Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020
SUCH A RIDDLE
While on my way to St. Ives, I saw a man with 7 wives. Each wife had 7 sacks. Each sack had 7 cats. Each cat had 7 kittens. Kitten, cats, sacks, wives, how many were going to St. Ives? Anyone know the answer to the riddle? (Just 1) I thought today it was important to share today’s message right after the scripture readings due to the complexity of the riddle Jesus was given to tackle. Raise your hand if you completely understood the gospel reading of Luke 22:2-38? There is so much to unpack in this question that the Sadducees ask of Jesus, all these brothers and a widow and who marries who and is there resurrection, and are there any children, where does this end up? So much to answer, so much to think about, but in the end Jesus answers and leaves them stunned. What we will see is that after Jesus answers the question? No one questions him again on the subject. Think of the debates of today. We see discussion on healthcare, foreign policy, and on and on. Over 2000 years ago Jesus was answering the question of the day, what of resurrection?
Here’s another riddle to keep you occupied for the moment. Can a man legally marry his widow's sister in the state of California? (No, he is dead) This one kind of goes with the riddle the Sadducees put forth to Jesus. And this is where we start to unwrap the puzzle, the people that are asking the question. Who are the Sadducees? Why are they asking such a question of Jesus? This is where we begin to make sense of what is being asked.
The Sadducees. They were Jewish scholars, much like the Pharisees and they were the keepers of the temple of Jerusalem. Unlike the Pharisees, they did not believe in resurrection and actually did not get along with the Pharisees. However, when it came to Jesus, the two, the Sadducees and Pharisees, joined in an uneasy alliance. The Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection, only read from the first five books of the Torah, what they called the Pentateuch and what we know as the first five books of our Bible. Those first five books do not speak of resurrection, so they did not believe in it. I guess you could say the Pharisees at the time had a much wider view of the world as they read from the entire Torah or our Old Testament, which does speak of resurrection. So, with that said, The Sadducees wanted to corner Jesus and just give him the most outrageous question that no person in their right mind could answer; A question about resurrection using the subject of Levirate marriage. Back in those times a widow would be married to the deceased’s brother so they could raise the family and honestly keep the family’s interests within the same family. The question being posed is that this widow is married to the original husband, who then dies without children, and then successively she is married off to his other 6 brothers who all die without having children. Then the wife dies, probably from the trauma of losing seven husbands. The question is then asked, in the resurrection who will the wife be married to as there are no children? “Aha, gotcha Jesus, no children, no one the wife truly belongs to. How is that supposed to happen?” The Sadducees thought they were so smart. “No way that could ever be answered, and so there’s no resurrection! Ha-Ha!” They underestimated the man before them, everyone did, even Jesus’ disciples and I think to some degree even we do now and then.
Ok, another riddle to keep you on your toes. The rungs of a 10 foot ladder attached to a ship are 1 foot apart. If the water is rising at the rate of one foot an hour, how long will it take until the water covers over the ladder? (never, the boat floats on the water)
So Jesus gives his answer and it is not anything anyone thought it would be. Listen to it again: Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 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. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”
Jesus basically says to them, right back atcha! Jesus begins by talking about this age and the next. In the age of which Jesus is living yes, people will marry and carry on the Levirate traditions. But people in the new age, the age of the resurrection will not be beholden to the old ways. In this passage, Jesus is so ahead of his time. The patriarchal society that is so prevalent in that time will not be what is seen in the new age. As he states, in the new age neither will they marry or be given in marriage. So ahead of his time. Jesus is making the distinction that women will be equals to men in the new age. Neither will they be given in marriage. No woman will be passed along, brother to brother, she will have her own standing amongst all in the new age. Jesus here is also making a distinction between the current age as is understood by everyone, but this new age is something completely different. The Sadducees are thinking on a simple plain that the resurrection is just people regaining their mortal bodies and living again. Jesus is on a different level. As he says, indeed they cannot die anymore as they are like angels, children of God. The resurrection of life everlasting that we have come to know about and read about. We like Jesus will be immortal, free of or mortal bonds. Jesus finally gives his final jabs to the Sadducees to send them on their way. He references that Pentateuch that the Sadducees read and believe in and think there is no resurrection. Jesus, however says to them, “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. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” Jesus is saying, ok, you don’t believe in resurrection, but then why, in this book you believe and read say that there is resurrection. God speaks of the great ones as still alive. At that point Jesus has defeated the Sadducees in debate and sends them on their way. The chapter ends with this, 39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40 For they no longer dared to ask him another question. Think of a crowd today high fiving Jesus and cheering him on for his answer. Pats on the back. In reality at that time there were probably some polite answer and the Sadducees left without another word. Drop the mic kind of moment.
Thinking about this riddle, its complexities and its answers, take heed going forward that life, like this riddle, can get complicated, but know, that Jesus is always here with us to give us the answer. It is not always the answer we’re looking for, not always the answer that we want to hear, but it is the answer that will lead us in the right direction in our lives with him. Never forget, he made the decision to go up on that cross to die for us so that we can have new life in that new age. Who here would choose that solution? Not many if any. Take those complicated situations to Jesus and listen for guidance, as the answer might puzzle you but will always put you in the right direction.
Ok, one more riddle, How many 3 cent stamps in a dozen? (12, a dozen)
Sometimes the answer to our complex issues are simpler than you think, let Jesus help you with those questions, he’s always listening and always has the correct answer. Amen