Will the real husband please stand up
November 10, 2019
I kept thinking about the TV show, “To tell the truth” while I was reading the first part of the scripture. If you’re not familiar with the old show that started in the late 50’s or the new revised version, the show starts out with 3 people claiming to be the same person. Then the host would say what that person did. Such as “I was the first person to bowl under water” or “I invented the Rubics Cube”. Two of the contestants are obviously lying while the third has been sworn to tell the truth. It is up to a panel of celebrity judges to determine, through a series of questions, which one is the real person they claim to be.
With this being said, I envisioned those 7 men who had been married to the same woman standing before St. Peter. Next to St. Peter is the woman. St Peter asks the woman, “Which one of these men is your husband?” The woman answers, “All of them.” St. Peter, taken aback says, “that’s not possible”. About this time Moses, who had been entertaining the kids by turning his walking stick into a serpent, overhears the conversation, speaks up and says, “The woman is correct. All 7 are her husbands.” Moses first spoke of this in Genesis 38:8 where he says, “Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” And Moses also said in Deuteronomy 25:5, “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her.”
According to Levinite Law, it was the duty of the brother-in-law, assuming there was a brother-in-law, to take his dead brother’s wife as his own in hopes of having children with her in honor of his brother. Now there’s a good reason to get married and have children.
Marriage is a sacred event that should not be entered into lightly. Why is it sacred? Because God created it too. Just listen to Genesis 2:18. “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” And, Genesis 2:24. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” So, how important is marriage? Important enough for God to have it placed in the first 2 chapters of the greatest book ever written. God created all mankind with the ability to thrive and enjoy life, married or not! But for those of us who have chosen marriage, isn’t the prospect of a happy life together what motivates us to enter a marriage relationship and promise to love and cherish one another, “until death do us part?” Not everybody has a great marriage.
It's like the young bride who called her pastor three weeks after her wedding day.
"Pastor," she cried, "George and I had a dreadful fight!"
"Calm down, my child," said the pastor, "it's not half as bad as you think it is. Every marriage has to have its first fight!"
"I know, I know!" said the young woman, "but what am I going to do with the body?"
So, not everybody has a great experience with marriage. But still marriage is the norm. Most of us do it--regardless of warnings from our parents and friends. Especially our mother-in-law.
Let's face it, most people get married. Most of us need a marriage partner. Not everybody, of course. Some people will be content to spend their lives single. Some people want a partner, but they never find that one relationship that lasts a lifetime. People have different needs and different circumstances, but most of us dislike the idea of being alone. There are biological reasons, social reasons and even spiritual reasons for marriage. That is why marriage will always be around. In an old Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown says to his friend, "My Grandpa and Gramma have been married for 50 years!"
The friend replies, "They're lucky, aren't they?"
Charlie Brown answers. "Gramma says it isn't luck--it's skill!" Enough about marriage for today.
In our reading you have to remember that the Sadducees and Pharisees were always looking for some way to trip Jesus up; to get Him to say something questionable to their Laws; something to add to their arsenal in which to accuse, arrest and try Him. So, they drummed up this overexaggerated, hypothetical story about a woman who marries seven brothers. One after another as each brother died and left her without children. Gentlemen, I don’t about you, but after the first two brothers had passed, I would have run for the hills. Law or no law. This woman was bad luck. But our story is more about what happens after we are resurrected than it is about who can, and does, marry who.
If you remember from previous sermons, the Sadducees were the aristocratic, the upper-class, religious leaders during the time of Jesus. They were sort of like our Supreme Court justices. They weren’t many in numbers, like the Pharisees, but they held the highest positions. They believed and followed only the first 5 books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch, and nowhere in those books is resurrection mentioned. The problem is, the Sadducees were thinking worldly. They had this impression that resurrection meant that the old body was raised up and overhauled like an old car with new parts. Just another example of misinterpretation by those stuck in the ancient laws.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul compares our present body to a planted seed and the future resurrection body to the glorious flower and fruit. “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body (36-44).
Just look at the resurrected body of Jesus. He was recognizable to His disciples; they could touch Him just as Thomas did when Jesus asked him to put his finger in the holes in His hands where the nails had been driven; Jesus ate food and yet He could walk through closed doors. And as with Mary at the grave site and the two men in Emmaus Jesus could change His appearance so He could not be recognized. And after He broke bread with the two men, He vanished right before their eyes.
Our future life, our future bodies, living with Jesus will not be just a continuation of our present life on a higher scale. One of the most pressing questions any of us have in life is what happens after our life is over. We don't like to think about it, of course, we need to be concerned about living the life we do have. But, nonetheless, each time someone we know dies, that nagging question raises its ugly head. Jesus teaches us over and over again that what we do with our life today, will indeed have an effect on what shape our life will take when we die. If it is any consolation, according to one commentary, we will recognize each other and fellowship with each other as fellow brothers- and sisters-in-Christ when we get to heaven.
But can we really know anything at all about our future? The Sadducees say, "No," but the resurrection says, "Yes." Our daughter is trying to avoid using words like “dead”, “death” and “dying” when talking with our granddaughter about someone who has passed. When our son-in-law, Ryan’s, uncle died, our granddaughter said he rode a rocket to Heaven. So, when Helen’s aunt went into the hospital, Abigail asked her mother if the rocket had come to get Aunt Helen. What a great analogy giving by a child who knows little to nothing about death. With that in mind, I can see this bright shiny rocket with the words, “Heaven Express” on the side transporting our loved ones to their eternal home.
The fact is, the resurrection of Jesus gives us all the information we need as to what will happen to us when our earthly lives come to an end. Jesus said in John 14:1-3, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Back in our reading, the Sadducees, in an effort to entrap Jesus, were also assuming that the rules of marriage are the same in Heaven, after resurrection, as they are here on Earth. The Mosaic Laws and the Laws of mankind have no place in Heaven. Jesus was telling the Sadducees that there is no death or marriage in Heaven. So therefore, this scenario could not take place there. There will be no need for marriage and no need for childbearing. The Sadducees did not have the capability of thinking 4th , or even 5th, dimensionally. They could not fathom the thought of the resurrection and living anew in Heaven.
In verse 37, Jesus refers to the burning bush event found in Exodus 3 & 4 where God, speaking with Moses, states that He is the God of Abraham, the God of Jacob and the God of Isaac. God uses a present tense here. God does not say He was. God says He is. Indicating that their existence had not ended with their deaths.
Jesus puts a final exclamation mark on this by saying that God is the God of the living and not of the dead. God is the God of the whole person – the spirit, soul and body. Paul tells us of this promise of God in his first letter to the church of Thessalonica, 5:23. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jesus confirmed that which the Sadducees denied; the existence of angels, the reality of a life after death and the hope of a resurrection. And, He did it with just one passage from Moses.
So, therefore, do not be so concerned with the dead as those living in the love of God will be alive eternally just as Jesus is alive. God was, is and always will be our God as long as we keep Him centered in our lives.
Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day. For many, this holiday is just another day off from work; a day to sleep in late; perhaps spend some time with family and friends. It’s one of those holidays that can bring a wide range of emotions as we celebrate the dedication and commitment of those who gave of themselves to defend and protect our country and our freedoms. We joyfully and thankfully celebrate those who survived whatever military conflict they were part of. And we thank God for shielding them from harm so that they can still be with us today. Even though this day was created to honor the living veterans, we also somberly, perhaps even tearfully, celebrate those who gave their lives for their country; those who sacrificed everything for those of us left behind. Just as Jesus did when He voluntarily went to the cross in order to give His life for the freedom from sin and eternal death of others.
Veteran’s Day started as a day to reflect upon the heroism of those who died in our country's service and was originally called Armistice Day. It fell on Nov. 11 because that is the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice (truce) that ended World War I in the year 1918. However, in 1954, after having been through both World War II and the Korean War, the holiday was changed to "Veterans Day" in order to account for all veterans in all wars. Unfortunately, it is only one day that we officially stand and honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. But I assure you veterans that we honor your service every day that we are able to wake up and live in the freedoms that you so bravely fought for. With that we thank you and may God continue to bless you the rest of your lives.