A First Look at Luke 20:27-38 (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers)

 

There are many intricate theological points highlighted by this week’s Gospel reading.  However, I believe the text can be summarized as follows: how does Jesus deal with bullies, those who antagonize him publicly, those who seek to trap in him in unwinnable arguments, and those who have no intention of listening to his message?

The Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection, are not interested in Jesus’ answers. Their goal is to make Jesus look foolish by responding to their outlandish setup of a question. What can we learn from this encounter?

  1. Debating the furniture of Heaven or the thermostat in Hell is a lose/lose proposition. No one knows the realities of Heaven and Hell. John Milton and Dante have done more to shape our images of the underworld than anything in the Bible. The truth: none of us know. We’ve read passages of scripture that give us a vague idea. The truth is, we don’t know. Like so much, we go on faith.
  2. The Sadducees absurd questions weren’t designed to be answered. If you encounter something similar, Ignore them. That’s what Jesus did. He doesn’t get down into the weeds.
  3. Realize the difference between now and eternity. For human beings to set the rules for Heaven, in any meaningful sense, is taking power away from God. God sets the rules, especially in eternity.
  4. When Jesus was answering this question with the Sadducees, no one but Jesus understood the resurrection. Jesus redefined the meaning of the resurrection. You can’t debate people if one side is talking about apples, and you’re discussing oranges.
  5. If you’re laying verbal traps for people to “catch” people with whom you disagree, you’ve already lost. We don’t get other people into Heaven by asking trick questions. That’s called being a jerk.  Resurrection is God’s business.
  6. The Sadducees ask the patriarchy question of the week, “Whose wife is this?”  In their set-up attempt to bait Jesus, the “woman” is still treated like property in death.   No, just no.

Why Aren’t We Listening? Psalm 81:1,10-16

Top 10 Things I Don’t Want To Hear God Say When I Get To Heaven

10. We’re out of slaw.
9. You can’t have the Netflix password
8. The diet soda is over there
7.  You’re supposed to replace the toner
6. Don’t touch the thermostat
5.  We have macaroni and cheese every night
4. Meet your new roommate, Steve Irwin
3. Elvis has only just arrived
2. There’ll be an Administrative Board meeting at 3 pm
1. I gave you over to the stubbornness of your heart, to follow your devices.

The last one has got to be one of the most emotional and stressful expressions God utters in the Old Testament. It’s an intimate revelation of God’s frustration and love. The Psalmist records God saying, “I let you do your own thing, follow your plans, despite stubbornness, and what I knew to be wrong; I let you go.” I sent you off despite everything to the contrary because that’s what you claimed you wanted and you wouldn’t listen.  God sounds like the parent of a teenager. Idea number one: sometimes, God’s people get it wrong. Believing themselves right in the face of obvious wrongness, they, as the Psalm says, “simply weren’t agreeable toward God.”

There are expressions you hear in some circles, “God’s ways are unknowable and mysterious.” God is beyond us. I also think we use phrases like that when we want to let ourselves off the hook and keep doing our own thing. How could we know what God, so far beyond us, want us to do? Such reasoning is an excuse. In Psalm 81, nothing is beyond us; God couldn’t be clearer. God’s call for dialogue is in black and white, and we feign ignorance.

Idea number two: God asks in verse 11, “How I wish my people Israel would listen to me!” There’s no mystery there. Why aren’t we listening? Is it easier to pretend we’re still wandering in a wilderness of our design? Yes. When we walk without a purpose, we fight among ourselves. As we stop and listen to God, we realize our God-given potential to be the church. The authentic and honest voice of God seems challenging to hear, but it is not hard for those who are listening.

Richard Lowell Bryant