Matthew 22:23-33

The same day some Sadducees came to him, saying there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman herself died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.”

Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching. Matthew 22:23-33

Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the first day of the season of Lent – a 40 day season of preparation, of renewed devotion, of discipleship training, all pointed toward Holy Week and the promise of Easter resurrection. This is the holiest season of the Christian year. We begin today with worship that includes the imposition of ashes. Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

In today’s text, Jesus is confronted by the Sadducees. This is the wing of Judaism, the Levitical priesthood, that ran the operations in the temple. Regarding the Bible, they were the strict constitutionalists. They believed that only the Torah, the first five books of Moses, were the holy writings of God. Since the Torah doesn’t directly speak to the resurrection, the Sadducees taught that, when we die, we simply return to the dust out of which we came. Just as it says in Genesis 3:19, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Thus their silly question about the woman passed down through seven brothers wasn’t really a question. It was a verbal sneer, delivered with snickers, by those who clearly thought themselves superior to this country bumpkin peasant Jesus. Jesus offered a sharp response but it didn’t really matter. They weren’t listening. They were so confident about themselves and their positions that their minds were closed. They had the whole God thing all figured out and they could back it up with sacred writings that secured their religious authority and community standing. They had a good gig going. Jesus wasn’t going to mess it up.

And it turned out…he didn’t. Even as he was arrested and beaten and crucified, the band played on in the temple. Even as Jesus hung from the cross, pigeons and lambs and wheat and bulls continued to be barbequed in the temple. The moneychangers did their thing. The Sadducees took their cut. All was good. Until the Roman army came through town. They starved the population before attacking and destroying the city. The holy temple was reduced to rubble. The powerful Sadducees were reduced to a historical footnote. And the Christian movement began to spread like wildfire through the empire.

Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

On the one hand, the Sadducees were right. There isn’t much directly said about the resurrection in the Torah. But God wasn’t through writing the story. There is no question that we return to dust when we die. Embalming slows, but doesn’t stop, the process. Cremation hurries things up a bit. These earthly bodies of ours aren’t meant to last forever. But the story doesn’t end there.

On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. That is good news to dust like us. Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Until God breaths resurrection and finally births new life.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, on this day of ashes and repentance, keep us mindful of the holiness, the sanctity, and the brevity of this life. Confident in the promises of resurrection, guide us in making the most of this and every day that comes to us as your gift of life. Receive us at the end and revive us every day until then. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Matthew 22:23-33”

  1. Carolee Groux Says:

    Thanks be to God that we already have knowledge of the ending to this story; the resurrection of Christ!
    Everybody dies but those who know of Jesus and His salvation have the eternal kingdom of everlasting life to look forward to. Blessed are the believers for they will abide with Christ forever.

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