The late Reverend Billy Graham once told of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach one of his crusades.
Wanting to mail a letter, he saw a young boy and asked him how to get to the post office.
When the boy had given him directions – Dr. Graham thanked him and said: “If you come to the Baptist Church tonight – you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.”
“No thank you, I don’t think I will be there,” said the boy. When Graham asked him why not – they boy said, “Mister you don’t even know how to get to the post office – how are you going to tell us how to get to heaven??”
We have just a few more weeks of reading St. Luke’s Gospel before we begin a new liturgical year and the reading of St. Matthew’s Gospel. . . By this point in Luke’s Gospel – Jesus had been preaching, teaching, and healing – all to let people how to get to heaven. And so he had many steadfast friends who were faithfully following him ----- and many zealous enemies --- wanting to shut him down.
If these nay-sayers could confuse Jesus – cause him to fumble for an answer – his appeal would be dimmed in the eyes of some, or so they thought. Then this could start a counter-movement in which there could be much questioning, and mumbling, and discontent.
Then, when the time came to cart Jesus off for a final end to his life and teaching --- maybe they would be rather thankful – rather than upset. . . or so they thought.
The Sadduces were part of this crowd who wanted to discredit Jesus and his teaching. They were Sad-you-see ----- because they did not believe in the Resurrection. They said there was no firm basis for life after death in the first five books of their Scriptures – known by us as the Pentetuch – and to them, as the Books of Moses or the Hebrew Torah.
They wanted to show that this man who some believed came down from heaven – had no idea what heaven was like –and they thought they had the perfect question to make him stumble. . .
It was an absurd question they posed that assumes seven cases of marriage: if a man’s brother dies childless – he must marry the widow according to the Law of Moses found in the Book of Deuteronomy (25:5-6). A single bride is passed to seven brothers in succession --- SO, whose wife will she be in heaven?
Whenever I hear this question of the Sadducees – there is a side of me that wants to say, “Good Question” –
not because I don’t believe in life after death, which was the Sadducees problem – but because I want some insight as to what life in heaven is going to be like. So it’s more “good question” – give us an idea Jesus, so we have something to look forward to – something to strive for. . .
But then I think maybe that’s getting too caught up in the physical facts – much like the questions – where heaven will be, what we will do all the time, who will be there – and who will not --- good questions – but do they sidetrack us from what the meaning of the resurrection and the life to come is all about???
We do like to think about our own life after death – and the fact that Jesus’ resurrection guarantees us that life – BUT the resurrection is about so much more than what is going to happen to MY body and to ME after I’M dead and gone. . .
Naturally I am quite interested in what happens to me after I’m dead – but I’m not the only fish in the sea – and the sea is so much more than just the sum total of all the fish. . .
The belief in the resurrection --- is NOT just that Jesus is alive today – and I can have a personal relationship with Him --- though this is true.
It’s NOT just that there is a life after death and I can enjoy it when I get there --- though this is true also.
But the belief in the resurrection is also that there is a whole new world, a new creation, a new order of being – that has come into existence. And that you and I and everyone else is going to get caught up in that new creation.
God has made a way through death and out the other side – and the world as we know it --- the world of beautiful autumns and chilly morning, as well as shootings and terrorism and addictions --- and 24 hour days and 7 day weeks --- the world in which people are married and given in marriage –
this world, itself, in a through the process of resurrection – is being put to death and brought through the grave---- to new life on the other side.
The whole point of the resurrection when seen from this perspective – is that the risen Christ is the beginning of God’s new world order, “the first fruits of those who slept.”
Jesus Christ is the guarantee that love is stronger than death, that God who made the world and has grieved over its fall into sin and corruption – has not left us to stew in our own demise – but has entered into the world --- has taken its pain and shame and death unto Himself – and broken through to a new creation on the other side –
which will be absolutely nothing like we know on this side -- -a place where there is no more suffering – no more tears, no more sadeness.
What a good question the Saducees ask. And what a good answer Jesus gives them. And while many of us don’t want to find our way to the post office these days – especially in North Kansas City --- I hope most of us long to get caught up in the new creation of heaven --- and we do that, as St. Paul tells us – by directing our hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.
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