Our God of the Living

Sermon 1829 Luke 20.27-38 November 6, 2022

For a hundred years the world has been fascinated by the corpse of one man—King Tut. In November of 1922 Howard Carter discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Carter drilled a peephole through the inner door at the end of a hallway. His patron, Lord Carnarvon asked, “Can you see anything?” “Yes. It’s wonderful.” And King Tut fever was born. The American Southwest adopted Mideast flavors. Architects picked up on the Egyptian theme, even calling a Las Vegas casino the Sahara. Camel rides were popular. They imported date palms. To this day Walk Like an Egyptian is a catchy tune, you can stay at the Luxor and at least one mangy cat in a syndicated cartoon pretends at times to be King Tut. All this for a dead man whose tomb was heaped high with grave goods designed to keep his life going in the world to come.

What did they do for the workers who built the burial complex?

The Christianity of the Bible is concerned about the living, not the dead. It isn’t callousness. It isn’t denial. Our faith doesn’t focus on the dead because we worship

Our God of the Living.

1. He gives eternal life (27, 37-38).

2. He gives eternal freedom (28-36).

The religious establishment of Jesus’ day were the Sadducees. They kept the Temple, that money machine in religious tourism, going. If it wasn’t about the Temple worship, it wasn’t on their radar. Their Bible ended with the first five books of Moses. And since their view of the Temple worship had nothing to do with eternal life, they denied the resurrection.

“Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question (27).”

During the last week of his life they came to Jesus to try to make him look like a fool while he was teaching in their Temple. God was concerned that no Jewish family should die out. So if a man married a woman and died without children, she was to marry a close (unmarried) relative and the first child would carry on the name of the dead man. The family name would live on. The story of Ruth revolves around this point.

But the Sadducees fabricate a ridiculous story. A woman’s husband dies. No children. So they follow the Law of Moses and she marries the dead man’s brother. He dies. No children. There’s a second unmarried brother! They get hitched. He dies. You get the picture. Seven brothers all die and finally the woman dies. How is this messy situation going to be straightened out in heaven? The obvious answer to the Sadducees is it won’t, because when you are dead you are dead. Their religion did not offer eternal life. It simply provided a bigger stage for you to live on.

Jesus corrects their core mistake. Our God of the living gives eternal life.

“But in the account of the 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 (27-28).”

Jesus goes to the book of Exodus in their Bible. When God appears to Moses at the burning bush, he says, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob (Exodus 3.6).” God didn’t say, “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” If I am speaking precisely, I would have to say my father WAS Donald Edward Pieper. I use the past tense because he has died. He is no longer on earth where those relationships matter. If Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were dead and gone, God would have had to say, “I WAS the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” The idea would then be, “I did great things through them, so hold on to your hat, Moses, you are in for a real ride!” The point instead was God is the God of the living. Death is no obstacle, so anything that puny Pharaoh (one of King Tut’s predecessors) can do is no match for what our God can dish out.

If you claim to go by the Bible (and the Sadducees did), you were caught. It was as clear as the nose on your face. Is is is and that’s all it is. All are alive to God. Our God of the living gives eternal life. Case closed. Drop the mike. Walk away.

Now let’s get to that ridiculous story the Sadducees told. Jesus has something to say about that, too.

“The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age 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 (35-36).”

Marriage is for this life only. That’s why all your wedding vows went something to the effect, “’till death us do part.” One of the blessings and reasons for marriage (not the only one or the most important one) is to bring children into the world. In heaven there will be no more need to bring children into existence. All the saved will be there and death will not thin the ranks. So you don’t need a new generation rising to take their place. Nor do you need the activity to start the whole thing.

That’s the point of Jesus saying “they will be like the angels.” He didn’t say we will be angels. We will be people in heaven, just as we are people here on earth. I can no more become an angel in heaven than I can become a river otter. As the angels do not die, we will not die.

We will be free from the fear of death. Our God of the living gives eternal freedom. Freedom from death is the greatest freedom of them all.

But if you look closely (and I suggest we do look closely), there is another freedom promised to those in heaven. Remember the opening of John’s Gospel? Jesus “gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will (John 1.12-13).” A husband’s will. It limits a woman’s freedom. We see husbands act unhusbandly indeed when Abraham says Sarah is his sister and the Pharaoh is more than eager to book her for a sleep-over. Isaac does the same with Rebekah. Abigail dissuades David’s men from killing her moron husband, Nabal, as she richly rewards David for protecting the family’s ranching operation. And what can I say about Bathsheba succumbing to a king. Or Esther? Or Eve being thrown under the bus by Adam? The undercurrent of women being forced by their husbands into situations they never should have faced runs throughout the Bible. Our God of the living gives eternal freedom. In heaven, to be truly free, man and woman are not married. The friendship and companionship we had in a marriage, oh that will still be there. Everyone will love us. Everyone will be our friend. Everyone will care for us. We won’t need that one special someone. We will be knee deep in love from everyone in heaven.

At this point I’ve got to make one last observation. There are religions that picture Paradise as an orgy. Rivers of alcohol. For every man a number of women which would have been forbidden on earth! If their false god’s heaven is full of vices and disgusting things that were forbidden on earth, what does that say about the god they worship? Our heavenly home which we will share with our God is full of the purest virtues and charms. We will lack nothing and will never miss lust, jealousy, spousal pressure and familial sacrifices. Our God is not the one who promotes immorality.

OK. At this point you may be thinking, “Hey! Where’s Jesus? And what does all this have to do with me?”

Our sinful human nature is a Sadducee. It doesn’t believe in a life after death. It only believes in what it can see and touch. If our sinful human nature is so inept as to lose the battle that we become Christians, it will keep fighting to convince us our Christian faith is only for this world and will keep us busy with all sorts of church things except hearing the Gospel. No, never let them hear the Word of God! I wonder if this is why so many people stop coming to church after their earthly needs, getting married, raising kids, have been met. For our lack of faith in the face of overwhelming evidence the Bible gives that we will live forever in heaven, we should burn in hell for that willful ignorance.

Here’s the Gospel—that’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus doesn’t wash his hands of us, just as he didn’t wash his hands of the Sadducees. He gave up his life to suffer the eternal death we deserved. He gave up his life on the cross so we could live forever in heaven. And by his power as the Son of God, he raised himself from the dead, just as he promised—destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again—to destroy the hold of death over us and all people. By faith we have eternal life in Jesus. We will enjoy that eternal life of freedom in heaven because Jesus died and rose again for us and for our salvation.

Now here’s the “what does this have to do with me” part. I know Zach Turley’s Seminary preaching class is teaching him this is the application part of the sermon.

Go back to old King Tut. Everything about his tomb suggests a materialism that so gripped the imagination that the next life (reserved only for the highest of the nobility who could afford it) must be the same old, same old from servants to wives to food and beer. They also assumed morality was the same—those who have the power call the shots. Of course I get heaven—do you know who I am?

Everything in our life screams out a faith so firmly embracing our hearts and minds that we look at everything in this life through the lens of eternal life. Whatever is noble, whatever is honorable, whatever is charming or beautiful, set your minds on these, our Bible encourages us. Set your minds on things above, where Christ, your life is. This life’s vices don’t dirty our heaven. Our heaven instills virtues in our life here and now. Show it.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. We make time for his Word. O Come Let Us Adore Him, the great Christmas carol pleads. Always put his ways, the way of life, the way of love for all, put his ways against the cowardly and fearful ways of our baser natures.

Treat the people in our lives with respect. The godless Sadducees showed their hatred for women in the situation they posed to Jesus. Among you and me that should not be. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow heirs of heaven. Show it.

Our God of the Living

1. He gives eternal life (27, 37-38).

2. He gives eternal freedom (28-36).

The world seems to be increasingly fascinated with death. Everybody knows King Tut. No primetime television drama can start without a corpse. The young minds of many future serial killers are already awash with images of death. How can that lift up a society?

We have a better focus. We focus on life. Our God gives us eternal life. As we make our way to the day we enter into that life, we want others to know about that life and we want to make this life a little bit more like the life we will inherit in Christ. Walk like an Egyptian? Never! I want to walk like Jesus.

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