Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

Date: 7-16-2016

Text (NIV): Job 19:23-27; Luke 20:27-38

Title: No More Death

 

The Question

So this was the holy man everyone was talking about; the miracle worker who had drawn a crowd of people that wanted to see a miracle. A group of Sadducees had forced their way to the front of the spectators. They didn’t attempt to hide their haughty smirks and they didn’t care if he heard their nasty comments about his appearance. They were wearing the most expensive robes, and they loved all the attention they were getting. They were the Sadducees—with their neatly-trimmed beards and fingers flashing with jewelry—they were the epitome of religious privilege and power. How different they looked from this Jesus, who stood in front of them! The hem of his cloak was frayed and the whole thing was covered in dust, a broken strap on one sandal made a furrow in the dust. One of the Sadducees announced very loudly to his friends that someone should buy him a bath.

One of the major differences between the Sadducees and the Pharisees was that the former did not believe in the resurrection, while the latter did, and as the result the Sadducees constantly belittled them.  They asked Jesus a question that they had used many times to silence the Pharisees. It was that old reliable one about the woman who, through the Levirate marriage law, married seven brothers, none of whom left an heir. Levirate marriage is one response to the challenges that arose when an Israelite man died leaving a widow but no children. What becomes of a widow with no children to care for her? What becomes of a man’s “name” and property in the absence of direct heirs? Levirate marriage, as described in Deut 25:5-10, offers a solution to both questions: Let the dead man’s brother marry the widow and let the children, or at least the first child of this union, be “considered as” belonging to the deceased.

If there was a resurrection, whose wife could she possibly be then, since all seven had been married to her? The question is meant to reduce the idea of a resurrection to the absurd, almost the comical."

The Pharisees believed in a resurrection which was so physical that they anticipated the begetting of children in the resurrection life. The Sadducees denied the doctrine of the resurrection and any survival after death. They believed that death brought an end to being; an end to everything."

Now the Sadducees waited for His answer. They looked at each other knowingly. They were pictures of patience . . . and pride. They assumed that Jesus believed in the resurrection the same way the Pharisees did.
Jesus was silent. His eyes burned into them. He scowled at them in anger and disappointment. (They had no idea that Jesus knew what they were thinking.) The disciples got nervous . . . they looked at Jesus, they looked at each other, and then they looked at the ground. They shifted their weight from one foot to the other . . . they shuffled their feet . . . was He stumped this time? The silence was deafening!

 

The Response

Finally, Jesus did two things at once: He started talking and walking away at the same time! It was as though He thought He'd won the argument without saying a word. It was over . . . and He was leaving.

As he took the first step, He said in disgust and exasperation: "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage ...." (The Sadducees and His disciples hurried to catch up to Him, afraid they'd miss His answer. "But those," He continued, "who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage for they cannot die anymore. Don't you see, marriage and family lines won't be important if there's no death?" ("What did he say?" one Sadducee asked another. "What?" But he didn't get an answer because Jesus was continuing to talk, hardly hesitating to let His point sink in.

"They cannot die anymore; because they are equal to angels . . . they are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection." Then Jesus stopped and looked the Sadducees in the face. "Look," He said, "you say you can't believe in a resurrection because it's not taught in the only books of scripture that you accept: the Torah, the five books of Moses." (Their ears perked up at the name "Moses.") "Don't you realize that Moses referred to a resurrection in that passage about the “burning bush?” (Exodus 3:6). "Moses quotes God as saying He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." Jesus paused to let His words find their mark. The Sadducees looked puzzled. They rubbed their hairy chins, and frowned. Jesus smiled slyly at their bewilderment.

Then the Lord drove home his point: "God is not the God of dead people; He is the God of the living! All people who live in Him continue to live on even after death!"And with that, He walked off, leaving them to sort out what was left of their logic and their ideas. Jesus' disciples scurried around Him like sheep trying to stay up with the shepherd . . . pausing only to look back over their shoulders with mischievous grins on their faces. Apparently, it had never occurred to the Sadducees or the Pharisees that family lines and marriage relationships would not go on as they had on earth. That heaven could be so different from earth was a totally revolutionary idea!

As they mulled over what Jesus said—even as the church has for twenty long centuries—they began to realize the implications of His revelation about the resurrection.

 

No More Death

The resurrection age was not to be another era framed by minutes, hours, days, and years.
"No more dying!" was what Jesus said. Therefore, there’s no need to perpetuate a dead brother's name in a Levirate marriage. (Wikipedia describes Levirate marriage as a type of marriage in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother's widow, and the widow is obliged to marry her deceased husband's brother.) As "sons of the resurrection," these "sons of God" would be "equal to angels." Luke is the only gospel writer to use this unique word. It's the only time it's used in scripture. In heaven, we won't have physical bodies as we have here, bodies subject to death and vulnerable to so many threatening diseases. The emphasis in the resurrection age will be on a higher level of life, a life more real than we can possibly know here. To distinguish it from normal, metabolic life, the Greeks gave it a special name: “Zoa.” It was a "life-with-a-plus." We call it "abundant life." Jesus called it "Zoan Aionian"—abundant life that never ends; that goes on forever! In short, it's the kind of life that God has. In heaven, we'll truly be His children. There, nothing can threaten one's existence. With God's life transfused into our resurrection bodies, we are invulnerable to death. No more dying! Death is truly swallowed up in victory!
Life with more in it than we've ever known will energize us forever. Man's worst enemy—man's most intimidating threat—is defeated and destroyed. As sons and daughters of the resurrection—as children of God—we are heirs with Christ of all things. We shall see Him as He is, because we shall be like Him.


The Appeal to Moses

The Pharisees believed in a resurrection because they accepted the wisdom literature in the Old Testament—books like Psalms and Job. Old Job had cried out from the pit of his earthly suffering and despair: "I know that my Redeemer lives . . . and after my skin has been thus destroyed then from my flesh I shall see God!"To his own moving and plaintive question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" (Job 14:15), Job had offered a ringing affirmation: "YES! I shall see my Redeemer in my flesh!"
But the Sadducees didn't believe these poetical books were inspired of God. They clung to the Pentateuch—the five books attributed to Moses' authorship—as the only trustworthy message from God. How shocked they were when Jesus calmly chose an utterly familiar passage from the Pentateuch with which to prove the reality of the resurrection; with unerring accuracy, a convincing coup de grace that left them breathless with gaping mouths!

That God was Abraham's God, and Isaac's, and Jacob's, was a truism. They'd always known and believed that. But they thought He was the God Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had served only while they were alive! They were now enshrined in the "Temple of the Past Tense.

"How right Jesus was about this high-powered religious establishment! They knew neither the scriptures nor the power of God. Of course, this "living God" was not the God of the dead, but they'd never related the fact that he was a living God to the idea that he was the God of the living.
It was all right there in the Old Testament, both in the Pentateuch and the wisdom books. It took Jesus to tell us and to back it up with his own personal, dramatic and triumphant resurrection on Easter Sunday morning!

You see, he could have gone on and on about life after death, but that by itself wouldn't have made it true.

 

Good Friday Afternoon.

In fact, all had looked lost that dark Friday afternoon when the sun hid its face while we did the worst thing sin ever tempted us to do. Jesus hung like a Passover lamb on a Roman cross. Thunder rattled the heavens. The earth trembled with quakes. The howling wind spat dust and grit in everyone's face.
Jesus was dying. The "Light of the World" was going out on the middle cross-candle. The disciples saw Him taken down. Those brave women wrapped His bruised and broken body. They packed it with myrrh and frankincense. He was shoved into a rich man's tomb just under the six o'clock Sabbath curfew of sundown.


Everyone went home.

The Pharisees returned to finish Passover. The Sadducees trotted along to the Temple, their leather purses packed and jingling with the shekels swindled from the Passover pilgrims in the Temple bazaar that had so recently been wrecked! They'd barely had time to straighten everything up after that rude display of populist power and the intrusion of the rabble-rousing rabbi from Galilee. But everything was well back in place before Friday's rush hour sale of sacrificial livestock.

 

Now it was Friday evening.

The Sabbath was beginning, and Sunday was coming!

 

Easter Dawn

The sun rose on the sad faces of Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome. They'd gotten up before dawn and dressed silently in the dark. Quietly they left their houses. By prearrangement they met at a crossroad and, without a word, they made their way in the semidarkness to the garden of Joseph of Arimathea.

Their eyes were swollen and puffy from crying. Their faces drawn with grief. But, somehow, a nightingale, which seemed to know a secret, was throwing his song at the sunrise.
They whispered to each other as they walked along through the dewy stillness of early morning. Brilliant Pink and yellow lines of light reached up from the golden shores of dawn. The women had Galilean accents. They carried armloads of spices, linen cloth in bandage-like strips with which to bind the limbs of the dead man in the tomb.

One asked in a soft voice, just as they stepped through the garden gate, "Who will roll away the stone for us so early in the morning?" They stopped short, wide-eyed and questioning. "I hadn't even thought of that," Mary said. "Maybe one of the soldiers will do it for us." "Look!" Salome blurted out. "The stone has already been rolled back!"

Sure enough, the huge, gray wheel of limestone was back in its trench, exposing the dark, gaping mouth of the tomb. They stepped over the bodies of the soldiers who were snoring loudly. The women were almost afraid to peer in; had someone stolen the body? Would they be thwarted again in their quest to execute the last expression of love and Jewish orthodoxy? Could they not even give Jesus a proper burial?

Suddenly, two men in glistening apparel appeared and spoke to them in deep and unearthly tones: "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen! He's gone before you to Galilee. Go quickly and tell His disciples!"

They ran two miles to Bethany, slowing only to gasp and catch their breath as they labored up Olivet's hill. Bursting into the house where Jesus had been a welcomed guest so many times before, they babble their incredible tale—haltingly—jerkily—trying to get a breath in between disjointed sentences.
The disciples, startled, astonished, are pale with fear. No one believes. They throw their hands up, gesturing in disbelief. They question each other. It can't be! They saw His dead body excised from that bloody cross.

Sure, they remembered that Jesus raised Jairus' little girl . . . and they recalled the funeral procession outside of Nain . . . but, even then, there were rumors that those two weren't really dead—just fainted, unconscious, in a coma.

Then it hit them. They turned as one person and looked at the man sitting quietly by the window, the man gazing out through the lattice ... a man who was hearing their conversation but who wasn't a part of it. They were all looking at Lazarus and realized he'd been dead four days; wrapped and smelly in the tomb before Jesus commanded him to come forth!

Lazarus turned to meet their ashen faces. He smiled knowingly. Peter and John pushed their way past the women and the other disciples and began their long run to the garden tomb. Is There Really a Resurrection? But can we trust this story?

Is there really a resurrection? Jesus taught that there was, and He was raised from the cold grip of death Himself! You must run like Peter and John did to see about news this good. If true, nothing is ever the same again.

They saw the empty tomb; they saw Jesus in Galilee, and at Emmaus, and in Jerusalem, and on Mt. Olivet; and lifted off the earth in a cloud. John put it this way in his biography of Jesus: "When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken." (John 2:22)

The devil cannot win, cannot have the last word! Paul's words are: "For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 3:38-39). God is the God of the living: the living patriarchs, the living apostles, and all living people who trust Him. God will seek out and bring back all those who have been driven away by death. Man is not a "throw-away thing." He will save, even from the grave, those who have believed in Him.

As Jesus taught us, "He that believeth in me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).

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