Jesus is once again faced with a challenge from yet another group of Jews who are trying to poke holes in what he is teaching. The people in question have already carefully considered the teachings of Jesus and have rejected them, they have rejected the idea of resurrection being possible, they deny the existence of spirits, and they refuse to give any credence to oral tradition. They instead emphasize the importance of the written law, specifically the Torah, which is the law as written and passed to them by Moses. The Sadducees were living what they believed to be a God centered life and they were not ready to accept that God may be calling them in a different direction, which is why they were testing Jesus. Jesus never once denied the law of Moses as being important, but he does push us to realize and accept that there is far more to the God life than following the rules.
One of the hardest aspects of being a person of faith is accepting that the ways of God are not the ways of humanity and this is exactly what Jesus is saying to the Sadducees. Jesus calls us, he asks us, he pushes us to live a resurrected life, which does not mean he is pushing us to follow the rules so that we can go to heaven, it means we need to wake up and accept that the resurrection is not a promise for the future, it is now, it is right here. Luke’s Jesus said that the lowliest of the society would be considered “like angels and children of God, being children of the resurrection.” He does not mean that someday, because they lived a hard life and followed all the rules, they will get to go to heaven where every day will be like their first visit to Disney World. What he has revealed to us is that in a post resurrection world there is no sociopolitical stratification, there is no oppression, there is no subjugation of women, there is no dehumanization; in a resurrection world human rules do not apply.
Every year I show a film to my students about the Spanish American War and during one of the early scenes one of the main characters is arguing with his father about his decision to volunteer to go to war, in response his father says “Life is not Honor and Polo. Life is hunger. Life is anger. Life is pain and dirt. Your grandfather knew life. He didn’t recommend it. That’s why we’re rich” Now I don’t agree with the entire sentiment of this statement, but I do agree with the heart of what he is telling his son, life is not about human made things, it is not about looking honorable in the eyes of your friends and family and no matter what your socioeconomic status is, life does involve hunger, and anger, and pain, and dirt; and I believe it is safe to assume that none of us would hold up those aspects of life as worth writing home about and because of the promise of the resurrection we don’t have to. The resurrection provides us hope that the world can be different, that the world can be redeemed, that the world can be healed and we don’t have to wait until we die to experience it, in fact we are supposed to help reveal it. The purpose of the God life is to assist in the revealing of the kingdom of God to ourselves and to the world, it is not to hope and pray that we will someday get to go to heaven; but revealing the kingdom is hard, it is hard because everywhere we look we see brokenness and we see people who have rejected God or who at least don’t know how to approach God. How can we possibly share the good news of the resurrection with people who don’t want to hear it, how can we possibly change the minds of so many people to see that the kingdom of God is here? The truth is that we cannot change their minds, but God can. Although God can only do that if we allow the Holy Spirit to work through our words and actions. There are times though, that life throws us challenges that test our ability to be faithful to the God life.
This past week I received word that a former student of mine is struggling. Her 2-year-old son has been diagnosed with leukemia and is undergoing intensive treatment at Baystate Children’s Hospital. After he receives a treatment he must remain at the hospital until his immune system recovers enough for him to go home, which can take weeks, so he has been spending up to 30 days at a time in the hospital and because of this, his mother has had to quit her job to be with him and is now struggling to buy food because she wants to make sure she has enough gas to drive to the hospital every day to be with him. I am heartbroken that this little boy must endure such horrors and that his parents must endure the pain of watching their child suffer and I wonder in the face of such pain, and anger, and hunger, how I can possibly share with them the good news and hope of the resurrection? And if I did, why would they even listen to me or anyone else for that matter?
A part of living a God centered life is accepting that we do not understand everything and trusting that God will find a way. Claiming to know the will of God is what the Sadducees were doing by clinging to the law. Jesus’s response to them teaches us that clinging to human thinking does nothing more than separate us from God and deny the power of the Holy Spirit to change the hearts of every person. The rules tell us to love God and to love our neighbor, but how do we do that? For me personally I am wondering how I can love my student and her family in such a way that lets them know that God is with them? I don’t know the answer to my question, but what I do know, is that we must trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to guide our words and actions and that as long as we keep God at the center of our lives, through prayer, through the study of scripture, and through service to the people of the world the Holy Spirit will find a way to reveal the kingdom and the good news of the resurrection.