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By His Word

November 10, 2019
By Rev. David French

One of the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to Christians is the ability to understand the Scriptures.  Unbelievers do not have this gift … as the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3, “[Moses] would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.” The Holy Spirit also inspired Luke to describe that teaching of Jesus with these words, [Luke 24:45] “Then [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” That is, believers have minds that have been opened by Christ to understand the Scriptures, and unbelievers have minds that remain veiled and are unable to understand the Scriptures. 

Today’s Gospel reading is an encounter between Jesus and the Sadducees. The Sadducees were very different from the Pharisees. Instead of trying to work their way into heaven, the Sadducees simply denied the existence of heaven. The Sadducees denied the existence of heaven, hell, angels, and just about everything else that is in the spiritual realm. I’m oversimplifying, but they pretty much believed that this life is all there is.

Under normal circumstances, the Pharisees and the Sadducees didn’t get along. The Pharisees were busy earning their way into heaven, and the Sadducees were always trying to prove there is no heaven. Both were wrong and both, in their own way, demonstrate the veiled thinking of those who reject the teachings of Christ.

In our lesson we find Jesus at the temple just a few days before He’ll be nailed to the cross. The temple authorities had already decided that He must die. But still, not wanting to upset the Romans, they were concerned about how to arrest Jesus without causing a riot among the Passover Pilgrims. For now, they were occasionally sending small groups of “spies,” if you will, to see if they could get Jesus to say or do anything that would lower His standing among the people. If they could put Him in a no-win situation in front of the people, then maybe, they could arrest Him without incident. 

The Sadducees tried to show that eternity makes no sense based on a teaching from Deuteronomy 25:5-10 called a “Levirate marriage” which was a part of the social and economic safety net to preserve their culture. Specifically, if a husband died without a son, the nearest male relative was to take the widow as his wife. The first son born to them would become the legal heir of the dead husband so that the name and property of the family would be preserved into the next generation.

So, the Sadducees come up with a hypothetical situation about seven brothers who in turn marry the same woman in accordance with the statute of levirate marriage. Then they ask Jesus which brother will be the woman’s husband in eternity. The question reveals the veil that covered their minds. They assumed that life in eternity will be the same as life here in time. They just couldn’t seem to wrap their minds around the idea that life in heaven might be totally different than life on this earth.

A lot of people today have that same problem, that is, they make up their own truth based on their own ideas and feelings about something they heard sometime somewhere. The problem is, they also are trying to understand eternity based on their experiences in this temporary world. They’re unable to see the truth because their minds are covered by the same veil that coved the Sadducees in our lesson. This is simply the blind leading the blind.

Now, we all begin our earthly lives with a veil over our minds. We live with the curse of Adam and Eve’s sin. The truth is, when they disobeyed, they corrupted the entire human race. From that time, all who have been born in the natural way have been born in the image of Adam with minds that are veiled.  That veil remains until, mercifully, it is removed by Christ through His word, that we might believe and come to trust that same word.

Jesus replied by reminding the Sadducees of the instructions God gave to Adam and Eve and to Noah and his family, [Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:1] “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” That is, the primary objective of marriage is to grow the human race. But husband and wife are not only to produce children. A husband is to sacrifice himself for the well-being of his wife and children so that his children will grow up in a God-pleasing, loving, nurturing, and safe environment. The wife in turn is to receive her husband’s service with thanksgiving and respect so that parents may work together to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

That means, because the human race multiplies here in time, the role of marriage is fulfilled here in time. There is no need for marriage in eternity. The Sadducees hypothetical situation was irrelevant. It simply showed that their minds were veiled.

Jesus continues to teach as He shows the reasonable nature of the resurrection from the dead as He turns to the Word of God spoken to Moses from the burning bush. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Jesus proclaimed that the true God “... is not the God of the dead but of the living.” That is, Jesus showed them their rejection of the resurrection makes no sense when you consider how God identified Himself to Moses.

Less than a week after this last test with the Sadducees, Jesus would prove the reality of the resurrection by rising from the dead. I’m sure it’s no surprise, but Jesus is the only person in all of history to predict not only His death, but also His resurrection from the dead. Throughout His ministry Jesus regularly and clearly taught that evil men would arrest Him and kill Him and that, on the third day, He would rise. Jesus said that He would rise from the dead, and Jesus kept His Word.

The temple authorities were never able to embarrass Jesus in debate, but they did get their wish.  Judas, one of Jesus’s own disciples, offered to betray Jesus to them. Finally, they had a way to arrest Jesus without causing a riot. Judas would, for thirty pieces of silver, betray Jesus into their hands. They convicted Jesus in an “emergency, middle of the night, closed court trial,” and backed the Roman governor into a political corner so that, on the Friday after Jesus had encountered the Sadducees, God’s word was again fulfilled as Jesus hung on a cross. There, hidden from veiled minds, Jesus paid for the sin of the world. There, as skies turned dark, He redeemed you and me from the power of the devil. There, He claimed you as His own. Jesus freely and willingly surrendered His life to save you from eternal death.

As you know, it was on the first day of the week that Jesus then proved the truth of the resurrection. He showed Himself to His disciples. He showed that He is indeed the God of the living. He showed His teachings are true. He gave us the eternal promise that those who die in Him will also rise and live with Him forever.

It is by His Word that God reveals that you and I and all who have been baptized have been united with Christ in His death. It is by His Word that God reveals that all who trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin have, by grace through faith, already joined Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob among the living, that you also are a forgiven child of God.

In His Name, Amen