Scripture: Luke 20:27-38
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who tried to present themselves, as an expert in an area, but in reality know nothing about the topic? It is even worse when you happen to have an extensive knowledge in an area in which they speak but they seem to be unable to acknowledge their error. I have been in many of these conversations sometimes they can be very funny but in many cases they can quickly devolve into an argument because often people do not like to be corrected of their ignorance. Yes I use the term ignorance because that is what most of these discussions are, they are without proper knowledge and because of that they are presenting things improperly. And I willing admit that at times I am the ignorant person in some conversations.
I remember several conversations that I have had with people as I worked as an overnight sales floor associate, many of these conversations moved into the areas of what the Christian view is on many areas. In most of the cases the ignorance was a willful ignorance, meaning they had no desire to gain proper knowledge but would continue to spread their faulty ideas. This was most prevalent when the discussion was over the Christian response to Islam. I was often worried about the direction these discussions would take because I knew that most people involved were working with limited knowledge over the subject matter, on both sides. For example many of my Islamic friends were debating with the assumption that all Christians believed in three gods, those gods being the Father, Jesus the Son, and Mary. Many of the Christians were debating thinking that all Islamic groups were the same as well not realizing that there are two major groups. It got to the point that I actually asked one of my Islamic friends to read a book from which I gained what knowledge I had over their faith and asked them to let me know where the presentation was inaccurate. They actually jumped at the opportunity, which opened them up to asking questions as well about their ignorance of Christianity.
I would try to stay out of many of these discussions because a fool seems wise until they open their mouths, and I did not want to look the fool. Each side would gear up to debate, and to argue their points but neither would really listen to the other party. I had one friend that took me aside once and demanded that I prove my faith to him, saying, “If you prove that your faith is true I will convert.” What a great door opening up to me, I wanted to speak, but instead I said to him, “I will answer any questions you have about my faith and how my faith has changed my life, but I will not debate. Because there is nothing that I can say that could say in an argument that would convince you fully.” I left the conversation feeling that maybe I missed a great opportunity to encourage this man’s life, but I also felt that it was the correct answer to the situation. He did ask several questions over the course of our time working together, but I did not push. Eventually he told me that he was going to transfer but he enjoyed our discussions, he admitted to me that he did question many teaching of both religions and asked me if I had ever struggled. I was totally honest with him, telling him that yes I question my faith every day, I study and pray daily wanting to continually prove to myself that I am not just grasping wind. That is part of Christianity we can doubt, question, and seek answers. I told him that Jesus even encourages us to do these things. Which allowed me to tell him that in all my searching I always come back to the same thing I always come back to Jesus. This then opened a door for me to provide him some of the resources I used to come to my conclusions, he accepted the books that I offered and we went on our way.
Often times we want to prove that we are right. We will push forward in a debate with the goal to prove our points and actually miss the questions being asked. We in our attempts to win people for Christ can miss the point. That is what religion often does. Religion is a human attempt to explain or reach the divine. It is a human attempt. This means that in the attempt our explanation will by default be tinted by human experience and perspective. That perspective can be incorrect at any given point. I am not saying that it is wrong out right, but it may not tell the entire truth. Theology is a fascinating field of study because there are several different perspectives to explore, each opening a new window of light from which we can view the human interaction with God. The danger in theology and what has gotten all denominations in trouble is when they decide that their perspective of theology is correct and without error. I say that it is dangerous because that view assumes that we then have total knowledge of God and there is no longer any room to question.
This is where division enters communities. Last week many followers of Jesus in many traditions celebrated Reformation Day. It is a very important day because it prompted many people to again question what they say they believe, to seek answers and to find God. But along with that day it also started a battle between religious power structures that both claimed to have total truth, yet their views differed. It is a day that marks the division of Catholic and Protestant. It is a day of celebration and in the same breath a day of sorrow. There is not unity in the Church, there is not room for different ideas or perspectives, and in many ways we celebrate ignorance. In all of our arguments could we actually miss the point?
That is where we find Jesus in today’s passage. There is a group of people coming to him asking a theological question. In the New Testament we see the interaction between two schools of thought among the Jewish people the Pharisee viewpoint and that of the Sadducee. In many ways they believe the same things, the essentials are all there, the difference comes in the areas that are unclear in scripture. In this particular case it deals with marriage.
The question comes as to whom is the woman married to in the resurrection? That is the question presented but is that the real question asked? As I read this passage I sense a couple of extra questions; what is marriage, and what is resurrection are two that come to mind. The Sadducee, it states, does not believe in the resurrection from the dead, yet they ask this question, because there is an aspect of the extension of life that is unclear in scripture. Just by observation and in my own personal ignorance of ancient Jewish traditions I would say that the Sadducee understanding of resurrection would be in the physical linage or becoming parents. There was a reason that Moses wrote the law and if there are no children the question is was the life of these seven brothers in vain?
There is also a question of marriage. The law states that if a woman’s husband dies without a child the brother of the man must take the woman as his wife and bear children in the brother’s name. Is the point of marriage only in the bearing of children?
These are questions that the scholars and theologians of ancient times struggled with. Each group was certain that they had the correct answer to the presented question, but did they miss the entire point of question. Jesus begins to answer the question by saying, “those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Those worthy of that age do not marry, why? “Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”
This speaks volumes about marriage, life, death, and resurrection. What is marriage? In the beginning God said that it was not good for man to be alone, so God created woman. The beginning point of marriage is that it is not good for mankind to be alone. That life is to be lived in relationship. Marriage first and foremost is friendship. The story goes on to say that Adam and Eve, our first parents, walked through the garden naked and unashamed. This also says that in relationship there is vulnerability, intimacy, and trust. No hiding, no secrets, just naked and unashamed. That kind of intimacy is difficult to obtain which is where God comes in.
We as humans are bound by fear. We live in the constant fear of being known. The fear is that if people were to know us deeply that we would be found lacking in some way. So we prop ourselves us sewing together ideas that become masks and walls. These masks and walls became the perspectives from which we relate to everyone around us. You fear and out of your fear, you judge me and everyone else around you in certain ways. We are either allies that can prop us our image or enemies to be marginalized. In our fear we live alone, we live contrary to the will of God, and are dead.
God is not the God of the dead but the living. You can only have relationships with the living. This brings to light the questions of life, death, and resurrection. The Lord is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, Moses heard these statements centuries after these men died yet God was speaking about them not in the past tense but the present. When we are in relationship with God true life continues beyond our understanding of time. It is life then, now, and evermore. This cannot be explained adequately from a human perspective. For some it speaks of heritage as we have children or influence the lives of others our life continues with them. Others see it in a mystical spiritual perspective that is supernatural. People argue over the meaning but both could be equally correct or incorrect.
What does Jesus mean in his answer? Marriage is focused not on the legal aspects of matrimony but on the relational aspects of life together, joining together and proceeding through time not alone but as one unit. Life is not defined by the time between birth and burial but extends beyond the realm of time and space. So what do we know for sure? We do not know anything fully. At best we are ignorant because it is impossible to have full knowledge in the areas beyond our human senses. No matter what our best science and observations seem lacking. Even our greatest theologies can seem to have holes that we cannot fully explain. The point is that it is ok not to have all the answers, as long as we are willing to ask questions. It is ok to lack understanding as long as we do not build a wall around our ignorance. The main things is that Life is more important that being right. Life must be lived, honored, and protected. Does it matter whom the woman is married to? No it is that she was not alone. Our Lord is for the living and the living can only be seen and understood in our current human perspective. They are the people walking all around us. To participate in God’s life with others that should be our focus. It is not good for man to be alone. That is why God Himself came to live among mankind, to take on all the fear, shame, and death that separates us from true relationships, and to lift us up to His glory. Never more to be alone, but Emmanuel, God With Us.
In all of our debates and arguments let us not forget that one perspective. Does our stance protect and honor life? Does our theology leave room for the marginalized? Are we leaving people alone and without hope or are we sharing with them life with a living God?