Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a question, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.’
He is not God of the dead, but of the living.
When someone close to us dies we find ourselves caught up in a maelstrom of emotions. We are full of sorrow that we will no longer see and live alongside someone who was precious to us. We feel relief, and perhaps joy, that the suffering of our loved one has come to an end. We may feel overwhelmed by a burden of responsibility that has fallen upon our shoulders. We may feel fear because of the cloud of loneliness that has suddenly enveloped us. Death, for those who are left behind, is bewildering and devastating.
It is not only the death of a loved one that evokes such emotional turmoil. I remember walking through the streets of London in that fateful week of September 1997, the week after Princess Diana died. I remember seeing groups of people crying and consoling one another following the death of someone they had never even met. I also remember television interviews with those people, interviews in which they laid blame, expressed sorrow, and asked questions. The experience of death is difficult because it is a moment which defies human explanation.
In today’s reading, Jesus is confronted by some Sadducees, those who denied the truth of the resurrection. We know that they are challenging the one man who will soon defy death in this world and reveal not only the truth, but also the power of the resurrection. But, that is not where we are in the gospel narrative today.
The Sadducees’ denial of the resurrection is based on a range of theological misconceptions. These misconceptions are wrapped up in the question they ask Jesus about the fate of the much-married woman. The basis of the complicated hypothesis presented by the Sadducees is their misunderstanding of what resurrection means. Resurrection does not mean more of the same, rather it means a new life to be lived in a closer relationship with God.
The reality of Jesus’ resurrection cannot be doubted. Many saw him and witnessed the transformed life of the one who had passed through death. This transformational rebirth, this resurrection, is the victory over death that Jesus won for us. Until we come into the moment of our own actual resurrection, let us strive to live that transformed life Jesus won for us all. Let us prove ourselves to be ready for the resurrection to come as we, in our time, enter the eternal presence of our God. Let us show that we are ready and worthy to be transformed for ever.