Damage from Hurricane Julia along the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua
The Mission of the Living
By Bishop Chris Giesler
Preaching Text: Luke 20:27-38
In the 20th Chapter of Luke, the setting now has Jesus in the city of Jerusalem in the days just before his arrest and crucifixion. This chapter lists several intense debates between Jesus and the local religious authorities seeking to discredit Jesus in front of a crowd that seems to be hanging on his every word. In this text, it is the Sadducees that have their turn at trying to trick him up. The Sadducees were the folks who ran the affairs of the Temple and were made up of folks who were in partnership with the Romans to do business and make money. Their ruling council, the Sanhedrin, will ultimately hand Jesus over to the Romans, who will then carry out the crucifixion. As a matter of course, as this text notes, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, so the fact that they even ask the question that is posed to Jesus betrays their motive.
Their question has to do with marriage in the resurrection and who will be a woman’s husband if her husband has predeceased her. The Pharisees (one of the other religious organizations) did believe in the resurrection. They taught that if a woman’s husband died, she was to become the wife of that person’s brother. So the Sadducees here pose a rather ridiculous scenario in which not only does her first husband die, but so do each of his seven younger brothers who take her as his wife. Whose wife will she be in the afterlife?
Jesus disarms the whole argument by pointing out that there will be no marriages in heaven, so this is a moot argument. Marriage is a human construct instituted to help us manage our relationships here. It will not be needed in the afterlife, where we will be in our perfect forms. But this is only an aside that brings us to Jesus’ more important point: God is God of the living and not of the dead. This means there is life to celebrate both now and in the resurrection. Too often, however, I believe that we often get ourselves overly concerned with the afterlife at the expense of this one. But right in the middle of our Lord’s prayer, we pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When Jesus gives the Great Commission, he tells his disciples to make disciples of all nations and teach them what they have learned from Jesus. He does not ask them to prepare for heaven. Essentially, he is telling them to make heaven present here. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells his disciples that we will be judged not on our church attendance or readiness for heaven but by how we have fed, clothed, given shelter, and visited those in need. In other words, how have we made heaven real here on earth?
This text tells me that our primary concern in this life is to take care of what we can take care of – each other. Heaven will take care of itself; that’s God’s dominion. Our job is to live into and share the grace, mercy, and peace we have received from our Savior.
If God the God of the living, then our mission is for the living of these days.