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Catch me if you can! of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15So then, brothers, stand firm and hold Lk 20:27-38 to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who Job 19:23 through Job 19:27 loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good 23 “Oh, that my words were recorded, hope, 17encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good that they were written on a scroll, deed and word. 24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! 25 Luke 20:27 through Luke 20:38 I know that my Redeemer lives, 27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. 26 Jesus with a question. 28“Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us And after my skin has been destroyed, that if a man‟s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. I myself will see him 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman with my own eyes—I, and not another. and died childless. 30The second 31and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32Finally, 2 Thessalonians 2:1 through 2 Thessalonians 2:5 the woman died too. 33Now then, at the resurrection whose wife 1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered will she be, since the seven were married to her?” to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed 34 by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3Don‟t let anyone marriage. 35But those who are considered worthy of taking part in deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to nor be given in marriage, 36and they can no longer die; for they are destruction. 4He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that like the angels. They are God‟s children, since they are children of is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God‟s the resurrection. 37But in the account of the bush, even Moses temple, proclaiming himself to be God. showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord „the God of 5 Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.‟ 38He is not Don‟t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” things? 2 Thessalonians 2:13 through 2 Thessalonians 2:17 13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory We have just endured one of the longest election campaigns in It is interesting to me to see how fundamentalist Protestants history. and Jews are brought together because they have similar views on the protection of Israel. For the last nine months Bush and Kerry have been slugging it out as they persuaded America that the country was only safe in Groups that would normally not have communication are their hands. sometimes strangely brought together for a temporary goal. But America remained unconvinced – right up until the last That is what happened that night in Jerusalem. Here is the moment it was too close to call and all we could do was wait for background. the result to be announced. The three groups that conspired together that evening were Throughout the campaign the two protagonists asked questions the Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees. of each other – they held three televised debates and at every opportunity they looked for a chink in the armour of the other. Their common goal was to discredit Jesus of Nazareth in front of his audience, the common people. Something that would let them gain a foothold and let them begin to demolish their opponent’s credibility. Who were these groups? That’s exactly what we find before us today in this reading from The Herodians were opposed to the present Roman Luke’s gospel. procurator Pontius Pilate. "Whose wife will the woman be?" Isn't that a great question? They wanted a restoration of the power of the throne of Herod under one of Herod’s sons. These events were taking place on the Tuesday of Holy Week. The Sadducees were the conservatives - they were Gathered around the table that evening in the palace of the High aristocratic and a priestly class. Priest Caiaphas, was one of the strangest combinations of political and religious factions that anyone could possibly The Pharisees, who numerically were the largest imagine. represented group, were the liberals. Yet, politics makes strange bedfellows. These three groups represented what was happening in the land. It is interesting to me to see in the USA how fundamentalist Protestant denominations find a partner in the Roman Catholic The Jews were a divided people. Church on the issue of abortion. For reasons both political and theological, they split into many This is why Jesus responds by using the story about Moses factions. and the burning bush. The Herodians were interested in knowing what Jesus’ position That story, Jesus insists, implies a resurrection, and, what's was in relation to the occupying power – the Romans. more, it's from Exodus, one of the books that the Sadducees did accept. Consequently, we read in the verses that precede today’s passage that they tried to entrap Jesus by asking him if they The other argument the Sadducees used was that the should pay their taxes to Rome. resurrection didn't make sense. If Jesus said, “No,” the Romans on the grounds of treason would They said that the concept was too obscure, and that you quickly arrest him. could not understand it well enough to merit believing it. If he said yes, he would enrage the masses, who hated the This is what's behind the business with the woman and the Romans and particularly their tax. seven brothers. Jesus took a coin and asked whose picture was stamped on it. After all, if the idea of resurrection doesn't let you figure out as simple a point as who is married to whom, then there Then he said: Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s must be something wrong with the whole thing. and to God the things that are God’s. This is an interesting argument not least because we still ask Next came the Sadducees. questions like this all of the time. One of the major things the Sadducees disagreed with the We ask them in the hope of finding some sort of answer. Pharisees and other groups over, was that there would be a personal resurrection after death. But our questions are still very much like those of the Sadducees. The Sadducees denied this for a number of reasons. We wonder whether, in heaven, after the resurrection, Today's Gospel explores the two biggest reasons. babies who died as babies will still be babies, and whether those who die a great age will be of great age, and if not, First, the Sadducees, who only accepted that the first five books what age will they be, and for that matter, what age will we of the Old Testament were scripture, said that they did not make or anyone else be? reference to any such resurrection. Did you know that in the fourth century St. Augustine worked on So, it is important to pay careful attention to what Jesus has this question and came up with an answer that satisfied him. to say to the Sadducees when they ask him about the woman with seven husbands. He decided that everyone would be 33 - which was generally thought to be Jesus' age at his resurrection! After all, if we are going to get any reliable details about the hereafter, we will more likely get them from Jesus than from We also wonder whether we will recognise one another, and - at psychic fairs. least in some cases - we wonder whether we will want to recognise one another - or at least whether we want to be Besides, this is one of the very few times Jesus does deal recognised by everyone. with direct questions about this issue. No doubt, there are also many who still ask some variation of And what Jesus has to say to the Sadducees is fascinating. "whose wife will she be?" or "whose husband will he be?" He says that the woman in the story is not going to be There are lots of other questions like this around, and we all have anybody's wife. them. He said the question was silly because things will be But to stay with those questions is to miss the point. different and people will be different. Too many people today miss the point. He said that we will all be like angels - children of the resurrection. They continue their search for answers, for knowledge that feels so much like power, is both very ancient and completely He said, in effect, that God would handle things and had it all contemporary. worked out. Crystal balls, mediums, books about near-death experiences, Now, think about it; is that a very satisfying answer? psychic fairs, the new age junk, and a goodly number of offbeat versions of the Christian faith, have all promised, and continue to Did it satisfy the Sadducees – does it satisfy our curiosity? promise, this sort of information. We don't know what the angels are like, so we don't know They all say, in one way or another, "We know what it is like; we what it means, really, to say we will be like angels. know the answers, the secrets." We don't know what it looks like to be children of the And it would be very nice to know, to have our questions resurrection, so that news doesn't help us much, either. answered, our doubts removed, and our uncertainties put to rest. The Sadducees came to Jesus with this great question, and To emphasise any one particular law could be taken by Jesus simply said that everything was going to be fine. critics to mean that you were playing down other aspects of the law. The point he makes is that God is the God of the living and not of the dead. But again Jesus outflanks them. Now, what did he mean by that? Quoting from the Shama he says: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul and mind and strength. And He is saying to the Sadducees: You are concerning yourself with the second is like the first: Love your neighbour as you love the afterlife and the problem is that you have not learned to live yourself. life hear and now. Love God. Love man. Heaven is not our responsibility. That is God’s responsibility. Do that, implied Jesus, and you can get rid of your 635 What is our responsibility is how we live life here and now. scribal laws and your religious lawyers will be out of a job! The Sadducees were at a loss for words, and quietly they So, Jesus faced three trick questions each of which was returned to their seats designed to entrap him into revealing a weakness. If we were to put the Gospels together and tease out all the Unlike Bush and Kerry, Jesus had nothing to hide. events of that Tuesday of Holy Week, we would discover that the Pharisees also attempted to catch Jesus out. He wasn’t playing for popularity – he wasn’t trying to win power. Matthew’s gospel tells us that the third big question that day came from a Pharisee. As God, he had all the power he needed. They were the largest represented group. Having routed the opposition, Jesus now, in essence, says, “It is my turn! Now I want to ask you a question. They were the guardians of the Torah – the Law, thus their question dealt with the law and man’s relationship to the law. And that is played out for us in verse 41 up to the end of the chapter. Master, they asked, which is the greatest commandment? What do you think of the Christ?” The pitfall here was obvious. That question that Jesus posed remains to this day the most Asked how she did it so fast she replied: Simple, there was relevant, the most urgent, and most theological, the most the picture of a man on the back, so I simply put his face important issue confronting us. together and the world fell right in line. Wherever we turn in life we are faced with the implications of this That is what Jesus was saying to them and us on Tuesday question. of the last week of his life. What do you think of the Christ? What do you think of the Christ? You see, all of their questions dealt with man’s relationship with Put that picture together and the rest of your world will fall man. right in line. His question dealt with man’s relationship with God. Amen. They were putting the cart before the horse. Today the crowds are still asking the wrong questions and trying to find out the right answers. We talk about pollution and race relations and war, and world hunger and all the while we skirt around the £64,000 question: What do you think of the Christ? The story is told of a preacher attempting to put the finishing touches on his Sunday sermon but who was constantly being interrupted by his 6-year-old daughter. To occupy her, he found a picture of a globe and he cut it up into little pieces, knowing that that would keep her busy for a long time. To his surprise, within minutes she had completed it.
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