The priestly Sadducees are rich, educated, and serious. They reject the notion of the resurrection of the dead and view Jesus’ teachings on that subject as dangerous. In an attempt to discredit him, they pose a question designed to humiliate him publicly: What if a woman marries a man with six brothers, and her husband dies with no heir? According to the law of Moses she marries the eldest brother. Then he dies, and so on until she marries all seven brothers at one time or another. In the resurrection, whose wife will she be?
Their question is so absurd that it would be hard to stifle a snicker! Were these brothers accident-prone or suicidal? Who was this woman? Lizzie Borden? Typhoid Mary?
The fact that the Sadducees have no sense of humor about this matter makes it even funnier. Jesus plays along by saying that all our social arrangements pale in comparison to what God has in store for us. God’s relationship with us will still exist when everything has turned to dust. Nothing, not even death, will separate us from God. That is all we need to know.
Encountering the gospel of Jesus Christ requires a sense of humor. The more serious we become about limiting the bounds of God’s working, the sillier we look. The farther we extend the “rules” to exclude others, the farther we move from the kingdom. How can we not laugh? What could be funnier than an uneducated carpenter from Nazareth promising the things he does? What could be funnier than seeing serious people pelt Jesus with questions and then look embarrassed when Jesus answers them? All shall be well if we laugh at ourselves, quit trying to embarrass and humiliate our neighbors, let God be God, and see how it all turns out!
O God, may your upside-down kingdom bring me joy and laughter. Amen.
The rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple became a test of God’s promise. The prophetic word of Haggai insists on courage and labor, reminding the people that God’s Spirit is already present among them and points toward the future. In Second Thessalonians, some Christians have grown extremely agitated by claims that the “day of the Lord” has already come. The passage recalls what Jesus and God have already accomplished and insists that God’s future may also be trusted. Jesus’ response to the Sadducees confutes them, not merely by its cleverness (their question also is clever) but by its truth. The eschatological future cannot be understood simply as an extension of the present, except in one profound sense: God is Lord both of the present and of the future. This profound truth demands the praise to which Psalm 145 calls all creatures.
• Read Haggai 1:15b–2:9. The people return home from exile—but home has changed. When have you returned “home” to a different setting than the one you left? How did you feel the changes?
• Read Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21. How fully do you participate in worship? In what areas are you more reserved?
• Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17. The phrase “shaken in mind” may be better translated as “shaken out of mind,” implying great distress. What basics and foundation do you return to when you are “shaken out of mind”?
• Read Luke 20:27-38. The Sadducees miss the core of who Jesus is. When has an “old” religious mind-set blocked your ability to see and hear a “new thing”?
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