Luke 20:27-38 – The 25th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, November 6, 2016
“Some Sadducees, who deny that there’s a resurrection, came to Jesus and asked . . .” (Luke 20:27)
For a moment, forget those ancient religious leaders and their long-ago queries. I’m still upset from watching the presidential debates.
Neither candidate answered much of anything, and ignored most questions to instead spout prepared bullet points about their wonderful policies or to sling well-practiced jabs at their opponent’s nation-ruining agenda.
Both candidates rehearsed quips, rejoinders, put-downs, one-liners, trash-talk, and gotcha comments long before a moderator posed a first question. Like a cartoon cat at the proverbial mouse hole in the wall, the candidates were eager to pounce.
In a national debate for the highest office in the land, both candidates dread a public meltdown while hoping their opponent does or says something stupid, crass, or embarrassing that will become a viral video and the worst kind of social media bon mot.
Substance is abandoned.
Facts are negotiable.
My head hurts.
I change the channel. I watch an old movie or tussle with my dog.
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Words without meaning weary me.
In nearly identical passages in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, some Sadducees approached Jesus with a question.
About the resurrection.
And yet those fellows, who I’m confident were all religious experts and proud of the Sadducees lengthy and revered tradition within Jewish community, didn’t believe in the resurrection.
However Jesus—also a Jew—did believe in the resurrection.
Back then, all Jews were not alike and expressed differing beliefs.
Just like today.
Where I live in Fresno, there are several synagogues. Among them is a “Reformed” congregation, while another is “Conservative.” I wonder how many potlucks they have together? And, within the Christian community, it gets far more complex and murkier . . . so many denominations, so little agreement.
Let us all praise God!
(But please bless my agenda!)
Those Sadducees, likely after hours of preparation, sought out Jesus with a question about marriage that didn’t give a hoot about marriage.
I invite you to use my easy access link to Luke 20 to get the details, but the streamlined version was basically: what happens after seven brothers have all married the same woman? Every brother said “I do” and yet—so the Sadducees sad story went—the beleaguered bride never had any children. According to Jewish law, a living younger brother was “obligated” to marry his brother’s wife/widow if the older brother died. In that resurrection the Sadducees didn’t believe in, which brother will this woman be married to? Were the Sadducees truly curious about Jesus’ answer?
They wanted him to screw up.
They wanted him to look bad in public.
They wanted him to demonstrate his incompetence.
Then or now, we spend more of our time scheming to foil the other rather than being open to learning about the other.
Then or now, we spend more of our time hoping to make the other guy look just a little worse than me. So often, in disagreements, we are like the joke about two people attempting to outrun an angry bear . . . all you have to do is outrun your companion.
In all three Gospels, Jesus answered the Sadducees.
Jesus didn’t play gotcha.
Jesus didn’t embarrass them.
Jesus simply answered with what he believed.
In Luke (along with Matthew and Mark) Jesus’ last line is like a lifeline to my sense of faith: God isn’t the God of the dead but of the living. To him they are all alive.
Focused on scheming, rarely listening or learning, those Sadducees—as if creating a blueprint for future presidential debates—concocted a convoluted scenario to entrap Jesus.
Jesus’ answer would never go viral. Truthfully, it was kinda boring. He even suggested a scriptural reference the Sadducees had likely studied (and agreed with) since they were whippersnappers in Hebrew School. How dull of Jesus!
Believe in resurrection or not, how will you go about serving a living God? Like, today? Like, now?
And when you encounter others, will you ask questions that entrap them or that will enliven them?