16 March 2016

Mark 12:18-34

“He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” (v. 27)

Psalm: Psalm 61


In much of the Old Testament, there is only the vaguest belief in life after death. By the time of Jesus' conversation with the Sadducees, belief in life after death had become much more popular but without a clear picture of what the resurrection life would look like. The Sadducees resisted belief in bodily resurrection - their question is based around a law given in Deuteronomy 25:5-10, at a time when it was seen as far more important to lead a 'good' life and to live on after death through one's (male) children.

Some people have found Jesus' response to be cold comfort, painting as it does a picture of the resurrection life in which no one is married. Some people, especially those in contented long-term relationships, find this to be a rather bleak idea. C S Lewis, in his book 'Miracles', compares these worries to "a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure, should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer 'No,' he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality… The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it."

Like the small boy (and perhaps the Sadducees), many people find it difficult to imagine - let alone look forward to - the resurrection life, because our idea of what makes 'a good life' is so firmly rooted in our current context. In the discussion that follows of the greatest commandment, one of the religious leaders admits that loving God and our neighbour is, in fact, "more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices" (v. 33). The covenant made in the Old Testament and the laws laid down in books like Deuteronomy (including those around burnt offerings and sacrifices) are fulfilled in Jesus. Just as those living under the old covenant would find it difficult to picture life under the new covenant, so we struggle to picture the resurrection life - but we are reassured that when we love God, our neighbour and ourselves, we are "not far from the kingdom of God" (v. 34).

To Ponder

  • What do you find exciting about the ideas of resurrection and life in the age to come? And what makes you anxious?
  • How do you respond to the laws given in the Old Testament? What do they tell you today about the nature of God?

Bible notes author

Naomi Oates

Naomi Oates has worked for the Connexional Team in a variety of guises since 2012, currently as the Executive Officer to the Secretary of the Conference. She is also training part-time for presbyteral ministry.