Sermon preached for Pentecost 22, Proper 27C, on Sunday, November 10, 2019, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.
With the gift of faith, there are many things that we believe and confess. We believe in the Trinity, one God in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe God created all things in 6 days. We believe that Jesus is the very Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, and that He died on the cross to save us from sin. We believe He rose from the dead so that we’d have everlasting life. These are foundational doctrines of our Christian faith, and we confess them in the Creeds. Along with this confession we also confess our certain hope in the resurrection of the dead.
The resurrection of the dead was the question of the Sadducees in the Gospel reading today. But before we get to that question and Jesus’ answer, we need to first know who the Sadducees are.
There were two main Jewish traditions or groups during Jesus’ time: the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees were the larger of the two, and were popular amongst the people. They were strict followers and teachers of the Torah, of the Law. They believed and taught that in order to live under God’s favor again, the people of Israel needed to separate themselves from the Gentiles, they needed to go back to the way it was during the time of Moses and David. The taught a strict observance of the Mosaic Law and even added some extra traditions to insure they followed the law.
The Sadducees were a smaller group, but they too were very influential. They believed the written Law, but they didn’t hold to the extra traditions and teachings like the Pharisees did. They also didn’t believe in angels, or spirits, and they didn’t long for a Messiah like other Jews did. And they also didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. That’s what makes their question to Jesus stand out.
Right off the bat, Luke tells us that the Sadducees denied a resurrection, and yet they still asked about it, not because they wanted to know the truth, but because they wanted to make Jesus look bad, make Him look like a fool. Their hypothetical “what if” question was so extreme it borders on the ridiculous, and that’s the point. The Sadducees believed the resurrection of the dead was a ridiculous idea...and there’s still some today who say the same thing.
It’s nothing new for our Christian faith to be mocked and ridiculed. Ever since the beginning, people outside the faith have seen it as unintelligent, backwards, and simply foolish. Christians are mocked because they believe in a Savior who died. The Romans laughed about this; people still laugh. What a ridiculous notion to believe that God died. What a ridiculous notion to believe Man rose from the dead. Intelligent people, smart people know that when you die nothing happens. There’s no spiritual realm, there’s no physical life after death...at least that’s what they say.
This mockery is hard to endure. It hurts and angers us when people outside the faith poke fun, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus said this would happen. But sadly, what is surprising is that there are modern day “Sadducees” in the faith. There are Christians who claim there’s no resurrection of the dead.
A little more than a year ago, I read an article written by a woman who teaches at a Christian university, and during the semester it was brought to her attention that a majority of her students didn’t believe in a physical, bodily resurrection. They believed in an afterlife of eternity with God, but they assumed it was only a spiritual life. The students associated the body with sin; it was the flesh that was sinful and bad, and therefore the body had to be shed for the perfect more spiritual life. But is that what God says? Is that the truth of life that the Word of our Lord proclaims? Absolutely not!
The resurrection of the dead is the whole point of salvation. Everything the Lord did was for this purpose, to redeem soul and body. The will of God is that you will look to Jesus and believe in Him for eternal life and be raised up on the last day (Jn 6:40).
Jesus didn’t shrink at the mocking question of the Sadducees; He didn’t politely agree to disagree. He went to the Word of the Lord and spoke the truth. He went back to Moses and the burning bush. Our Lord said, “But 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. Now He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him” (Lk 20:37-38). Notice what Jesus said, notice what God said at the burning bush: God is the God of the living, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Notice the present tense. God didn’t say He WAS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but He IS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These OT saints live. They have life in Him, because God gives His people life in His Son. God gives us life, He gives you everlasting life in Christ, through His death and resurrection.
Death is of the devil. It comes from our sin, not our flesh, not our physical bodies, but our sin. Yes, we sin in our bodies. Our hands do things they shouldn’t do. Our eyes look at things they shouldn’t look at. Our feet take us places we shouldn’t go. Our mouths speak words we shouldn’t speak. We give in to passions and lusts and desires, but it’s not just physical sin. We give into these with our thoughts, with our hearts. Your sin isn’t just a bodily affliction. Your sin is a condition of body and soul. Your sin is complete separation from God, and attitude of hostility to Him. This is your original sin, born into this condition, born into death. But God is the God of the living, and He gives you life.
He gives you life through His Son, through the God-Man who died on the cross, dying the death of your sin; through the God-Man who rose from the grave defeating death so that you’d have life. This life, it isn’t just a spiritual one, it’s physical. If Christ only gives you a spiritual eternal life, then why did Christ take on our flesh and blood? Christ became incarnate so that He could redeem you and your body.
Your body matters, it’s important to the Lord, it’s how God created life to be. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He gave our first parents bodies. He formed them from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life in them. God’s plan for life was always a physical life, where we would live in perfect union with Him, free from sin and death forever. This is what He promises you. This is what He gives you. Because Christ died you will live. Because He rose from the dead, you will rise, physically with the glorified body that you were meant to have, free from sickness and disease, free from pain and suffering, free from sin and death.
God is the God of the living: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These saints are alive, and on the last day, they will be raised, and so will you. Jesus became incarnate so that He could die and rise, so that He could redeem your body. Your promised resurrection isn’t just a spiritual one, it’s physical. Your promised life isn’t just a spiritual one, it’s physical. Your body matters. This was the plan God has for you and for all of creation from the start. You will rise, you will live, body and soul, with your Lord in the new heavens and new earth, forever. In Jesus’ name…Amen.