Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.
Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless.
Finally the woman also died.
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?
Sadducees in their question to Jesus present their question as a mockery of those who believe in resurrection. Jesus in his response describes that resurrected body as being unlike the present body and the constraints placed on it quite different from those of this body. “They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God.” In reading this selection of readings, I can also look at them in relationship to All Saints and Souls day from earlier in the week, I approach them in November, a month devoted to those souls that have passed on, and from the secular remembrance of Veterans day with its commemoration of those who served their country and those who lost their lives serving that country on behalf of others. The first reading of Maccabees echoes sacrificing ones life for that which a person holds dear. The readings, and the month revolve around that theme of death, life, and honor and beliefs. It is resurrection viewed as a dichotomy. This reading of todays adds that dimension of resurrection with its many facets: the resurrection at the end of time, Christ’s Easter, and our baptism of dying to sin and being raised in Christ. Dying so that one might live is a common theme in the Gospel. With resurrection comes those themes of renewal so dramatically illustrated by changing seasons, of death and rebirth, Good versus Evil, and that relationship between God and man. In thinking of resurrection one too thinks of how man was given life and with that one goes to the first book of genesis: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” If one thinks of mans death as the Sadducees do, cant one also think of how man was given life through the breath of God? In looking at that quote from Genesis, what is it that those Sadducees were most concerned with, that dust or that breath of life? In looking at their argument, they present the law of Moses: a man of dust who’s interest was leading his people back to God in this earthly world with laws that were designed for this earth, and not that of the resurrection or everlasting life. In that breath into dirt, a law can be anchored in that dirt, or live in that breath. In thinking of that breath, if one wonders, is it dead or is it alive; it is the breath of God that is eternal and always of life. It can be exhaled into dirt and drawn back to God. Doesn’t the fallen solder live in what they died for? Doesn’t the risen body of Christ include that mystical body the Church? It is that breath that gives life, yet so many become entangled in the dirt and in the worldly like those Sadducees.
The interesting truth though is that those Sadducees present their question to Jesus as a puzzle. That puzzle is a vivid reminder of the challenges in deciding if a law, or practice, or belief, or path follows the earthly, or are truly the laws of God: The seven brothers and mother were presented a choice of following the beliefs of their ancestors, or yielding to the will of their captors. Solders many times choose to fight that they hold dear, theirs is a choice of honor. Those that are baptized in Christ ultimately choose to follow Christ, or abandon that path and follow another. If a choice can be viewed as good or bad, can they not also be viewed as a choice that leads either to life or death. Cannot those choices be viewed as leading back towards God, or simply those that bow to the earth. The puzzle that the Pharisees present illustrates the puzzles of today: whether the laws, and beliefs, and culture, and social norms are bound to the dirt or live in the breath of God. Puzzles are complicated and challenging as are the real puzzles of this present age, complicated by media that blasts the opinions of those with their own special interests. How is one to know if the choice serves the present, or is the victim of propaganda; evil portrayed as good? The good news is the gospel and the reason for an eternal God to become man and become visible in the flesh. Jesus answer gives a truthful response to those Pharisees puzzle and as messiah Christ’s mission is to preach the good news that leads towards that breath of everlasting life that is the kingdom of God he preached. His is the way, the truth and the life.