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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 22:23–33

The same day some Sadducees came to him, saying there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman herself died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.” Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching. (NRSV)

Sadducees based their religious practices on the first five books of the bible, the Torah. They didn’t accept the later books, the prophets and the historical books, as part of their scripture (the Pharisees did). Resurrection is not mentioned in the Torah, and the Sadducees didn’t believe in it (the Pharisees did.)

So when the Sadducees, who don’t believe in resurrection, come and ask Jesus a long, complicated question about resurrection, you can be sure it’s a trick question. They are trying to get Jesus to say something that contradicts the law, or to give an argument that contradicts itself and is illogical. They don’t even believe in the question they are asking. But as usual Jesus is not so easily tricked.

At the time of resurrection, life won’t be just an extension of this earthly life, Jesus says. It will be something entirely different. People won’t marry each other, instead everyone will be like angels from God. There’s room for a lot of reflection on what this might be like.

Then Jesus uses a verse from the book of Exodus, which the Sadducees do accept as part of their holy scripture, to teach them a different way to think about God. When God said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” he spoke in the present tense. Even though these patriarchs had all died, God still said, I am their God. But if death means that those who have died no longer exist, why would God say I am? It must mean that those who have died are still in an alive and current relationship with God.

As he did on so many occasions, Jesus opened up the meaning of the scripture, even for those who were trying to undermine him.

God of wisdom, open my eyes and my heart to be guided by scripture, to see you in new ways, and to find you alive in my life today. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Minister for Congregational Life

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