Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
6 Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For your name’s sake, O Lord,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the Lord?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
The religious leaders were at it again, trying to trip Jesus up with a line of disingenuous technical questions so they could nail him on theological charges and maybe get him arrested. Theology cops haven’t changed much in 2000 years.
Jesus basically skirted their fake questions and got down to business. The topic at hand was resurrection, and Jesus’ reply was just wonderful. “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
In our culture, we do everything we can to avoid death. We don’t want to think about it or talk about it. It’s not “dying” anymore, it’s “passing away” or “going home.” I just Googled it – we’ve created well over 200 euphemisms for “death!” We don’t have funerals anymore; we have “life celebration services.” We no longer walk through cemeteries on our way into church every Sunday (how bad would THAT be for attendance numbers?!); we visit cemeteries as little as possible. We sequester ourselves from any talk or thought of death. We simply don’t want to face it.
It’s a complicated issue, but maybe part of this “death-avoidance-at-all-costs” is that, along with the Sadducees, we really don’t believe resurrection is real. We ask, “what if God is not my God anymore when I die? What if he abandons me? What if I wasn’t good enough in my life and the scales tip to the “bad” side? What then for eternity?”
But what if resurrection is real? What if resurrection is guaranteed for ALL those (the “good,” the “bad” and the “ugly”) who are in Christ? What if Jesus’ resurrection really is our resurrection? What if Jesus really has taken away death’s sting and the grave’s victory for all his children?
What we’re waiting for, what we’re looking forward to with expectation this Advent season isn’t eternal death, or an eternity as strange, ethereal beings floating on a cloud and playing a harp. Rather, we’re looking forward to an eternity as real humans with real resurrection bodies (yes, actual, perfect bodies) living on a real perfected earth in perfect relationship together with our Creator. Were that true, would it change the way you look at death? Would it change the way you look at life?
Jesus wasn’t lying when he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”
It’s true. Death is real, but, because of Jesus, resurrection is even more real. He’s the God of the living after all!