It’s refreshing to see the words and logic of someone else besides the Pharisees fail. This time it’s the Sadducees. Actually, after Jesus decisively answers the Sadducees, it is really Strike Three. In Luke 20:1-8, the chief priests and scribes take a swing at Jesus and miss. In Luke 20:20-26, it’s a swing and a miss with the Pharisees. This morning the Sadducees complete the strike out, and Jesus retires the side.
It’s easy to retroactively laugh at the poor Pharisees or Sadducees who really don’t stand a chance against Jesus. It’s easy to think (rather like a Pharisee): “Thank God I’m not like that Pharisee in the story!” I don’t feel sorry for them very much, because it appears from verse 20 as if these Pharisees and Sadducees who ask Jesus questions are not honest inquirers but spies who have been sent out as part of a conspiracy to catch Jesus in His words. In spite of my loathing of what they are doing, it’s easy, armed with knowledge of who Jesus is, to wonder how they can just not get it, when they stand in the midst of the King of glory.
Perhaps a better question is “But why are we so often like them?” For them, Jesus had not yet been crucified, resurrected, and ascended in glory: for us, He has. They did not have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them: we do. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection: we not only believe in it – we stake our lives on it.
The question for us, then, is why do we so often think and act as if there will not be a resurrection and as if there hasn’t already been one? If you ask any true Christian if he believes in the Resurrection, then of course he must answer “Yes.” But ask if he lives as if there is a Resurrection, and the answer might be very different.
The Resurrection means first of all that our Lord Jesus Christ has already decisively vanquished His enemies, which are our enemies: Satan, sin, and death. Believing in the Resurrection means believing in the One Who Has Been Resurrected, and it means believing that He is able to live in you in such a way that you too are victorious over Satan, sin, and death, as well as the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Believing in the Resurrection means living each day remembering what our eternal destination is: Heaven, which is the presence of God. This means at least two different things. On the one hand, it means that there is an eternal home for us in God’s presence after this life is over. This life in Heaven will be radically better than this life, and yet not so foreign that we will feel like illegal aliens in Heaven. But in another sense, Heaven is already our home, for we live in the presence of the King every day and dwell in His Kingdom of Heaven. Through baptism, we have already died to ourselves and have been raised with Jesus Christ, and St. Paul says in Ephesians 2:6 that we are already seated in the heavenly places with Him.
This is where I think we are like the Sadducees. We believe in the Resurrection, but we don’t live every day as if it is already our home. We imagine all sorts of reasons why this present life is so radically different from Heaven that all we want to do is beam out of here. The truth is that if you aren’t comfortable in the presence of the Lord here on earth then you might not be so comfortable in His more intense presence in Heaven. If you have spent your time on earth ignoring the presence of your Lord, like Adam and Eve, then what makes you think you will want to be with him in Heaven?
The real mistake of the Sadducees wasn’t in being ignorant of the fact of the resurrection: it was in not trusting the Son of God who was standing right next to them. And that is the lesson for us today. The Resurrection is a fact, the central fact of Christianity in St. Paul’s thinking. It is the meaning of our lives, not just one more doctrine to file away in our craniums. But attached to the fact of the Resurrection is the Resurrected Jesus Christ who stands beside you today.
Believing in the Resurrection, then, means much more than simply believing a fact: it means believing and obeying your Lord. It means receiving the Resurrected Day into your heart each day so He may continue His victorious work in you.
Ultimately, believing in the Resurrection, then, means that each day is to be a day of joy and celebration. For the Christian, every day is Easter!
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, help me in my unbelief. Assist me with the grace of the Holy Spirit to remember that I have been resurrected with You and to live as if I have been. Remind me of my eternal home and of Your presence with me each day. Establish Your kingdom in my life and continue to defeat the enemies in the land. In Your presence, Lord, beginning this day, may I find joy forevermore.
Points for Meditation:
- What would it mean for me to live in light of the Resurrection today?
- If I were to spend some time meditating on the Resurrection today – Christ’s and mine – what should my response be?
Resolution: I resolve to remember the Resurrection and the Resurrected Lord today and to celebrate them in some way.
The Resurrection by Mantegna – Public Domain