By James Cornwell

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 20:27-40

27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30 then the second 31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”

34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 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. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” 39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40 For they no longer dared to ask him another question.

Meditation

In today’s gospel, a group of Sadducees pose Jesus a hypothetical that suggests the very idea of a general resurrection is ridiculous. How should we deal with this kind of assault on our beliefs?

On the one hand, we could join in with the Sadducees. Perhaps there is some doctrine of the faith that seems particularly absurd to us that we’d rather mock than accept. There are certainly Christians in abundance these days that take this route. On the other hand, we could withdraw in fear and anger. Perhaps there is some doctrine of the faith in which we want to believe, but we are unable to refute the clever arguments lobbed by the Sadducees of our day, and we are offended and resentful that they would attack our personal beliefs so openly. There are Christians in abundance who take this route as well. Indeed, we have probably each found ourselves making common cause with either or both of these parties, at one time or another, during doctrinal disputes of our day.

Jesus takes a different route. In response to the Sadducees’ attempt to mock it, Jesus deepens and beautifies the doctrine of the Resurrection, which makes the Sadducees’ attempted reductio ad absurdum itself seem absurd. There is no evidence in the text that Jesus is angry or forceful in his refutation, but it is powerful enough that “they no longer dared to ask him any question.”

As Christians, we should not fear the mocking of the scoffers, nor should we join in with them. Instead we should view them as an invitation to go deeper into the meaning of our inheritance. The truth belongs to all — and is ultimately synonymous with the inner life of God. Therefore, when faced with challenges to it, let us respond as our Lord responded, with a gentleness of spirit and a richness borne of our zeal for what is true.

James Cornwell lives and teaches in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their six children.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Chester (Church of England)
The Diocese of Northwest Texas