Luke 20:27-40 God of The Living

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series The Gospel of Luke

In 1901, Dr. Duncan MacDougall believed that the human soul had mass and could be measured. So he developed an experiment in which dying patients were weighed during death. Six patients were weighed at death and he reported ¾ of an ounce were lost. His findings were made suspect however when another physician pointed out that natural events such as perspiration at the time of death would more than account for ¾ of an ounce.

I don’t know if the human soul actually has mass, though I do not think so. But we do believe that we have more than a body, we also have a soul. And that soul will live forever.

Please stand as you are able and hear God’s word: Luke 20:27-40.

The Saducees

Once again the enemies of Christ are standing around Him as his final week progresses. The legal attack launched by the spies failed, it was time for a Theological attack.

We know about the Pharisees: Strong on tradition and certain of their works based righteousness.

The Sadducees however rejected the role of tradition altogether. Further they restricted the authority of scripture giving the most weight to the five books of Moses (Called the Pentateuch).

The Pharisees and Sadducees were not fond of each other. Both rejected the other’s dogmas. But as the saying goes, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The Pharisees and Sadducees both had determined that Jesus was a threat to their stability. As a result they attacked him continually from different angles.

How appropriate for us then since we live in a day in which Bible Believing Christianity stands threatened by sinners who seek increasingly to marginalize (and eventually to criminalize) Christianity. We should not be surprised when people gang up on Christ, Christianity, or Christ followers. There is nothing new under the sun. But listen: Just as the attacks against Christ are not in any way new, neither is the truth that God’s word is sufficient to answer these attacks when approached with prayer and wisdom. It is our task to know His word and understand good doctrine.

Further, the Sadducees believed, as Luke informs us, that the soul died right along with the body. They believed there was no such thing as a resurrection. Neither did they believe in Angels or Spirits. With no hope of a resurrection, there seems to me that there is no hope of an eternal reward, but only a belief in this life alone as all there is. Thus the old joke makes sense: They did not believe in a resurrection which is why they were “Sad-You-See”.

So these Sadducees come with a question. Their question does not have to be a real situation, but why not – it doesn’t matter. It comes across to me like every made up quasi-philosophical question I’ve ever heard or which has ever been asked in the pursuit of crushing your opponent rather than learning truth.

Levirate Marriage

These Sadducees frame the question based upon the premise of what is called “Levirate marriage”. The name comes from Latin and means essentially “Brother in law marriage.”

Deuteronomy 25:5-6 is their proof text. If a man dies without a male child to carry on his name, his brother was obligated to marry the widow and the first male offspring would be considered the deceased. In this way the family line would not fail. It is possible that the proposition would be too onerous and the rest of the Deuteronomy text lines out the repercussions of not following through with this. Whatever you may think of the law which was meant for the Jewish nation to keep the tribes going as they were, the law itself is not the point of the story they concoct.

The Story

A man gets married and dies without a son. Then one after another all seven brothers marry the same poor widow and die childless, then she dies. Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?

The Sadducees believed it was impenetrable evidence that it was foolish to believe in the resurrection. Clearly God wouldn’t let all seven men keep her in the afterlife. So, they concluded… There must be no resurrection. Their imagination had made it so that any resurrected life must be precisely like this one. They had no capacity to envision something greater.

In 1 Corinthians 15 some false teachers (Sadducees?) had been teaching that there was no resurrection when Paul reminds them that if there is no resurrection, then Jesus has not been raised, and your faith is useless (1 Cor 15:12ff) he then goes on to teach about the resurrection including the fact that while this body we have now is mortal, the resurrection body is immortal. The glory of the earthly body we have is no comparison to the completely different glory of the resurrection body we will have.

Jesus knows these things and he does not stumble over their question. Instead he corrects their theology and reveals some things we may not have known otherwise.

Marriage is Temporary.

He really identifies a separation when he singles out those who will be “Counted worthy” of the resurrection. We know from the remainder of scripture that any worthiness for salvation is Christ’s worthiness alone. So we must read this in light of that: Those who are saved by grace do not marry in the age to come.

Jesus also reveals to us something about the nature of marriage – something our society has forgotten in its reckless race away from God’s decrees. Marriage is for reproduction. This is true whether or not children come from the marriage. I think of our precious missionary couple who struggle with this and my heart breaks for them both knowing that they feel heartbroken as well. But for this point we should note that not having children does not invalidate a marriage any more than having twenty would validate it.

The point remains, as Christ teaches it that Marriage is the correct environment to raise children.

For this reason fornication and adultery are contrary to God’s design – because they not only mock God’s character of faithfulness but also because the child does not have access to both father and mother. Children properly need a mother and a father by design. In this sin stained world we have all seen and experienced the pain of broken homes.

For any society to consider it completely normal and good to routinely sunder the bond of marriage with divorce and infidelity, or ignore the bond of marriage through fornication as our world does today is to defy God’s design to his face. Such defiance cannot be without cost.

There is a resurrection

So why is marriage limited to this life only? Once the resurrection has come, there is no more death, thus there will be no need to create more children. Death is swallowed up in victory. Everyone who comes to the resurrection has eternal – unending life. This is what the comparison means. The angels do not die; neither shall those who are resurrected. God does not die, neither will his children.

But there is another side to this story as well. There are those who will not attain the resurrection of life. Those who will not accept Jesus in this life must endure an eternity separated from Him. Just as the resurrection body of the believer will be fit for that undying eternity, we must assume that the unbeliever too will be made fit to endure separation from God in hell!

Scripture is sufficient

As for the Sadducees, Jesus turns to the portion of Scripture they particularly embraced: The Pentateuch in order to answer their question. There is an important principle here. It is true that a great many teachings of scripture are familiar to us because we read them in the New Testament. It is also true that there are some doctrines revealed only in the New Testament because they were “mysteries” in the Old Testament. God did not reveal fully the nature of the Christ until the new – and many of the prophecies in the Old Testament only become clear when viewed in the light of the New Testament.

However, and this is incredibly important: God’s word from beginning to end contains the seed of the gospel. The Old Testament is not a separate scripture separated from the New in quality – the New cannot stand without it. The New Testament is like the second half of a sentence that begins in the Old.

In fact Paul reminds the young pastor; Timothy that his mom and grandma had read to him the scriptures which were able to make people wise to salvation (2 Tim 1:5; 3:15). What Paul is talking about there is the OLD TESTAMENT. The Old Testament is sufficient even to make people wise about the way of salvation. Oh, it does not reveal the name of Jesus we know that. But it does reveal the messiah, it reveals the law which demonstrates how gross our sin is, and it reveals for us our desperate need to repent before God and that God will heed our repentant hearts and shower forgiveness upon the broken and contrite of heart.

Do not despise the Old Testament, or ignore it. But so much more with the knowledge of the New Testament go back and read the Old with joy as you search for the Savior to be revealed in its pages.

Now then, Jesus turns to these men and points to them about the familiar passage of Moses’ commissioning at the burning bush. There God introduces himself by what he calls his covenant name for all generations (Exodus 3:15). God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

God is not the God of dead men, but of living.

God is the God of the Living – for all live to Him. Even those who have gone before us live to Him. Here is comfort and hope, all live to God.

The Greeks and Romans viewed the body as the prison house of the soul. But for the Hebrews, and Christianity – the doctrine placed in scripture is different. When God created man from the dust of the earth, he breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living being.

Greek dualism would teach that the body and soul are separate, that the body was evil while the soul was good. A great many Christians through the ages have foolishly gotten hold of this idea, and with the rise of Eastern mysticism in America it has risen again to a certain extent. We fail to realize that we are both Body and soul – and that they are meant to be together. Even the resurrection is a repudiation of the dualism – for why would the resurrection matter if it were not good that soul and body be joined?


This life matters

God has created us as body and as soul together, that is how life is meant to be lived. and how we are to honor God, both in our body and in our soul. This is why your daily life matters. Do whatever you do as if you are doing it for the Lord, because you matter in all that you are.

Eternal life matters

And it matters that you have an eternal soul. That soul will be reunited with a body fit for the eternity it goes to. For this reason we can peer at Jesus’ answer here and bring ourselves not only to understand the truth of the resurrection, but also to settle on that phrase, “Those who are considered worthy to attain to that age…”

We know that worthiness is the work of Christ.

And we know, this side of his work on the cross, that Jesus died to pay the price of our unworthiness so that we could receive his worthiness. Now to everyone who comes to Christ with repentance we have this promise of the resurrected life.

Today, I urge you to ensure that you are part of the resurrection. Come to him by confessing and turning from rebellion and embracing him as your savior. Call upon Jesus to save you today, and he will save you forever.

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