Saturday, November 9, 2013

Children of the Resurrection

How many things do you rely on and have faith in even though you might not understand them?  For me, that would be a lot of things – I have had people explain how electricity is created by the exchange of +ve and –ve ions in atoms but I still don’t get what makes them move in the first place.  BUT I rely on electrical things throughout my daily life.

And I don’t really understand the difference between AM FM and Digital radio – but I like listening to it.

Given this, isn’t it surprising that so many people are unwilling to accept that the climate of our world is changing – for whatever reasons – because they are unable to understand it.  I actually think it is ironic that this field of science has got such a strong element of BELIEF in it that it is almost a religion.

Well, that was just a way of introducing us to one of the views of that bunch of religious people of Jesus day called Sadducees.  As you can tell just from the context of the story they don’t seem to believe in the Resurrection life – possibly because they simply did not understand it.  This was a dispute they had with more than just the followers of Jesus but they still maintained that there could be no life beyond this one.  I guess there are a lot of people like that today, too.

So they set up what they believe is a perfect move to trap Jesus – seven brothers consecutively marry the same woman in compliance with Jewish inheritance law.  If the Resurrection is real, who will she be married to on the other side of this life?

Jesus sets their arguments aside in two ways:
1.      He uses some texts from the Law and the Prophets where the present continuous tense is used to demonstrate that this matter is very widely accepted – The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of the living, not the dead; and
2.      He suggests that the business of the resurrection life is a great mystery because it is talking about a form of being that is far beyond our human imaginings.

There are three ideas that arise for me from this text that I thought I would explore with you today.  But I want to link it to something we have already talked about – ETERNAL LIFE. 

As best I can tell ETERNAL LIFE and the RESURRECTION LIFE are synonyms; they mean the same thing; slightly different imagery for the same idea.  That’s what it is like with big ideas.  One set of words never captures it all.  But what do we learn about it from this story?

Jesus makes it clear, first of all, that the resurrection life is a gift given to us by God.  Through this gift we become “Children of God” and Jesus describes us as “Children of the Resurrection.”  This imagery is wonderful and must have shocked the Sadducees, because it speaks of the possibility of us having a close and intimate relationship with God – who made us and everything there is.  To them God was utterly remote from this life.

The second thing that Jesus does is warn us away from trying to imagine what that life will be like.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I think I have struggled with this.  There are times when for sentimental reasons, perhaps more than any others, we have an imagining of that life beyond our physical existence as being one in which we will become reacquainted with those who have been dear to us but are no longer here – husbands, wives, mothers, fathers.

Yet these words of Jesus seem to warn us away from that idea, even though it seems to mean so much to us.  Jesus even seems to say that it would be a logical nonsense if the ultimate Resurrection Life was just a continuation of what we have known in this life.  There is no continuity going forward from the life of this world into our life to come in God.

So, where does Jesus leave us on this question?  Firstly, it is important to notice that he affirms the reality of our life in God beyond this earthly existence – but it is still a bit of a mystery.  St Paul grasped this mystery when he wrote:

No eye has seen
No ear has heard
No mind has conceived
What God has prepared for those who love him.
            1 Cor 2:9

Throughout our Scriptures there are numerous assertions that we are so precious to God because God has known us before we were born.  Some have used the imagery of us being IN GOD before our life began.  We accept this by faith in the God who is LOVE and who calls us into that same love. 

We do not try to understand in what way we were being with God before we were born, do we?  Yet I think it is this same kind of being with God that Jesus is talking about as our life in the Resurrection.  It is still a mystery – but you know what, I have never known GOD to want anything bad for us.  Whatever life beyond this physical experience is going to be like I KNOW IT IS GOING TO BE GOOD!

Now the third thing that comes to my mind about this life that Jesus is talking about is that because he uses grammar to argue with the Sadducees I want to argue the same thing for us.

Jesus argues that God is God of the Living, not the Dead on the basis of Moses using the Present Continuous Tense in describing YHWH as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The implication of this tense is that Abraham Isaac and Jacob are still alive and present in God.

There is another implication of this tense.  If what we are to experience after this physical existence is at an end is spoken of by Jesus in the Present Continuous Tense then in reality it reaches back into this present life for us.  This then suggest that this life to come has the capacity to reach back into our life here on earth.  The is what the Good News is really about.

And this is why I suggested first up that the Resurrection Life and Eternal Life are synonyms – they mean for us that we have a foretaste of that life in God here and now; and that is what we are talking about when we speak of lives that have been transformed, have been made righteous before God.  Our life in God brings about that transformation – here and now; not in some mystical existence after we die.

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