“As long as we both shall live.”
Those are the words we hear in wedding ceremonies. The promise to love our spouses for our entire time here on earth together. It’s a beautiful moment in the ceremony when the bride and groom make their vows, their promises, to love and care for each other for all their days. It’s a promise you cannot take lightly. People tend to live a long time. If you are getting married in your 20s, and if you live the expected life span into your early 70s, then that’s a 50 year commitment maybe even longer!
We have a number of 50+ year marriages in our church here. Has it always been an easy journey? You can be honest, we know life has its ups and downs. It’s highs and lows.
Life itself is a journey. For many of us, we may be a little unclear of what happens at the end of this journey. We wonder what happens when we die?
This is the trap set before Jesus this morning.
But first we need to set the scene. We’ve missed out on a few key parts of the story leading up to what we read in Luke today.
This is the final week of Jesus’ life. He has entered Jerusalem for the final time. He has gone to the temple, not to teach, but to clean it up of those who have taken advantage of it. He went in, flipped over the tables and put the run to the merchants. He caused a bit of a kufuffle which didn’t sit well with the religious leaders in the temple.
From there we have a number of challenges directed at Jesus as they tried to trap him and give them reasons to kill him. First the priests wanted to know by what authority he was able to do what he was doing. Jesus turned it around and challenged them as to their own beliefs around John’s baptisms. They couldn’t answer him, so he didn’t answer their question.
Jesus then told quite a story about some wicked tenants who caused all kinds of problems for their landlord. Even beating the messengers the landlord sent to deal with the troublemakers. When he sent his son to set things straight, they killed him. The priests realized they were the tenants of the story, and were not very impressed. They would have killed him on the spot had they the chance.
They sent spies to try and trap him again. This time asking about paying taxes. Again, their trap failed.
Now here come the Sadducees in our reading this morning to take their turn at trapping Jesus and giving reason to put him away. The Sadducees, we are told, do not believe in resurrection. This is because they do not see it being mentioned in their core doctrinal books, the Pentateuch, or what we recognize as the first 5 books of the Bible. The Sadducees don’t see resurrection mentioned in those books, therefor they don’t believe in it.
A woman is married to seven brothers, she has no children, who’s husband is she after the resurrection? This they ask of Jesus. Jesus gives us a brief glimpse of life after the resurrection. The simple answer is, “Our rules don’t work there.”
Life after the resurrection will be unlike anything we can imagine. We’ll be like angels who can no longer die, we’ll be children of God. Our earthly rules and rituals won’t mean a thing, because it will be very different than we are used to.
Now this answer would have been enough for the Sadducees to get upset with Jesus and have further reason to convict him, based on their own beliefs. But Jesus kept talking and, of course, challenged their position on the resurrection by looking at the story of Moses when he encountered the burning bush. As Moses approached the bush, God said to him that He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.
Jesus points out that God uses the present tense. God didn’t say he was the God of Abraham, He said He is the God of Abraham. These faithful men who helped pave the way for Moses to do lead God’s people are not dead in God’s eyes, they are living, as all of God’s faithful people from the beginning of time to those of us gathered here today who have gathered to worship and serve our God in the name of Jesus the Christ.
We are alive in God’s eyes.
In some ways this topic could be seen as a little strange to talk about during our Remembrance service. This day we come to remember those who gave their lives in order to secure the freedom of others. Many survived these wars, many also did not.
War is not pretty. There are movies and video games that attempt to make light of war, something it is not. People’s lives are changed forever by war, and not just by those involved directly in the fighting.
There are the civilians who are impacted greatly as their towns are bombed and destroyed. Supply chains are interrupted and they have no food or supplies. When the war is over, the survivors are left to clean up the devastation left behind.
And it continues today. News today gets us information much more quickly than before. We also get to hear both sides of the story. Those who are winning, as well as those who had been previously forgotten by what war does to countries and communities.
I think of my grandfather, who fought on the front lines and how he suffered nightmares for years after he came home from WWII. Still today he cannot share much of what he saw. His family was impacted greatly as he sought ways in which to cope with these things that still eat away at him.
Today they have a name for this. They call it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We hear it from doctors who work with soldiers who come back from Afghanistan or Iraq, places where they face intense threats to their own lives and may be forced to take the lives of another human being in order to save their own, or the lives of their fellow troopers.
Yet sometimes war is necessary. Hitler was set on one thing. Ruling the world and cleansing it of what he saw as a place full of inferior nations and races. He had to be stopped and there was only one way that could happen.
So people have, and continue to fight for the freedom of those who are unjustly treated. Today, and for much of the week, there will be services honouring those brave men and women who put their lives on the line for what they feel is right.
People fight for what they feel is right all the time. People challenged Jesus because he was taking on what they believe, what they had held onto as “right” in their lives. But Jesus challenged them back. He fought for those who were unjustly treated. He challenged the leaders, telling them what they were doing, how they were acting, how they were treating people. He told them they were doing it wrong.
And people’s lives were changed. People joined him, they followed him, and most importantly they learned from him what it means to be a child of God. To be a person who loves others, and to treat them in the same way we ourselves want to be treated.
Our war heroes are ones who fought for this. They fought for those who were being unjustly treated in the world, and they continue to do so. Evil exists in this world, and we do what we can to limit its influence.
God’s plan for the world is a world of love and justice for all. Where people live freely and with equality. A world nothing like we see today. And we as faithful followers of Jesus Christ are part of this plan. We stand up to those who mistreat others, those who seek to oppress the weak for their own gain. We stand up to those in leadership who say their way is the right way because this is how things are done, when it’s not really the way it should be.
Because of the work of our veterans and all those who valiantly gave their lives so that we may live in freedom today, we are still able to fight for what is right. The battle does indeed rage on, and as faithful people who allow Jesus Christ to come into us, and change us, making us into something new for his cause, we are part of his army, fighting the evil of this world.
Because people are still challenging Jesus to his face, trying to negate what he has done, what he has taught, and because they still challenge him, we are being challenged too.
As children of God, with the promise of resurrection and life everlasting, we too must stand up and face our challengers. We must stand up for peace and justice, to show people the love of God so we all may be part of God’s great kingdom.
Thanks be to God for those who fought for freedom and justice all over the world, and continue to do so today so that we too might fight for what’s right in and share the love of God with all we meet.