September 23, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 20:27-40.
Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but not child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. Then the second and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.” And they no longer dared to ask him anything.
First, Jesus wants me to know that life after death is not a continuation of my life on earth. I’ve been thinking about this for most of the last year. It’s been impossible for me to imagine what they might be like since I’m so bound by what I know and have experienced. I cannot get beyond the space-time continuum and being subject to the laws of this world as Shea puts it in The Relentless Widow, which makes me somewhat like the Sadducees. I’m the kind of person who always wants to know what I’m getting into. I don’t like uncertainty. Shea speaks to me when he writes, “There is a strong drive in people for certitude….This hunger for certitude is particularly evident when we ponder questions of life after death….The Christian tradition has not been shy in responding to these questions, and thereby feeding the hunger for certitude that generated them….[I]t may be helpful to interpret the resurrection of Jesus as the revelation of uncertainty. The revelation did more than confirm an already existing belief in life after death. It exploded the way the mind creates impossibilities and then canonizes them as certain….The resurrection reveals a world beyond the dictates of the senses, a strange and everlasting connection between human consciousness and the earth. This may come at us only as a mind-boggling piece of information that does not fit well into what we presently know. But if we let this boundary-breaking revelation sink in, we will be ravished by mystery, thrilled and alert with the consciousness of uncertainty. After this long night of demanding to know everything before we dare hope, Easter morning will have arrived. Christ is risen!”
Luke Timothy Johnson in The Gospel of Luke writes, “[T]his resurrection life is radically different from the present one.” However, Jesus doesn’t give many clues about the heavenly kingdom of God other than it is more complete than His kingdom on earth that he preached. Shea explains, “Jesus, the beloved Son, knows God always ‘is’ and those who are of God always ‘are.’ This is what the ‘resurrection of the dead’ means.”
Jesus does tell me that I will be a child of God. Johnson puts it this way, “The ‘children of the resurrection’ are the ‘children of God’ and share God’s own life…..The kingdom shaped by such a Lord is therefore entirely new with the newness of God’s own life.” I can conjecture about what God’s own life may be, but it’s ultimately beyond my imagination. I think the fact that Jesus doesn’t tell me much about it is that he wants me to let go of my certainty and instead trust in God’s infinite love for me and in His desire for me to live in the newness of His own life. I have to give up being like the Sadducees and become intent on being a disciple working to establish God’s kingdom here on earth — and let heaven take care of itself.