Mar 5 2013 - Mark 12:18-37 – When the dead rise
The Jewish leaders are intent on finding a way to condemn Jesus. They decide that they will try to trap him with his own words. First of all the Pharisees and Herodians have a go. They tried to trick him with a question about paying taxes to Caesar. It’s a question designed either to lose him credibility among the crowds who hate the Roman occupation of their land, or to get him into fatal trouble with the Roman authorities. But Jesus sees through their flattery and deceit; he produces a response which is as memorable as it is full of wisdom. His answer silences his questioners and rescues him from condemnation by the crowd and by Rome.
Now it is the turn of the Sadducees to try their hand at tripping him up. They tell Jesus a story about seven brothers who, each in turn, have the same woman as their wife. “At the resurrection whose wife will she be?” they ask him (Mark 12:22). The Sadducees did not believe in any form of afterlife and, in their arrogance, they believe their story shows that any notion of life beyond this world is absurd and that those who believe such things are simply naive.
But Jesus is not to be confounded by their fables. He replies, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven…” (12:24-25).
Jesus rebukes the ignorance of the Sadducees, but his reply leaves us (or at least me), with so many more questions. I understand that there will be no more need for reproduction in the resurrection – there will be people enough in the life to come. But will we no longer have a special relationship with those who have been our family here below? My dad who died recently was looking forward to being reunited with my mum who had died three years earlier. Does Jesus’ answer suggest that such desires are misplaced sentimentality? In the resurrection, will the one who is currently my wife mean no more to me then than the next woman? And in what sense will we be like the angels? I find this very confusing.
I can hazard a guess at an answer to some of these questions. I might suggest that my wife will mean no less to me in the resurrection than she does now but that others will mean far more in that day – that we shall truly be conscious of being one family through the Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, many questions remain – particularly on us being like the angels! I’m sure that it does not mean that we shall be dressed in white, have wings and play harps!
It is salutary to realise that some or our questions just have to remain unresolved for the present. It was said of Jesus during his earthly ministry that he did all things well. We can trust him to do the same for the age to come. We cannot fully imagine what it will like – how shall the wolf lie down with the lamb and the leopard with a young kid? I’m sure that there are going to be plenty of surprises and delights in the age of resurrection. But of one thing I’m also absolutely sure, there will be no disappointments.
Lord Jesus, thank you that you have given me a living hope through your resurrection from the dead. I know that death is not the end and that I will share in your resurrection life. I can only begin to understand what this means, but I do know that it will be unutterable glory. I gladly trust you for all that’s to come.