Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”
Different names for the same thing.
Or as people of a certain vintage might remember, ‘This parrot is dead, this is a dead parrot.’
(Look up Monty Python if this allusion means nothing to you.)
The Sadducees were a very powerful and wealthy grouping or sect in the time of Jesus, more political than religious. They were close to the Temple but had a very shallow almost humanistic series of beliefs. They did not do the deeply spiritual and they certainly didn’t do the supernatural, so angels and demons, resurrection and Heaven were all out of the picture. They would have been very unsettled by the thriving spiritual reformation and renewal that Jesus was leading and so they come, not so much with a genuine question but more of an anti-spiritual landmine for him to stand on. It is about a woman who marries her way through seven brothers.
‘In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For seven had married her?’
The Sadducees had a very spiritless and grey ‘everything finishes when your body packs up’ view of life. Theirs was a small and short vision.
Ezra Pound captures this small, this life only view of existence:
‘And the days are not full enough,
And the nights are not full enough,
And life slips by like a field mouse,
Not shaking the grass.’
For the Sadducees, Ezra Pound, in fact most of us, life is all about the here and now. Jesus too thought this present life really important and that is why he reached out to so many to touch and improve their everyday lives. But he also looked through the window of this ‘now’ life to a bigger view, the landscape of eternity.
In the story Jesus never actually answers the Sadducees question. Instead he moves everything onto a higher level where the scriptures are opened, where the power of God is stronger than the power of death, where bushes burn without being destroyed and angels live without dying and where God is the God of the living.
When it comes to this life and eternal life I’ve got questions too. What about my parents, they became Christians in mid-life. I was never kind enough to them in their later years so will I e able to say sorry to them when I get to Heaven? What about my daughter Zoe who cannot speak to me or understand what I say to her, will we be able to talk to each other in Heaven? What about me? What will it be like being me in Heaven with all my black spots, hard thoughts and bad tempers gone forever?
So here is the big question for all of us to think about,
‘What will it be like being in Heaven?’
Lord God, Heavenly Father,
You are the God of the living,
Not of the dead.
Help me to live every day.
Being fully alive,
In you and for you.
And to bring me on my last day,
Into my first day in Heaven,