In Luke chapter 20, some Sadducees confront Jesus on the doctrine of resurrection. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, so they tried to trap Jesus with a trick scenario. They presented Jesus with a far-out story about seven brothers: the first brother married a good wife, then died; so the second brother married her in turn, then he died. This happened until each of the brothers married the same woman after the preceding brother died [one supposes they were good guys, but not too smart! brother six or seven should have questioned the math, at least, lol!]. Anyway, humor aside, the Sadducees told this story and then asked Jesus a question [drum roll]: “Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
One can imagine Jesus easily shrugging, by the way He answered. He simply hinted that they didn’t understand the category of resurrection at all, then He preceded to crush their underlying issue of non-belief with these words:
In the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive."
Take a moment and get your mind around these words. They are the words of Christ Jesus. Let them echo in your consciousness. Here is the meaning of the universe in two sentences: unity, relation, destiny, eternity in a moment…
If you don’t love Jesus after listening to words like these, your heart is different from mine! :-) But the point is taken: Jesus taught the resurrection unequivocally, as a self-evident fact of divine relation.
Tonight I was deeply moved by a sermon from George MacDonald on this text. MacDonald presents the doctrine of resurrection inherent in the words of Christ, and ascends to the pinnacle of human thought – following into divine thought – on this subject. One senses the very mind of Christ in these words:
What Godlike relation can the ever-living, life-giving, changeless God hold to creatures who partake not of His life, who have death at the very core of their being, are not worth their Maker's keeping alive? To let His creatures die would be to change, to abjure His Godhood, to cease to be that which He had made himself… But our Lord says, “All live unto Him.” With Him death is not…
Thy life sees our life, O Lord. All of whom all can be said, are present to thee. Thou thinkest about us, eternally more than we think about thee. The little life that burns within the body of this death, glows unquenchable in thy true-seeing eyes. If thou didst forget us for a moment then indeed death would be. But unto thee we live…
S/he of whom God thinks, lives. S/he takes to him or herself the name of Their God. The Living One cannot name himself after the dead; when the very Godhead lies in the giving of life. Therefore they must be alive.
Are you thrilled yet? :-) Either way, here is an excerpt of MacDonald’s sermon. Oh for more preaching like this! Read and be blessed!
The God of the living
It is a recurring cause of perplexity in our Lord's teaching, that He is too simple for us; that while we are questioning with ourselves about the design of Solomon's carving upon some gold-plated door of the temple, He is speaking about the foundations of Mount Zion, yea, of the earth itself, upon which it stands. If the reader of the Gospel supposes that our Lord was here using a verbal argument with the Sadducees, namely, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; therefore they are,” he will be astonished that no Sadducee was found with courage enough to reply: “All that God meant was to introduce himself to Moses as the same God who had aided and protected his fathers while they were alive, saying, I am he that was the God of thy fathers. They found me faithful. Thou, therefore, listen to me, and thou too shalt find me faithful unto the death.”
But no such reply suggested itself even to the Sadducees of that day, for their eastern nature could see argument beyond logic. Shall God call himself the God of the dead, of those who were alive once, but whom He either could not or would not keep alive? Is that the Godhood, and its relation to those who worship it? The changeless God of an ever-born and ever-perishing torrent of life; of which each atom cries with burning heart, My God! and straightway passes into the Godless cold! “Trust in me, for I took care of your fathers once upon a time, though they are gone now. Worship and obey me, for I will be good to you for threescore years and ten, or thereabouts; and after that, when you are not, and the world goes on all the same without you, I will call myself your God still.” God changes not. Once God He is always God! If He has once said to a man, “I am thy God, and that man has died the death of the Sadducee's creed,” then we have a right to say that God is the God of the dead.
“And wherefore should He not be so far the God of the dead, if during the time allotted to them here, He was the faithful God of the living?” What Godlike relation can the ever-living, life-giving, changeless God hold to creatures who partake not of His life, who have death at the very core of their being, are not worth their Maker's keeping alive? To let His creatures die would be to change, to abjure His Godhood, to cease to be that which He had made himself. If they are not worth keeping alive, then His creating is a poor thing, and He is not so great, nor so divine as even the poor thoughts of those His dying creatures have been able to imagine Him. But our Lord says, “All live unto Him.” With Him death is not.
Thy life sees our life, O Lord. All of whom all can be said, are present to thee. Thou thinkest about us, eternally more than we think about thee. The little life that burns within the body of this death, glows unquenchable in thy true-seeing eyes. If thou didst forget us for a moment then indeed death would be. But unto thee we live. The beloved pass from our sight, but they pass not from thine. This that we call death is but a form in the eyes of men. It looks something final, an awful cessation, an utter change. It seems not probable that there is anything beyond. But if God could see us before we were, and make us after His ideal, that we shall have passed from the eyes of our friends can be no argument that He beholds us no longer. “All live unto Him.”
Let the change be ever so great, ever so imposing; let the unseen life be ever so vague to our conception, it is not against reason to hope that God could see Abraham, after his Isaac had ceased to see him; saw Isaac after Jacob ceased to see him; saw Jacob after some of the Sadducees had begun to doubt whether there ever had been a Jacob at all. He remembers them; that is, He carries them in His mind: s/he of whom God thinks, lives. S/he takes to him or herself the name of Their God. The Living One cannot name himself after the dead; when the very Godhead lies in the giving of life.
Therefore they must be alive.