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TEXT: Luke 20:27-40

SUBJECT: Luke #78: Another Trick Question

Luke Chapter 20 is a kind of Open Forum. The host is our Lord Jesus Christ; the people calling in are His enemies. Because they hate Him, their questions are not honest, but designed solely to catch Him in His words and to make a fool of Him. That's what they want, but it's not what they get!

In fact, it is they who are made fools of in the chapter while Jesus Christ comes off looking like the One in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

The results are not accidental! Without making anyone sin, God uses the wickedness of men to make His Son look good. That's what happens in our chapter. At the end of it, He looks so good that His enemies change tactics: they stop loading their questions and starts loading their guns. One way or the other, they're going to nail Him.

THE SADDUCEES

The men doing the dirty work this time are the Sadducees. This is the only time Luke mentions them by name and so just a little of their background is in order. They are from the priestly class, though not all of them work in the Temple. They are a small minority of men who are wealthy and powerful way beyond their numbers. They got that way by collaborating with the Greeks, first, and then the Romans.

When it comes to theology, they are Liberals. Unlike most people in Israel, they deny the resurrection and don't believe in angels or spirits of any kind (including human spirits after death).

They also don't believe in the last 34 books of the Old Testament. They claim to accept the Five Books of Moses, but even this is doubtful, for what they really believe in is the Law, that is the rules and regulations of Moses-especially the ceremonial parts of it, like the diet, the holidays, the washings, and so on.

Because of their irreverence for God's Word, they were mostly hated by the Pharisees and by the common people as well. The average Jew was no scholar, but He heard the Lord's voice in all the Scripture and not just a small part of it.

THE QUESTION

The question they have for the Lord assumes their theology and aims to make a monkey out of Him-mostly--but also out of the others who are stupid enough to believe in the resurrection and a life beyond the one we're presently living.

They present a hypothetical case: a woman is married to a man who dies. According to the Law of Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 25:5ff.), the man's brother is to marry the woman and have children by her in his brother's name. But there's a problem: the brother dies too. Then a second brother takes the woman, but he also dies. Finally, all seven brothers marry her and die without any of them fathering a child by the poor lady.

Now, in the Resurrection-they want to know-whose wife is she?

Does she belong to the first man or the last? The best-looking man or the wealthiest? The one who treated her best or the one she was married to the longest? Can a woman have seven husbands in the world to come? Can she trade off when she wants to? And what about the men? Will most of them be bachelors forever? Will the losers be jealous of the winner? Or will the winner wish he hadn't won her?

The question is easy to laugh at, but it's not so easy to answer. What would you say? What would you say?

THE IMMEDIATE CONCERN

The Lord may have laughed at the question Himself, but that's not all He does. He also an answer-two, in fact.

First of all, He rejects the boundaries they set for Him. They don't believe in the Resurrection because they cannot imagine our present way of living stretched out forever.

They're right. Think about it: what if you were married forever and never got old? How many children would you have? If you have one a year, how many would you have if you had an infinite number of years to live? And if you had an infinite number of kids, where would you put them all? How would you feed them? How would you remember their names? And what about the grandkids?

Would an infinite number of mouths to feed be heaven for the man? What kind of paradise would it be for the woman if she was pregnant forever?

The Sadducees have made their point: eternal life cannot be true because-if it is-it's eternal death.

.Assuming that life after the Resurrection is identical to life before the Resurrection. This is where the Lord takes issue with them: He says that life is not the same as this life!

"The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are accounted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die any more for they are equal to the angels in heaven, and are sons of God being the sons of the Resurrection".

Marriage is something like a fur coat. A fur coat is wonderfully suited for life in Alaska. But in Hawaii, you don't need it. Marriage is well suited to life in this world. It is the blessing of God and the best way for most people to live today. But when we get to heaven, we won't need marriage because we'll have something better than marriage.

Paul says that marriage is a symbol of Something Else. And a symbol is always less than the thing it symbolizes. Though my wife and I won't be married in heaven, we'll be much closer and more loving then than we are now.

Whose wife will she be? No one's wife! Because there is no marriage in heaven! If the Sadducees had been half as smart as they thought they were, they wouldn't have asked such a dumb question! Matthew's story is a little more biting than Luke's:

"You are greatly mistaken [because] you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God!"

In other words, they ask the question only because they don't know what the Bible teaches or what God is capable of doing! The smarty-pants are, in fact, stupid idiots.

The Lord has "answered the fools according to their folly".

THE LARGER ISSUE

Had the Lord left it here, He would have made fools of the Sadducees and nothing more. But He doesn't leave it here. The question is crooked, to be sure, but it's also important. Is there life after death? Will the dead rise some day?

The Sadducees don't deserve an answer, but they get one anyway: one they need to think about long and hard-and not just they! So do you.

Many verses in the Old Testament can be cited to prove the Resurrection. The three I thought of are:

"I know my Redeemer lives and shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself and not another." (Job 19:25-26).

"Therefore, my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also shall rest in hope, for You will not leave my soul in [the grave] nor will you allow Your holy one to see corruption." (Psalm 16:9-10).

"And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to everlasting shame and contempt." (Daniel 12:2).

Other than foreseeing the Resurrection, what do the verses have in common? They're not in the Law of Moses. This means: they're not in the part of the Bible that the Sadducees believed in. I told you before, they only accepted the first five books.

The Lord might have argued for the authority of the prophets and Psalms, of course, but He doesn't do that. He meets them on their own ground-and with the Word they say is inspired-He proves an afterlife and a Resurrection.

The passage He calls to mind is in the third chapter of Exodus, especially vv.6,15. In the story, Moses is a shepherd in the land of Midian. One day, while tending his flock, he notices a bush burning, but not burned up. He turns in wonder only to hear a mighty Voice calling his name. He wants the Voice to identify itself and the Voice tells him,

"I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob".

Here, you've got to remember when Moses lived in relationship to these other men. He was born about four hundred years after the last of them died. Yet-centuries after the death of these good men-the Lord said I am there God.

Note the word, am, not was or used to be. He is their God even though they're dead. Which means one of two things: Either:

This puts the Sadducees on the horns of a dilemma. Now, it is they who have to answer the trick question: If God is God of the dead, why should living men obey Him? If God is the God of the living, how can they say there is no life after death?

They're stuck: either the Living God is dead or dead men are alive. In other words, it's the Resurrection or Atheism.

THE REACTIONS

This was not a private interview at all, but something like a Press Conference. Some of the men who came to pepper the Lord with trick questions couldn't help admiring His answer to this one. Some of the scribes (who were Pharisees and believed in the Resurrection) had to blurt out:

"Teacher, you have spoken well!"

They were right; He has spoken well. To the Sadducees and to us.

As for the men He had put to shame that day, they gave up!

"After that, they dared not question Him anymore".

A THIRD OPTION?

God is dead or the dead are alive: this is the choice our Lord Jesus left for the Sadducees to make. But this creates a problem for us, doesn't it? There seems to be a middle ground, a position the wise Greeks had chosen long before.

What about life after death without the body? The philosopher called the body the prison of the soul and-to his way of thinking-salvation is shucking off the body and living forever in the spirit!

When Paul preached at Athens a few years later, the thinkers laughed at him-not because he believed in life after death-but because he preached Jesus and the Resurrection.

Why does the Lord equate life after death with the Resurrection? Why can't He see that one does not require the other?

Could God keep us alive and happy without raising our bodies from the dead? Yes He could and-before the Resurrection-He does just that.

But He has something better for us than a happy life in the spirit. Jesus Christ died for the whole person and the whole person is redeemed and must enjoy the whole happiness God has for him. And that includes a physical happiness as well as a happiness of spirit!

The Greeks couldn't get a hold of the Resurrection because their gods were unimaginative, were too small, too stingy, and way too much like the men who worshiped them!

Go back to the Garden of Eden where the Lord formed man's body out of the dust of the earth and breathed his spirit into him. Go to the cross where the Lord died-in body and soul-for us. Go to the tomb where the Full Jesus came back to life. And you'll know that life after death means the Resurrection! And thank God for it!

THE MESSAGE

The message has already been delivered: the story means there is life after death and that life is a full life, in body and spirit.

It doesn't come up here, but for the enemies of Christ, that "life" is one full of misery. What hell is, we don't know, but we know what it's like: it's like a Lake a Fire.

But that's not the point here. Here, the Lord is describing the afterlife for His friends, for former sinners who are now saints, for people who used to be unworthy, but are now made worthy of the Resurrection. For believers in Christ, death has no sting and the grave no victory. Why?

Because we don't die at all: doctors say we do, our families mourn our loss, friends come to our funerals, but believers are no more dead than God is dead! God is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all His people are alive, including the ones who have already died!

That's the meaning of our story.

THE SIGNIFICANCE

It means your life is important because it is leading you to heaven or to hell. The Sadducees wanted to emphasize this life by denying the life to come. But they failed. By making this life the only life, they turned it into no life at all. If this is all there is, it's all pointless.

Paul knew the philosophers of despair. He quoted them, "Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die". How did he answer them? With the resurrection! By all means, let us live well now, for tomorrow we don't die! Albert Camus was one of the leading thinkers of a generation ago. He said the only decision worth making in life was whether to commit suicide or not. If there is no resurrection, he's right. But if the dead do rise, life is worth living to the max!

In one of his books, G.K. Chesterton quoted Hamlet,

"To be or not to be-that is the question".

He went on to say, "To be-that is the answer!"

In other words, because this is not all there is-there is a life after death and a life worth having-we can live for Christ now and live in hope!

"Finally, my brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord for you know that your work in the Lord is not in vain".

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