Sunday

06 November 2016

“[Jesus said,] ‘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.’” (vv. 37-38)

Psalm: Psalm 17:1-9


Background

In his final visit to Jerusalem, Jesus faced a certain amount of opposition and a number of controversial questions, as the religious authorities tried to belittle him in front of the crowds that had welcomed him (Luke 19:28-40). They questioned him about his authority (Luke 20:1-8), and - to try to trap him into inciting the crowd to disobey the Roman laws and so commit an offence worthy of arrest - asked whether it was right to pay taxes to the Roman emperor (Luke 20:19-26). Among his questioners were the Sadducees.

The Sadducees were aristocratic priests, claiming descent and naming themselves after Zadok, the high priest during the time of King David (1 Kings 1:26). They objected to the non-priestly fundamentalist Pharisees - mere laymen - presuming to interpret the law for the people of their day. The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that the Sadducees rejected any ideas of divine reward or punishment in an afterlife, because such ideas did not occur in the Jewish law - which they accepted as the sole basis for their faith. Luke tells us that they rejected belief in the resurrection or in angels (Acts 23:6-9).

Using the law of Moses about the obligations of a man for his brother's widow (Deuteronomy 25:5) the Sadducees test Jesus's teaching to the limit of absurdity. They argued that as it would be ridiculous for a woman to be married to seven men at the same time, then there is obviously no such thing as a resurrection in which such a situation could arise. Jesus demolishes their logic by arguing that marriage is part of this world, not the next, because angels do not have sexual relations. By quoting Exodus 3:6, and noting that Moses wrote that God did not use thepasttense in describing to Moses his relationship to the long-dead Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jesus argues that as that relationship still continues then these patriarchs must be alive after they had been seen to die.


To Ponder

  • Still today, some people believe that only the text of the Bible matters as defining God's word, and that anything else is just human thinking. What do you believe? Why?
  • Christians today can disagree about what seem to be pernickety details. Do our disagreements matter? Why? And what does this say about our accepting one another as fellow-members of the community of grace?
  • When have you suddenly realised that you could think about things in a new or different way? What caused you to change your mind?


Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Neil Cockling

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