We Are God's Children
A sermon based on Luke 20:27-38
November 17, 2013 – Saints Triumphant
"Good afternoon, miss!" the sales clerk said, "How are you today? And oh! Congratulations! When's the baby due? …Wait… What? You're not pregnant, are you?" Assumptions can often cause embarrassing mistakes, can't they? For this sales clerk it likely even cost him a sale. But sometimes assumptions can have much worse consequences.
This morning we hear how a religious sect in Jesus day made some spiritually fatal assumptions. You see they assumed that the only things anyone could be certain of were those things they could see and touch and experience with their senses. And so, having never seen anyone rise from the dead, they assumed that this life was all there was.
Threatened by Jesus popularity and concerned that he might steal their following, they set out on Tuesday of Holy Week—the week that Jesus died—to make him look foolish. But their assumption was wrong. Dead wrong. Here's the trap the Sadducees set in Luke 20:27-33…
27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 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. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?"
The Law of the Leverite said that if a man died without leaving an heir behind, his brother (if unmarried) must marry his deceased brother's wife to provide a legal heir for his dead brother. This was to ensure that the inheritance—especially the land—would remain in the tribe to which it belonged from generation to generation.
"If there was a resurrection from the dead," the Sadducees assumed, "according to this law the woman of seven brothers would be the wife of all seven in the life to come. Did God have polygamy in heaven? No. This was clearly against God's law too." And with what they thought was flawless logic and probably with a bit of a smirk, they "proved" that according to Moses there could be no resurrection from the dead. If there were, God's law would contradict itself. "How foolish," they thought, "to believe in the resurrection." And they'd point out just how foolish any Rabbi was who believed it in.
But they assumed too much. And in love Jesus corrected their foolish assumptions by pointing out what God's Word said. And when he did, he left us some comforting assurance that we are God's children worthy of the age to come and certain of the age to come. In Luke 20:34-38…
34 Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 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, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection.
I. Children Worthy of the Age to Come
The conclusion at which the Sadducees had arrived was correct if their premises were correct. But Jesus pointed out they assumed too much. The rules of heaven aren't the same as the rules of earth. In heaven marriage will be obsolete. Why? Well, what are the purposes of marriage? 1) God established marriage for procreation—that is, to make babies to replace the people who die. 2) For companionship, he gave Adam a suitable helper. And, 3) For pleasure God gave woman to man and man to woman that they might enjoy each other.
But in heaven there will be no sin, and thus, no death, and no need to make new people. In heaven with no sin we will have perfect companionship with everyone—even with Jesus himself. If this bothers some of you that you won't be married in heaven, think of it from the perspective of a 3-year old. Tell him that one day he will move out of the house, away from mom and dad to start his own family, and he'd be devastated. Because his relationship with mom and dad are the best he could imagine, but when he grows up to find a wife, he understands. In heaven, our most important relationship will be the one we have with God—face to face! And finally, in heaven, in the presence of God, we will experience pleasure and joy beyond anything we could ever know in this life on earth. Marriage is obsolete in heaven. The rules are different there.
But by their faulty premise, assuming the rules were the same, the Sadducees came to the wrong conclusion that there was no life after death. And if this life is all there is, there's no real accountability to God, and no real need for a Savior. If left to their bad assumptions, they would soon discover how wrong they were about life after death in an eternity of separation from God.
But Jesus loved them too much to simply dismiss them, muttering "Stupid Sadducees" under his breath and walking past them. And with one word he got their attention: worthy. "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 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…" Not everyone, Jesus subtly warns, will make it into heaven. Only those who are considered worthy. But who's that?
Well, it wouldn't include the Sadducees if they continued to reject Jesus. Jesus implies as much. They wouldn't experience the resurrection from the dead. Oh, they too will rise again bodily on the last day, but only to have their body join their soul in eternal death. So it's not really a resurrection from the dead. That's why the Sadducees are so very sad, you see?
And it won't include the skeptics like the Sadducees who still deny the existence of life after death today because they cannot see it or prove it. But what about us? Are we considered worthy?
Some think they are. For others that question haunts them. Am I worthy of God? And the truth is we're not worthy! Not on our own. The Sadducees aren't the only ones who are skeptical, they're not the only ones to deny clear teachings of the Bible. And even if we believe what the Bible says, how often do we do what we believe?
I heard a young mother warn her child at Walmart, "You'd better stop whining and acting like you are, or we're not going to get you that special treat I promised." But the kid kept it up. He stuck out his tongue at his mom and talked back. And of course, the kid didn't get the special treat. He wasn't worthy of it anymore. In fact, he was taken out of the store. The mom left the cart right where it was, full of groceries. She's have to shop another day.
But how often aren't we just like that little kid? God tells us what he wants, what he expects, and what he demands of us. He tells us what the consequences of our disobedience will be. But we either don't believe he means it or simply don't care. And by our thoughts, our words, our actions, by our failure to know what God says in his Word, by our daring to challenge God and saying, "Do you really mean it?" we might as well stick out our tongues at God. Are we worthy to receive the heaven he promised?
No. Of course not, not on our own. But in Christ, yes, we are worthy. Jesus was perfect. He knew God's Word perfectly. He obeyed God's Word perfectly. And then he gave his perfection away—to us. The perfect Son of God was abandoned by God so that we might become the sons and daughters of God. Now, even though we are worthy of death in hell, by faith in Jesus, our every sin, our every mistake, our every doubt is forgiven. We are perfect and we are worthy of the resurrection to life, of the age to come. You and I are worthy of heaven. And that means you and I are God's children:
"But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead… are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection."
The dad looked at his daughter and said, "I just don't know where you got your bright red hair from. No one in our family has hair that color. Not me or your mom, or any of your grandparents."
"Don't be silly, dad. You know that I was adopted."
Dad visibly blushed. "Oh yeah, I guess I forgot."
"Dad, how could you forget?!"
"Well, I guess you've been my child for so long, I forget there was ever a time when you didn't belong to me."
In a similar way, God has made you his child. And he deliberately forgets that there was ever a time that you did not belong to him. You are worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection though Jesus' life, death, and resurrection for you.
And now, having made us his children, worthy of the age to come, Jesus also wants us to be certain of the age to come…
II. Children Certain of the Age to Come
The Sadducees tried to use Scripture—the Law given through Moses—to prove there was no resurrection. But Jesus pointed out that they were, "…in error because [they did] not know the Scriptures or the power of God."
They had plenty of Scriptures that pointed out the reality of the resurrection from the dead: Daniel 12:2 says, "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." Job 19:26-27 says, "And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" Isaiah 26:19 says, "But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead."
And even if the Sadducees gave more value to the books of Moses—the first five books of the Bible—than they did to the rest of the Old Testament, Moses spoke of life after death himself. Jesus quoted Moses in Genesis 3: 37 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.' 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."
You see God told Moses "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob"—not "I was their God"—even though they'd been dead and gone from earth for more than a few centuries by then. This, Jesus points out, implies that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive and well and able to worship God when God spoke these words to Moses. And using Scripture to interpret Scripture he easily pointed out the Sadducees' incorrect and deadly assumptions. The resurrection is real. 38 [God] is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."
And friends that means something to us. The resurrection is real. That means we don't mourn the death of our friends and family who died trusting in Jesus, in the same way. Having died in faith means they were (and are) worthy of the age to come. So you who have lost a Christian parent, spouse, or child to death can rejoice! They are the Saints Triumphant! They are living with their Savior right now! That certainly changes the way we view doesn't it?
And it changes the way we view our own death. We not only thank God for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are already experiencing this eternal life, but we long to join them there ourselves…
Yes, the thought of your own death can be a scary one, even for a Christian, because we've never experienced it for ourselves. But this morning Jesus assures us again that death is not the final answer. As God's children you and I are also children of the resurrection. We will live after death. We will be with our loved ones again. We will be with our Savior. He will wipe every tear from our eyes and we will never again experience any sorrow, frustration, or pain. One day soon we will be the Saints Triumphant celebrating the victory Jesus won for us and how he made us worthy of that age to come. Of that we can be certain.
And friends, this truth—that God is the God of the living—changes the way we view our life right now. If you knew for sure that you were going to receive $10 billion dollars tomorrow, would you act differently today? You know that very soon you will receive not just some money, but eternal life in paradise! If you knew you would die one month after receiving the $10 billion, that you couldn't take it with you, would you spend it differently? Would you use it on something that would last and outlive you?
Live differently today. You don't know what tomorrow will bring. Show your gratitude today and give thanks to the Savior who made you worthy of that age to come. Live as if this life were nothing but a short journey to your final destination in heaven because that's exactly what it is. View your wealth not as something to be gathered, but something to be used to serve him in thanks. View your time as your limited opportunity to share with others the incredible news that you are God's child, a child of the resurrection, and that they can be one too.
And live your life in patience and in quiet trust. Because no matter what may happen in this life, you and I can be sure that we are God's children, worthy in God's sight because our sins have been washed away. We are God's children, certain that we will live forever with our Savior as Triumphant Saints. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.