[Luke 20 Part 2] Jesus Teaches on the Resurrection: In part 2 of Luke 20, Jesus addresses several controversies of His day among the Pharisees and Sadducees. These groups argued over whether or not there was any resurrection, and if there was what it meant for certain problematic doctrines. Jesus answers these controversies and stuns His hearers with His wisdom and His understanding of the afterlife and the implications of eternity for us as individuals.
[Luke 20:26 KJV] 26 And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace. 27 Then came to [him] certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him, 28 Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 29 There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. 31 And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. 32 Last of all the woman died also. 33 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife. 34 And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: 35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: 36 Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. 37 Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him. 39 Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said. 40 And after that they durst not ask him any . 41 And he said unto them, How say they that Christ is David’s son? 42 And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 43 Till I make thine enemies thy footstool. 44 David therefore calleth him Lord, how is he then his son? 45 Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples, 46 Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; 47 Which devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.
Jesus is approached by the Sadducees in v. 27 and asked about the subject of resurrection. The Sadducees were an elite priestly caste, claiming their legacy from the Old Testament priests of Zadok. They were literalists in their interpretation of the Torah. Because they didn’t see mention of the resurrection in the Torah, they did not believe in an afterlife, like their counterparts the Pharisees did. In asking Jesus about a hereafter, they were not seeking genuine wisdom or knowledge from Jesus; instead, they were continuing the attempt to snare Him with their words. The question at hand focuses on a theoretical account of seven brethren, each of whom married the same widow, each dying without children from the marriage. The problem is, in the resurrection (if in their eyes, there were to be a resurrection), which of the brothers would be the wife of the first brother. Jesus is very gracious in His reply, merely pointing out that in the resurrection, there will be neither marriage or the giving in marriage. The presumption of theologians suggests that there may be no gender identity in eternity, but that men and women will be androgynous creatures without any specific correlation in appearance or function to their earthly masculinity or femininity. While this assumption might be made, it isn’t exactly what Jesus says. He states that the institution of marriage will not be in existence in eternity, not that we will cease to be either male or female. Paul states in 1 Cor. 13:12 that in heaven, we will be known as we are known. If then you are known on earth as a male, you it follows then the suggestion that you will be perceived that way in heaven, or conversely as a female, etc.
Jesus goes on to give us more insight into our existence in eternity in v. 35, stating that resurrection from the dead will be a matter of being accounted for or found worthy. This suggests that, to some degree, heaven will be a meritocracy. We tend to believe even in Christianity a very vague and general concept that anyone dying, for the most part, will get to heaven as long as their sinfulness is not extreme or obnoxious during our earth life. We have a general idea that there is a hell because you cannot believe in the bible in any fundamental way without admitting that hell is a possibility. Still, in most funeral services, there would be no mention of the deceased going there by even the most fundamental of our funeral service providers. How often is the remark made over an inveterate pagan now passed on that the preacher “preached him into heaven” even though they showed absolutely no interest in God or spiritual things their entire life. If we are to believe the words of Jesus and the writing of the scripture then we can only accept in the light of Jesus’ statement in v. 35 is obtaining to heaven is a matter of being accounted worthy, and the real possibility that many, perhaps most passing on in death will not enter there.
Jesus goes on in v. 37 to address the issue with the Sadducees as to whether there will be a resurrection. Moses at the burning bush called upon the God of Isaac, Jacob, and Abraham as though they were extant or still living, though we know at the time of this encounter of Moses, these three patriarchs were no longer walking the earth. Jesus points this out, saying that God is not a God of the dead but the living, stating that all people live to God in eternity, whether they are dead to us or not. People pass on and then whether or not they were worthy of entering heaven, yet they exist somewhere. This statement of Jesus clears up another doctrinal misconception. Some actively teach the doctrine of annihilation. This is the belief that all or some people, when they die, simply cease to exist. This is the belief of the atheist, and it is the belief of many Christian sects, but the statements of Jesus here, that only those found worthy will enter heaven. Yet, all people, regardless live to God, whether they are dead to us or not, then tells us that yes, the righteous live before God in heaven, but the unrighteous also live before God somewhere other than heaven, vis-a-vis, hell. The Sadducees cannot gainsay Jesus’ words and leave off questioning Him any further after even one of their own grudgingly concedes in v. 39 that Jesus answered them well.
In verse 41, Jesus takes up a question about the Messiah, being descended from the line of David. The Jews, for the most part, believed that the Messiah would be a political reformer or a military deliverer descended from the lineage of David. For this reason, they called the Messiah, among other titles, the Son of David. Jesus asks them if that is all the Messiah is, a descendant of David, then why in the Psalms does Jesus say “The Lord said unto My Lord, Sit thou on My right hand…” The question Jesus poses is if the Messiah is only a natural deliverer descended from David, then why does David prophetically call this descendent standing in the role of Messiah “my Lord…” The implications are clear; the Messiah is not just a political or military deliverer. He is something much, much more. The Pharisees and Sadducees being familiar with the argument, simply maintained that to believe that the Messiah would not only restore Israel to its greater glory, but to believe that He would actually address the sin question, in their thinking was too general and too sweeping a conviction to ever be true. Because they refused to believe, to come as little children, but instead remained ensconced in their jaded belief system, they thence become the persecutors of Jesus and conspirators in His death.
Do any of these controversies have any bearing on modern life? We may not have modern equivalents of Pharisees and Sadducees, but we do have the challenge of agnosticism, atheism, and modern science so-called that challenge many of the central tenants of the Christian faith. Science cannot validate an afterlife, and Christians wanting to reconcile science and faith often waver in their thinking about the afterlife because they would be considered uneducated or naïve to do otherwise. Science points to evolution as fact, and because we cannot reconcile the Genesis account to Darwin’s theories, then we de-emphasize the creation narrative as being too simplistic to be accurate or to be accepted in any literal sense. When you fail to take Genesis literally however, most of the major doctrines of Christianity such as sin and redemption unravel from there, requiring you to dispense with them altogether if you are going to pay heed to the suppositions of science regarding the origin of the specifies. For instance, if there was no literal Adam and Eve, then there was no garden and no angels with the flaming sword, and no original act of transgression constituting man in a sin state needing to be addressed by a savior. What is the answer? Do we simply cede the ground to science and refuse to address the controversy? Paul, 2000 years ago instructed Timothy in these very things:
[1Ti 6:20 KJV] O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane [and] vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so-called:
Make no mistake about it, while we divide the secular and the sacred, they are nonetheless two opposing belief systems. The sacraments of science are the microscope and the archeological record. The sacraments of faith are the scriptures and the witness of the Spirit. Science is a belief system no different than Christianity or any other religion. They take a bone fragment the size of a thimble and extrapolate an entire species of proto-hominids, demanding that we accept their expostulations as very fact, but it is not, it is simply conjecture based upon empirical analysis. What is the answer? Do we simply get stuck there, unable to reconcile the two? Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is to avoid these things as profane and vain babblings. It may seem like a scholarly debate, but the scriptures tell us it is merely a waste of time. You are not going to convince the empiricist. You are not going to change the mind of the agnostic or the atheist by argument alone. Because many of our most learned scholars today have attempted to do so, they most commonly will abandon their faith. More believing Christians abandon the faith in these inquiries than do non-believers come to faith by the same activity. Knowledge puffs up, Paul tells us. We are under no obligation to convince them. The effort is in Paul’s words, profane, vain, and to be avoided regardless of whether that makes us appear unsophisticated or no.
Jesus affirms Paul’s wisdom in v. 45 when He turns to His disciples, warning them not to follow in the ways of the Pharisee or the Sadducee. Their priorities set high emphasis on the opinions of men and to appear to be holy, wise, erudite, and learned. Yet, their lifestyles are a burden to the marginalized and the less fortunate. Because of this, their damnation is great, and we are to avoid them, and their company at all costs.
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