Grace to you!
After a funeral of a prominent member of one community, a young man approached the priest who presided the funeral. “Is resurrection real?” he asked.
The priest looked him in the eye. “Surely it is.”
The young man’s skepticism was evident. “What if resurrection is a hoax?”
With a smile the priest retorted, “What if it is true?” Jokingly he continued, “When I die, I would look down from heaven to see you. And you, would you be all ashes?”
The young man was confused. “Heaven is for real, my friend,” the priest quipped, offering him a handshake.
Far back during biblical times, some sects among the Jews didn’t believe in the resurrection, just as many today don’t. The Gospel of Luke 20:27-38 presents a scene, a dialogue between the Sadducees and Jesus. It’s like a plot between the so-called elitists’ class and the itinerant preacher (Jesus), whom they believed was naïve, laid-back and uninformed. For them, belief in the resurrection was pious baloney.
To be clear, the Sadducees accepted only the Pentateuch, also called the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) as the revealed word of God with normative value, and regarded the rest of the Old Testament as mere religious sentiments. They belonged to the wealthy class and, ironically, the Chief Priest was often a Sadducee.
Deep in materialism, the traditional thesis of retribution which promoted the idea that material poverty is a curse and wealth is a sign of divine endorsement, was their creedal mantra. Life then is about being prosperous, marrying, partying and making merry. For them, death is the end of the story and nothing happens after death.
One wonders why they were still religious. One reason is, for them, being religious is your effort to earn God’s blessing of material prosperity, which often included marrying the best women of your choice and having a great family. Life after death was not an issue because, for them, it never existed.
Doesn’t this belief sound familiar? Nothing is new under the sun. As Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote, it’s all “old errors, and new label.”
Thus when the Sadducees came to Jesus, they wanted to make a fool of this so-called preacher who was beginning to influence the people more than they could imagine. Remember, the Sadducees and their extreme liberal views were very attractive to the people and they made the rules and controlled the government. Their strong ties in politics and other cultures around them, including the Roman and the Greek (Hellenism), were such that they wanted to maintain a more Hellenistic way of life, which was extremely materialistic. It is, in part, why the Pharisees were their worst critics. So, the influence of Jesus was a threat. They must outsmart him and make him look stupid before his “fans.”
Hence they asked: If resurrection were real, whose wife would a woman be at the resurrection having been married to seven husbands that passed respectively? Ridiculous. Isn’t it?
The Lord Jesus, the master of the Pentateuch used the very words of Moses, whom the Sadducees upheld as their mentor, to say, “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him (Luke 20:37-38).”
Before then, Jesus reminded them, and he reminds any who doubts the resurrection: “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those 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 any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:35-36).
As Saint Paul wrote: “If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either” (I Cor 15:16).
Thank God Christ is raised; and you and I will be raised too. This is our hope and our prayer. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.