forever.
Here on earth, what is life? Don’t get me wrong. It is wonderful. And, forgive me if I think we live in one of the more wonderful parts of God’s world. We could be huddled around the television in our blankets and long johns, with temperatures the lowest they’ve been in November in a hundred years. And it just might stay that way until the Minnesota Twins have their home opener on April 2. Or we could be looking at another day of clear, blue skies and temperatures tickling 72 degrees. “Honey, I would have grilled steaks, but the neighbors invited us over to their back yard for kebabs and tadiq.”
But even here, in God’s country, our bodies betray us. Things don’t go as planned. We get old. We can’t do what we used to do. I swear, sometimes I feel like Moses in the wilderness. I have almost been here long enough to see an entire generation pass away. We are not as vibrant and bold as we used to be. That’s because this is not the full life Jesus was talking about. He was talking about heaven.
You can see it in our Old Testament lesson today. Isaiah promises there will be no setbacks in heaven. No more homes foreclosed. No more forced sales of property. We will enjoy the pleasurable labor of our own hands. The Lord will be right there to make sure everything is absolutely, positively the best it ever could be until he tops it tomorrow. “As the days of a tree, so shall the days of my people be (Isaiah 65.22).” Trees are the longest living thing we know. We are going to be the longest living things we know in heaven. We will never die. There will be no more strife, no more conflict. “The wolf and the lamb will lie down together. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain (Isaiah 65.25).” That’s the full life. That’s absolute life. And it will be ours.
Children of the Resurrection
Enjoy absolute freedom (27-36).
Enjoy absolute life (37-38).
With that, Jesus stripped the Sadducees of the basketball and took the momentum away from them. They wouldn’t dare ask him another public question. Ever.
When we focus on the gut issue, we will gain the momentum, too. Jesus’ words are not absurdities or fairy tales. They are hammer blows of truth letting us know there is a resurrection from the dead. Do not miss out on it. Keep believing in Jesus. The monkey is on the back of others as to why they don’t believe.