Blog / Book of the Month / “God of the Living” Sermon / Luke 20:27-40 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 10th 2019 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

“God of the Living” Sermon / Luke 20:27-40 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 10th 2019 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

“God of the Living” Sermon / Luke 20:27-40 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 10th 2019 / Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday November 10th 2019: Season of Pentecost / Luke 20:27-40 “God of the Living”

There came to [Jesus] some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, and they asked Him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife, and died without children. And the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered 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, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 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.” Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask Him any question.                   

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace, peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 wrote “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” He goes on to say that it wound stand to reason than that, “those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” And he adds, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”[1] There is nothing worse than seeing a grieving widow weep over the death of her eldest son, even if there is someone their supporting her in her grief, her bitter tears and sadness become a thing of pity: The kind of thing that should stir compassion in the eyes of the onlooker. Regardless of why they found themselves there at the cross on The Day we now call Good Friday those who looked on the Virgin Mary weeping over the dead body of Jesus hanging on the cross of His crucifixion must have been coaxed to feel pity for her and for her dead Son. “When the centurion [the Roman soldier] saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And [then St. Luke tells us that] all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.”[2]

In the wake of World War I and then again tragically in WWII and in the years that transpired we in our time and place have seen many mothers grieve the death of the sons on the battle field and tomorrow we remember their personal sacrifice for our nation and for the world. This brings to mind question of life and death, questions of eternal life and damnation, some of those questions are fresh some are long lingering and they don’t have to involve one who died on the battle field, they may bubble to the surface due to all kinds of deaths in the family and amongst friends.

The Sadducees in our Gospel reading for today come with a life and death question for Jesus, a question they ask during that first Holy Week, the week leading up to His crucifixion. It may be a sincere question on the minds of some but it was not a sincere question from them. This is the question about the widow and her brother-in-laws and who she would be wife to in the resurrection on The Last Day. Their question was one of those “hypothetical” questions posed almost as if it were a riddle, and having planed their question well, they hoped to trip Jesus up publicly. And while the question was interesting remember like I said the Sadducees weren’t looking for an answer – they had their answers already. They asked it because they wanted to poke just a little hole in Jesus, just a little hole: they wanted to classify and tag Jesus publicly: they wanted to be able to walk away and say to everyone ‘ah that Jesus He’s a Pharisee’ or ‘He’s one of us a Sadducee,’ ‘See, this Jesus is not who you think he is.’

Jesus though; He wanted them to know that He was the Word of God – that He was the Son of the Heavenly Father – that Jesus Himself was in fact God, but at that moment He wasn’t yet to reveal it, that would come very soon. Jesus was neither Pharisee nor Sadducee, He was something different, He was perfect and unflappable; the Sadducees weren’t going to get Jesus’ goat with their question. By the end of the Q&A St. Luke records that, “some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ For they no longer dared to ask Him any question.” Let us then look at the centre of their question, let us think on the resurrection of the body and what it means for us as Christians, as followers of Christ, people who cling to Jesus and His promises.

Like I said tomorrow is Remembrance Day, the day we remember the brave men and women who have served our nation in war time, those who laid their lives down for friend and family, for Queen and country (in WWI and WWII it was King and country), for people worlds away, people they may never have met in this life. Soldiers and support staff who fought for our freedom and for the freedom and liberty others. We wear poppies to remind ourselves of these soldiers and we think of them as fallen, as dead, we picture Flanders Fields, and we picture rows of white tombstones. The answer that Jesus gave the Sadducees all those years ago is just as important to us today as it was then, but most men, most of the people in the World today disregard this answer and think it unbelievable. Because Jesus takes their “hypothetical” question, Jesus takes their riddle and makes it real: Jesus says, ‘this isn’t just some kind of academic question; some philosophical musing, some ‘what if’ conjecture: this is for real.’

In part Jesus answers the question saying, “those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead … cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” He reminds them that Scripture teaches, “that the dead are raised, [and that] even Moses showed [this], in the passage about the [burning] bush,” Now we started out with the mental image of the Virgin Mary weeping over her dead Son Jesus at the crucifixion on Good Friday, this same Jesus however did not remain dead, three days later on that first Easter Sunday Jesus was raised from the dead imperishable, changed; His perishable body had put on the imperishable, His mortal body had put on immortality. And we confess that this has happened “not by the conversion of the divinity into flesh, but by the assumption of the humanity into God.”[3]  St. Paul tells us that “having been raised from the dead,” the resurrected Jesus then is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”[4] This is why we speak so often of Jesus’ resurrection at funerals where we proclaim the fact that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection He has defeated the enemies of sin, death and the devil and in this victory Jesus wins for us eternal life. But what is eternal life and how does one achieve it? Achieve is not exactly the right word: The baby just baptized, the teenager the adult the old man or woman just baptized receive this resurrection of Jesus as a guarantee and gift in the combination of the water and the Word of God, which makes it not just plain water but a blessed Sacrament where sin is forgiven, where the Holy Spirit enters in and gives the gift of faith in Christ Jesus, folding them into Jesus’ side on the cross in His death, burring them into Jesus’ death in the tomb, and raising them with Him in His resurrection, placing them with Jesus now in eternity at the Father’s right hand until Jesus’ appearing on The Last Day. Are you baptized? This gift is yours from your Heavenly Father, in Christ, through the working of the Holy Spirit who gives you lips to confess this faith to be true, your very possession by grace through faith. 

In the midst of grief this can be hard to see, even sometimes for the Christian. The World says ‘everyone dies,’ the World says, ‘dead is dead,” the World says, ‘you are no different than a dog or an ape or a horse, all that awaits you is nothingness and decomposition,’ the World says ‘your faith is not real because it is not something you can see and touch,’ the World says that once the water is dried off after your baptism if you still believe what was promised to you there then truly “you're all wet.” These are not new complaints, the Sadducees who came to Jesus with what they believed to be their trick question where men, who even though they held some parts of the Old Testament Scriptures in high regard, denied the future bodily resurrection of the dead for some of these same materialist reasons, but it was worse than that, they who called themselves faithful likewise didn’t believe in angels or daemons, heaven or hell, or any kind of judgment in death because they didn’t even believe in the soul. So it is that Jesus proclaims to them and to you and I that our Father in Heaven is not the God of the dead but of the living: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all long dead to the World but not to Jesus, not to our Heavenly Father, not to the Holy Spirit. They live and so do all our soldiers, friends and loved ones who died in faith, who became dead to the World – for they are alive even still in Christ Jesus. They may have received a fatal blow on the battlefield, they may have died in the field hospital but their faith in Christ Jesus – the faith provided by the grace of God in their baptism, that faith ensured that they would live and not be dead. Your baptism guarantees you the same life in Christ Jesus – the life won on the Cross by Christ the Lord.

This new Life, this Eternal Life involves your personal resurrection from the dead. What is this resurrection going to be like? Listen carefully: All you dear ones who have had a recent surgery, those of you who are going for surgery, all of you that are even now suffering with illness, suffering with chronic pain, you who face your coming physical death: Listen carefully. When sin entered the World in the garden, when Adam and Eve disobeyed the will of God and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we were not corrupted in or mind only, in our soul only, but all of creation was corrupted. As a result our bodies suffer from that fall into sin: our kidneys fail, our eyes degenerate, our prostates become cancerous, and we suffer abnormalities, and diseases, sicknesses of all sorts, conditions of the mind - frailties of the body, corruption of the soul by sin.

When we become alive in Christ – when our sin is washed away in the blood of Jesus, when this happens God also had, and has, a plan for our bodies – for in The End we will be made whole: body and soul made perfect on The Last Day, and sin will never touch your soul again for the rest of eternity. Arthritis will be gone, cancer will vanish, germs and viruses will never kill or injure again – our eyes will see perfectly – our hearts will pump perfectly – our nerves will feel and operate perfectly. If a loved one died in an artillery blast he will be made perfect on That Day by the power of Christ Jesus, if a loved one has wasted away with cancer leaving them a shell of their former self they will be made perfect on That Day by the power of Christ Jesus: This is resurrection – look at your hands; these hands you will see on that day, missing fingers restored, busted tendons made perfect, swollen knuckles relived from their suffering, wrinkles and liver spots washed away.

Jesus promises this, He says, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise Him up on The Last Day.”[5]

Jesus also promises, “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on The Last Day.”[6]

Again the Ascended Lord Jesus also promises this from the Father’s throne in heaven when He says, “Behold, I Am making all things new.”[7]

Paul tells us about our resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 saying, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[8]

When we think on those who have passed, soldiers and family, brothers, sisters, parents, children, when we pin on the poppy, when we visit the grave side, when we can barley remember their face without a photograph - remember this: if they died in Christ Jesus they are alive and well, think on them as not dead but living – for our God “is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him.”

The Sadducees may not have been looking for a real answer to their question but once they received Jesus’ answer that day and then ultimately in Jesus’ Easter morning bodily Resurrection from the dead they couldn’t deny it without lying to themselves and calling God a liar. We trust in God our Heavenly Father and we trust in His Son Jesus, we confess every Sunday, week in and week out, that the Resurrection of the body is real and forthcoming, the promise of it is true for you and for me and it is part of our great Christian hope. With confidence, by the grace of God, we then confess together: “I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life T of the world to come.” Amen.  

Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.”

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:17–19
[2] Luke 23:47–48
[3] Athanasian Creed verse 33 The Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, Pg 320.
[4] 1 Corinthians 15:20
[5] John 6:40
[6] John 6:54
[7] Revelation 21:5
[8] 1 Corinthians 15:51-57