Sermon – Pentecost 22 – November 10th, 2019
Text: Luke 20:27-40 – “God of the Living”
Remembrance Day is tomorrow. In the United Kingdom, they commemorate Remembrance Sunday each year as well. Many different ceremonies by people of all types will be held today as they commemorate this day on the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day. They hold this day on a Sunday which is fitting because Sunday is the Lord’s Day when Jesus rose again from the dead. In the face of death our greatest comfort is the certain hope of the resurrection. We remember today and tomorrow all those of our armed forces who have died in the line of duty.
It is a fitting time in the church year to talk about those who have died. Last Sunday we celebrated the lives of all The Saints. Now as we approach the end of the church year at the end of the month we are eagerly looking to the end of the world as well. We eagerly look to the end of the world because we are guaranteed by God that all people will be raised up from their graves and given new bodies. This is an amazing hope and promise we have from God. It’s such an amazing hope that the devil often tries to get us to forget about it and live like it is not going to happen. The devil is pretty sneaky and good at making us forget things like this. But this hope of the resurrection is THE hope of the Christian faith. It is THE hope that Jesus made possible for us by His own death and resurrection.
Can you imagine living not believing in a resurrection of the dead and being given new bodies and being reunited with those you have lost who have died in the faith?
There was a group just like that who denied the resurrection of the dead. This group was called the Sadducees. In our VBS songs, we learn that the Sadducees are so sad-you-see. This is because they don’t believe in the resurrection! Our text this morning from Luke 20 records when Jesus was talking with a group of Sadducees. The Sadducees are trying to show Jesus how absurd the idea of the resurrection is by asking Jesus questions about who will be married to whom in the resurrection. The Sadducees make up this elaborate scenario of a woman whose husbands keep on dying and she keeps being lawfully married to each of the brothers who become her kinsmen redeemers (remember when we talked about the account of Ruth a few weeks ago and how God gave this command for a brother to marry his brother’s widow to protect her?) The Sadducees are trying to convince Jesus that the resurrection makes no sense because which of the seven brothers would then be her husband in the resurrection?!
Also, the Sadducees only believed the first five books of the Scriptures were authoritative. If you couldn’t find evidence for a doctrine, there they would not accept it. There is evidence to the resurrection of the dead in the Psalms and the Book of Daniel and many other places in the Old Testament but they would only accept evidence from the first five books of Moses.
God of the Living
So, what does Jesus do? He takes their question and doesn’t fall into their trap but talks beyond it. He tells them that in the resurrection there is no marriage because everyone will be so perfect. Jesus even goes on to say that even Moses in the second book of the Bible, Exodus, showed that there was a resurrection. The Sadducees were playing a game of who-knows-the-Bible-better with Jesus and Jesus blows them away. Jesus says that in the passage about the burning bush God speaks to Moses saying that He IS the God of his fathers, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. A couple of times God says this to Moses and Moses agrees to send this message to the Hebrews to convince them of the authority of his message to follow him out of Egypt.
God doesn’t say He WAS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jakob – who are now dead. Instead, God says He IS the I AM. God says He IS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jakob who we know to have died. And we also know from the Gospels of Mark and Luke that God is not the God of the dead but of the living. Jesus uses this passage from Exodus to support the fact that those who have died are merely asleep and are waiting to be awoken at the resurrection. They are not dead, but asleep until Christ awakens them again. 1 Thessalonians continues to offer this hope saying “For God has not appointed us to suffer wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.”
Even the book of Leviticus, with all of its ancient purity laws, which seem so random and irrelevant, they are all about keeping things concerning death away from God and only presenting things about life at God’s holy presence in the centre of the camp. Why? Because God is the Living God (Jeremiah 10:10), The God of the Living, not the Dead (Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38), He is the I AM. In Hebrew YAHWEH, the name God gives for Moses to refer to Him by, literally means the I Am The Living One. I Am The Existing One. In a way, God almost seems like He is being sassy to Moses when He says this. Moses says ‘when the people ask what is the name of the God who sent me is’ God tells Him to say “The Living One” sent him. The only God who is real sent him. The Existing One sent him. The God of the Living.
Crosses and Poppies
On Remembrance Day we see a couple of symbols. We see the white crosses which lined fields of graves and we see red poppies. How fitting is it that the symbol of God’s victory over death in Jesus is so commonly seen marking the graves of the fallen. In the poem, In Flanders’ Field, we hear that those people now lie in Flanders’ Field. We say the people ‘lie’ and they ‘rest’ yet these are the actions of a living person, not a dead one. It is because we understand that those who have fallen in the line of duty will rise again and they are only asleep. The graves of the fallen which are marked with white crosses will be opened again and those fallen will rise again as Christ did. At the Resurrection of All Flesh all people will be brought back. Those who rise to resurrection and eternal life with God AND those who rise again to resurrection and eternal torment in hell for rejecting their saviour and their salvation.
We still wear poppies to commemorate the day. Poppies have a rich symbolic history of representing sleep, peace, and death. It gets this symbolism from its red colour representing death and its use in providing opium. Poppies were used to give those wounded or in pain sleep and peace. Often poppies were used to sedate people who were close to death to take away their pain.
The poppies we wear represent the sleep and peace that those who have died now experience as they await the resurrection. They also represent the peace that their sacrifice has brought to our land. May we never forget the greatest sacrifice of all-time given by Jesus Christ who gives hope and life to every Remembrance Day. Because He has died, was resurrected, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, the God of the Living, we too will rise again to everlasting life.