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THE GOD OF THE LIVING

Luke 20:27-20:40
Key Verse: 20:38

We again thank Jesus who is full of wisdom and truth. Thank God for his words, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God’s. These words will guide us to live as good citizens of this world and of God’s kingdom. In today’s passage Jesus was still in the temple (Mk 12:35) and he would soon die on the cross in just several days. Then another group of people brought a question to Jesus to discredit him and his teaching of resurrection. Again, Jesus was not defeated. Rather, he revealed another truth of God concerning God himself and the life beyond this age.

First, the minds of the Sadducees (27-33). Look at verse 27. “Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question.” It will be helpful for us to think about what kind of people Sadducees were. In many ways they were different from the Pharisees. First of all, as this verse says, Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, saying, “There is no resurrection.” And also according to Acts 23:8, “(The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.)” At that time the Sadducees were not many in number, compared to the Pharisees. Yet, they controlled the high priesthood at that time. They were not spiritual people at all. They were wealthy Jews and a politically-minded group. They held the majority of seats in the Sanhedrin. They were largely collaborators with Rome. In order not to risk losing their wealth, comfort, and position in the world they used any and all available means. They did not want to believe something that might disturb their establishment in the world. They denied the whole doctrine of the afterlife and of rewards and punishments beyond the grave. In order to rule ecclesiastically, they accepted only the written law of the Old Testament and set no stock in the prophetic books which urged them to repent. Their belief was mostly on the basis of Pentateuch, the five books of Moses in the Scriptures. They believed in unrestricted free will. To them this world was everything. So in their religious belief they pursued success and wealth of this world. They were the intelligentsia of the times, and were like worldly Christians in our days.

What did they says to Jesus? Look at verse 28. “‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother.’” Moses said in Deuteronomy 25:5, “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her.” This was called the levirate marriage. Of course what Moses said here was from God, so the levirate marriage was from God. God honoured this marriage. It is interesting to note that Jesus’ birth is somewhat related to this marriage. According to Genesis 38, Judah had three sons, Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er married a Canaanite named Tamar, but he died without a son. His brother Onan, however, did not want to produce offspring for his dead brother. What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; he also died. Then Judah was afraid that his last son Shelah would die too, just like his brothers, and was unwilling to give Shelah to Tamar. Then Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and had twin sons through her father-in-law Judah. Humanly speaking, this story is hard to understand, but in this way Judah’s line could continue. Later on, in the time of judges, there was a Moabite woman named Ruth. She married one of God’s chosen people, but her husband died with no children. And there was no one who could marry her in the family line. Then she came to marry one of the close relatives of her dead husband, called a kinsman-redeemer, and bore a son, who became the grandfather of David. And in that lineage Jesus was born (Ruth 4). The point of the levirate marriage was to continue the line of one’s dead brother. It had nothing to do with denying resurrection.

But how did the Sadducees go on with the words of Moses? Look at verses 29-32. “Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” The story they brought was unrealistic. Why could such a thing happen in this real world? They did not even consider the sorrow and pain of the woman. Again, the purpose of the levirate law was to continue a family line, not to give much burden and pain to any woman. When they tried to use the words of the Scriptures, the law of the levirate marriage, to make resurrection faith ridiculous, and so refute Jesus’ teaching of resurrection, such a tragic and sad story came about out of their minds. They seemed to be very smart with a brilliant logical thought and theory, but their minds were dark, evil, and fatalistic, causing sadness and bitterness and hopelessness in life. Even humanity seemed to be gone from them. Here we see the picture of those who have no true hope of resurrection although they had position, wealth, and brilliant human mind.

Second, the people of that age (34-36). According to Matthew and Mark, Jesus responded to their question with reprimand: “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” (Mt 22:29; Mk 12:24) But in Luke, Jesus seemed to speak to them gently, helping them understand the spiritual realm beyond this physical world. Look at verses 34-35. “Jesus replied, ‘The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage.” According to Genesis, marriage is originated from God. God created male and female and blessed them saying, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth…” (Ge 1:28). The purpose of marriage was building up a family through reproduction as well as growing in love relationship between the husband and the wife and between parents and children through sacrifice, service and respect, and it was God’s blessing. However, since sin came into this world, marriage was greatly damaged and happy marriage is hardly found. Here Jesus made it clear that marriage exists only in this age. In a certain other religion, the afterlife is one of unlimited physical pleasure. They are greatly mistaken. The people of this age need redemption for their sins through faith in Christ Jesus. The Sadducees made an erroneous assumption that all people will take part in the age of the resurrection. Jesus said clearly, “...those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and the resurrection from the dead...” This worthiness does not come from human achievements or any merit, but through faith in Jesus Christ who died for man’s sins and rose again from the dead. Those who are redeemed can take part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead. And the people of that age, new age, will neither marry nor given in marriage. They will not have an earthly body made of dust anymore. Apostle Paul described it this way in 1 Corinthians 15: “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (15:42-44). This will happen when Jesus comes again. Each one of that age will have an imperishable glorious resurrected body that has no part with sickness and aging and death. There is no need of reproduction through marriage, for God’s kingdom will be filled. And they all live forever. Jesus stressed this in verse 36, “and they can no longer die, for they are like angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection.” A young girl received three goldfish as a birthday gift. She wanted to take good care of them, and put them in a nice fishbowl near the widow so that the fish would be exposed to the sunlight. But after several days one fish was gone; only two fish were there. It was strange, and she thought perhaps, one of the remaining fish had eaten the third. Then after a few days another fish was gone. She was bewildered and did not know what had happened. Then later she learned that the fishbowl, due to overexposure to sunlight, had overheated, and that the two fish had jumped out of the bowl, committing suicide. She felt so sad that she had not been able to take care of the fish, despite her wishes. The death of even a fish made her sorrowful. In this age, death of human beings, particularly of beloved ones brings great sorrow. In this age, death is the greatest power to reign and swallow up all men. Then what a great news that the people of that age will no longer die. They are like the angels. They are God’s children. Since God is eternal, God’s children are to be eternal. Indeed they are children of the resurrection. Also, we believe that as God’s children we will have a far better love relationship in that age than in this age. What a blessing it is to be God’s children through his Son Jesus Christ, who died for man’s sins and rose again from the dead! We thank and praise God for the glorious hope of resurrection of God’s children through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the only true hope in this world.

Third, the God of the living (37-38). After helping to understand the life beyond this age, now Jesus proves the truthfulness of resurrection based on the book of Moses. Look at verses 37 and 38. “But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” In Exodus while Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, he came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. This was a strange sight to him. So he wanted to go over and see it, questioning, “Why the bush does not burn up?” As he came near, God called him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Ex 3:1-6). This is the account of the bush Moses wrote in Exodus. At that time Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were already dead several hundred years before; they were gone and no more on the earth. But still God said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” He did not say, “I was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” In further description, God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation” (Ex 3:15). In this way God confirmed that he is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. This description shows that they did not remain dead, but are living in God’s sight. They are awaiting a glorious resurrection. Through this account even Moses showed that the dead rise. The dead who are not to rise have no part with God. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. The God of the dead does not make any sense. He is the God of the living.

God is the God of the living. He is the living God. He created the heavens and the earth and all things in them out of nothing. When man sinned, he began a redemptive history. The living God called Abraham in his generation with the promise to raise him up to be an ancestor of faith in God’s redemptive history. The living God gave Abraham a son when he was 100 years old. The living God continued his promise given to Abraham through Isaac, who stayed in the promised land and live in the hostile world by depending on God in prayer. The living God was also with Jacob granting his twelve sons and shepherding him all his life. When the descendants of Abraham became numerous in Egypt, the living God called Moses and worked with him to deliver his people. The living God divided the Red Sea so that the Israelites could cross the Sea as on dry land. The living God also called David and he served God’s purpose in his own generation (Ac 24:36). When the time had fully come, the living God sent his Son Jesus to redeem mankind. The Son Jesus was killed by the hands of wicked men, but God raised him from the dead and thus demonstrated that God is living and the Son Jesus’ death was atoning death of a sinless Son of God for the sins of mankind. He completed the gospel of salvation. He has been called his gospel servants and is still calling his servants in his redemptive work and history. The redemption work and history of God will be completed when Jesus comes again. The living God is the God beyond each generation. He is the God of all generations. He is the Sovereign Ruler. We thank God for calling Ian and Nicole in his redemptive history last year and each of them responded to the calling wholeheartedly. Now each of them is feeding God’s flock of sheep as a Bible teacher. The living God is still calling young people to partake in his redemptive work and history.

Here in Luke’s gospel, is clearly further written: “for to him all are alive.” Being alive to God is truly wonderful. The God of the living is the living God. He is living and alive. So are God’s children, God’s children not only have the hope of resurrection but are alive each and every day through fellowship with the living God. Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 9:26, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” This is a quotation from Hosea 1:10. What a grace it is that we are called sons and daughters of the living God in the place where it was said, “You are not my people.” In Christ Jesus, God’s children should count themselves dead to sin but alive to God (Ro 6:11). We were dead in sin but God in his mercy made us alive with Christ (Eph 2:1-5). So we should consider ourselves dead to sin and to the law (Ro 7:4), but alive to God. God’s children are to be positively alive to God by loving God wholeheartedly and serving God’s flock of sheep so that they may also be alive to God.

When Jesus replied in this way, “Some of the teachers of the law responded, ‘Well said, teacher!’ And no one dared to ask him anymore questions.”

Thank Jesus who spoke so clearly about the life of that age and God himself. Thank God for his wonderful grace that we become children of God through redemption in Christ Jesus and are children of resurrection with the glorious hope of resurrection. In this grace may we serve the will of the living God to participate in his redemptive work and history in this generation, being alive to him.

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