March 1, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 20:27, 36-37 (NRSV)
Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to [Jesus] and asked him a question. . . . [Jesus answered,] “Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
In a conversation with some Jewish theologians who denied the resurrection of the dead, Jesus affirmed that, after we die, we will be raised bodily to a new kind of existence. Belief in the resurrection of the body reminds us of just how much God values the physical world. It also reassures us that, though what awaits us is a mystery, in God’s future we will still be ourselves, renewed and transformed, but still the essential people God has made us to be. Such good news!
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
Today’s biblical passage is an excerpt from Luke 20:27-40, which describes a theological conversation between Jesus and some Sadducees. The background for this discourse was a difference of opinion among Jews about what happened after a person died. Some believed that there would be a physical resurrection. Others adopted the Hellenistic belief in the immortality of the soul, but not the resurrection of the body. Still others denied that there was any kind of life after death, especially no resurrection of the body. The Sadducees fell into this latter group.
So, when the Sadducees approached Jesus in Luke 20:27-40, they weren’t trying to trap him so much as get him to take their side in a debate with other Jewish theologians. They proposed a situation in which seven brothers married the same woman (one at a time, following the death of each brother). They asked: in the resurrection, assuming such a thing existed, “Whose wife will the woman be?” To the Sadducees, this seemed to be a strong argument against the whole idea of the resurrection of the dead. There’s no way God would allow for one woman to have seven contemporaneous husbands.
Jesus’s answer denied their assumption that in the resurrection there would be marriage as it exists in this age. Those who are raised “are like angels,” Jesus explained, “and are children of God, being children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36). He added that God’s identifying himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in his revelation to Moses confirms the reality of the resurrection (Luke 20:37, see Exodus 3:6). The point, Jesus concluded, is that God is “not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive” (20:38).
Jesus’s affirmation of the resurrection of the dead impressed some of his listeners and silenced the Sadducees (Luke 20:39-40). It also underscored one of the more peculiar and unpopular Jewish beliefs. The Greek world affirmed the immortality of the soul, repudiating any notion of the resurrection of physical bodies. Other religious traditions uphold a notion of reincarnation (Hinduism, for example) but not the belief that at some point after our physical death we will be raised to embodied new life.
In the season of Lent, it’s important for us to remember the core Christian belief in resurrection. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Notice that this is a mystery. We don’t really understand all of the details and implications of resurrection. But this aspect of Christian doctrine is essential for several reasons.
For example, on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, we acknowledged the mortality of our bodies. We were created from dust and, because of sin, to dust we will return. The death of our bodies is inevitable. Yet death is not the end of the story. In time, God will raise our bodies, not in exactly the same form they were in during our earthly existence, but in a way that is continuous with the essence of who we have been. (Like Paul said, it’s a mystery! See 1 Corinthians15:35-57.) The resurrection of the body affirms life beyond physical death and the maintenance of our distinctive identities in the age to come. You will still be you in God’s future.
Another implication of the resurrection of the dead is the valuing of physical life. Even though sin has tarnished this world and corrupted our bodies, God has not denigrated the value of the creation. Rather, God still cares deeply about this world and all that is in it, including you and me. The doctrines of creation, incarnation, and resurrection all affirm the God-imbued value of this world. So in Lent we don’t reject our bodies, ignore them, or punish them. Rather, acknowledging the limitations of our mortal bodies, we long for the time when God will make all things whole, including us, the embodied us. In the meanwhile, we reaffirm our commitment to using our bodies for God’s purposes in the world, rejoicing in the fact that our mortal bodies are temples of God’s Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).
How do you envision life after death?
What are your thoughts about the resurrection of the dead?
What difference does it make to you that God values this world, including your body?
With your small group or a good friend, talk about your understandings of what happens to us when we die. See whether or not resurrection from the dead is a significant aspect of your core belief system.
Lord Jesus, as I reflect on today’s Scripture passage, I’m reminded of the reality and importance of the resurrection of the dead. I’m thankful that, after my ordinary life on earth is over, there is still life to come. I’m grateful that who I am will be preserved, even as I will be transformed in ways I can’t begin to imagine.
I’m also reminded today of the value of this physical world. What you helped to make as the Word of God had value and it still does. Yes, sin has infected and corrupted this world. Yet what you once made good will be redeemed and renewed by your grace.
So, dear Lord, in this season of Lent, may I acknowledge the mortality of my body while at the same time looking forward with hope to its resurrection. Help me, Lord, to use my body as it is now for your purposes. May I honor you with my body each day in all I do. Amen.
P.S. from Mark
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Our Work Is Not in Vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.