Reflections for the Week of Sunday November 6, 2016 Twenty-fifth after Pentecost

Gospel: Luke 20.27-38 tells of Jesus’ confrontation with the Sadducees who tell a story to make resurrection appear ridiculous and impossible. But Jesus confirmed the fact of resurrection in these verses. The Sadducees were a conservative, aristocratic, high-priestly party, worldly-minded, who cooperated with the Romans to maintain their privileged position. They may have adhered strictly to the written tradition of Scripture and rejected the oral tradition that the Pharisees accepted. The issue in this text has to do with so-called ‘levirate marriage’ which is set forth in Dt 25.5ff wherein if a man died childless, his brother was expected to marry his widow to raise up heirs to his name. This practice does not seem to have been followed very often and the Sadducees propose a fictional situation to Jesus in which seven brothers all of whom die childless and are required by the law to marry the same woman. Whose wife will she be in the resurrection? Jesus responds to their argument by citing the fact that in Ex 3.1-6 YHWH refers to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and since Jesus says God is the God of the living, the patriarchs must be alive and therefore there must be life after death. N. T. Wright, a contemporary Anglican theologian, has written extensively on the resurrection in The Resurrection of the Son of God and Surprised By Hope and defines the doctrine as a two-step reality wherein a person’s spirit at death goes to be with God in a disembodied ”heaven” until Christ returns and the dead who are saved are raised with new bodies kept for them by God to dwell embodied lives with God in the new heaven and new earth (Isa 65.17, 25; Rev 21.1-7) never to die again.The patriarchs are at present in the disembodied stage wherein their spirits are with God awaiting the return of Christ at the end of the age when they will receive new bodies. Thus resurrection is to be understood as being raised from the dead and given a new body just as Christ was in His resurrection on Easter morning. His body disappeared from the tomb and bore the marks of the crucifixion, but it was different in that it was not always recognized, and could appear and disappear. It was clearly physical in that the resurrected Jesus ate and could be touched but “ascended” into a new dimension after forty days to dwell forever. Resurrection is an article of faith expressed in the Nicene Creed and the Apostle’s Creed which define orthodox Christianity. The former says, “We look for the resurrection of the dead”, and the latter says, “I believe in…the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” And Jesus’ words in this text give the concept of resurrection His divine confirmation, and then His actual resurrection on Easter further confirms it. Resurrection is the Christian hope–that those who trust in Jesus as God the Son will go to be with God when they die and then when Jesus returns and the new age begins, they will dwell in the new heaven and new earth with God forever. Paul discusses resurrection in detail in 1 Cor 15 and says “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (v. 14). The resurrection of Christ and of those whom He saves is a cardinal article of faith in Christianity. Key evidence for it is the changed demeanor of the Apostles after Easter, from hiding in fear before it to willingness to die for their faith afterwards, and also for the explosive growth of Christianity immediately after Easter.

Memory Verse: For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on Immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor 15. 53,54).

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