Late in Luke’s Gospel, some Sadducees come to Jesus to challenge him with a fanciful question about marriage. As we may remember, their question is premised on an assumption they do not share ~ that is, belief in resurrection.
In his response, Jesus does not really challenge the Sadducees to have ‘right belief.’ As if just believing in the resurrection will make all well. No, Jesus challenges their perception of what is now present among them. Through his words, and even more through his personal presence, he offers them revelation of a more encompassing reality, a doorway to a fuller life already in their midst.
Here is what Jesus says, and embodies for them: our God is the God of the living. Not just of breathing, metabolism and brain function! Our God is the God who brings fullness to life, who brings flourishing in blessedness, and a happiness that transcends all the pleasures of this attractive world.
What a paradox this suggests! Because many of us routinely settle for merely existing. We sacrifice the possibility of something greater by habitually relying on the limited forms of living which are within reach, apparent to our earthly eyes, and alluring to our sensate experience. These can be good things. Yet they cease to be good if they keep us from seeing and wanting more. The world around us bears the imprint of the Creator’s handiwork. Through the special revelation of Scripture, and especially in the Word made Flesh, we see more fully what God would have us see, and not simply what we are drawn to see.
One of the important things revealed Luke’s story is a truth that is embodied in The Book of Common Prayer. Marriage is bound up with God’s purposes for our lives. These Godly purposes change when we get to ‘the other side,’ precisely as our lives become more characterized by eternity, and by our shared experience of transcendent glory.
So, whether we are thinking of marriage or of the broader experience of friendship, whether we are thinking of knowing and loving, or of activities like singing or work, Jesus shows us this: that the reality of these things on the other side will transcend the limited ways we experience them now. This is most true with our knowing and loving, both of which are manifestly incomplete for us. We love many things we do not really know; and we know things that we do not truly love. It is the same with our being and our doing, which are often out of sync. But these aspects of our lives will no longer be separate when all is accomplished in Jesus.
The vital thing is the dynamic element that transforms ordinary things into the extraordinary, and basic living into flourishing. It is this: We need to let what is heavenly shape and change our experience of what is earthly. This is the opposite of letting our engagement with the earthly limit our hope and expectations for all that is heavenly. Jesus reveals fuller life in the Spirit, and gives it to us now. Clinging to what is near and tangible may hinder our openness to what may yet be. At the same time, when we open ourselves to what is made new in him, he loosens our grip on what is near and on what seems important to us now. Jesus is our Daystar. The Daystar from on high broadens the horizon for human life.
The image above is of James Tissot’s painting, The Pharisees and the Sadducees Come to Tempt Jesus. This post is based on my homily for Sunday, November 10, 2019, which can be accessed by clicking here. Other homilies of mine may be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which specifies the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.
Thank you for helping me navigate this reading.