32nd Sunday: Sadducees and the resurrection from the dead

The Sadducees and Resurrection from the Dead (Luke 20, 27-39) This blog is written for the person who wants to enter more thoroughly into the meaning of this conflict story (Sadducees against Jesus) than a brief homily can provide. 1) The first reading today, from the Book of Maccabees, shows that many Jews, long before the time of Jesus, believed in resurrection from the dead. Thus, the Sadducees, though intending to be true to the Law of Moses and devotedly religious, are, in the matter of the resurrection of the dead, a group in disagreement with many other pious Jews. 2) The Sadducees are accurate in their citing the law of Moses. What is important is the intention of the law. The people of Israel, so often on the verge of extinction, required continuance in the only possible way, by producing children. It is this aspect, procreation and the reason for it, that is at stake here, and not the total rationale for marriage. 3) To the story the Sadducees make up, a seven-time marriage based on need in this world for children, Jesus has these answers: a. Marriage, as the Sadducees considered it in the light of their citation of Moses, is for procreation. That is an error. Procreation is necessary only because Israel might become extinct, might die. In the next life, where there is no death, procreation is not necessary for the existence of Israel. No one, then, in the next life will marry, nor will there be remarriage. b. Though not mentioned by Jesus, Jesus does not allude to other purposes of marriage, such as mutual affection or love. The argument, as given by the Sadducees, looks only to the preservation of Israel, which is constantly threatened by death. >In such a dire situation, procreation in the solution against extinction. When that situation no longer exists... c. Though Jesus does not say who wife the widow will be in the next life, it is reasonable to assume she will be the wife of the first husband, whose life was ended here, but will continue forever (with her) in the resurrected life. d. Tucked into the answer of Jesus is the teaching that resurrection from the dead is for those judged worthy of it. e. The Sadducees believed that only in the first five books of the Old Testament could one find revelation from God. In their conservative reading of the five books they could find no revelation of a resurrection from the dead. Note that it is precisely from these books that Jesus gives a citation that shows that there is resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ point here is this: how could God be called God of Abraham, unless Abraham is still alive? Is God to be thought of as one who is God of people who do not exist? Hardly! If God is God of Abraham, Abraham is still alive. f. Jesus’ final argument can be put succinctly: if God love me and I love God, there can issue only life. Love is like that; it produces life, not death. Thus, the Sadducees are shown to be very imperfect in their reading of the first five books of the Old Testament, and they are also revealed as people who do not understand God. God gives life, not death. John Kilgallen

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