We are currently in the final season of the Church year-
from All Saints to Christ the King, before beginning a new year at Advent.
This is the Season of Remembrance- with All Saints and All souls
In conjunction with the Funeral Director's we have offered the Town Memorial service for all who continue to grieve.
Coincidentally Remembrance or Armistice Day November 11th, and Remembrance Sunday occur in this period
In the Northern Hemisphere it is the time of year when nature is dying, days get shorter, and we have to go through winter before Spring and the resurrection of Easter.
What can we as Church hope to offer people who come to the Church in this season?
Those who lost loved ones in the wars-
Two World Wars, people raised without Fathers, Uncles, cousins;
the Falklands Conflict;
Afghanistan- and the unending procession of young men and women with whom Wootton Bassett has become synonymous.
Or the people who have lost a
husband or wife,
mother or father,
child, baby.., son or daughter, friend, neighbour, colleague
losses through illness and , timely and untimely, natural or suicide
How can we minister to such deep loss, offering comfort, yet hope?
Our Gospel reading from Luke 20 about the Resurrection offers such hope- for ourselves and for others.
Sadducees came to Jesus with a question
In order to understand what was behind their question, and how Jesus answered it we need to know a little more about them.
Who were the Sadducees?
The Sadducees were one of the parties in the Sanhedrin along with the Pharisees with whom they had an on-going struggle for power.
They were the spiritual descendents of Zadok the priest, Zadokites
Some High Priests were Sadducees.
Their fortunes rose and fell depending on who was ruling, but they felt deprived
of power because an earlier uprising had failed.
Josephus said though small in number, they were often the rich and wanted to maintain their material status.
In Jesus' time the Romans allowed the Sanhedrin which included Sadducees, authority in Jewish matters- crucially including issuing capital sentences- putting people to death.
Both Sadducees and Pharisees envied Jesus Mt 27:18, fearful of his rising poularity, and wanted to see him put to death
Each group tried to challenge Jesus in the hope of winning the argument over him, but also over each other. Mt 27
What did they believe?
Firstly, the Sadducees only accepted the written word of God- in particular the first five books of Moses known as the Pentateuch- important when we look at how Jesus answered them
Secondly, they didn't believe in the resurrection, the immortality of the soul.
For them the soul was entirely linked to the body and ceased to exist on death, and there was no future reward or punishment.
They also denied the existence of Angels or spirits according to Paul (Acts 23:8)- though the Pharisees did believe in these.
The Sadducees in the Gospels
The first reference we have is John the Baptist calling them along with the Pharisees a “Brood of vipers” Mt 3
When the disciples forgot to take bread with them, Jesus warned them of the “Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” which the disciples understood that they they should be on their guard against their teaching Mt 16
When asked for a sign by the Pharissees and Sadducees, Jesus replied that none would be given except the sign of Jonah- who was i the belly of the great fish three days and nights; in the same way Jesus would be in the heart of the earth for the same period- crucially until he rose again. Mt 16
Sadducees are a “brood of vipers”.. like “yeast” to beware of, seeking a “sign”but the only sign that would be given other was Christ's death and resurrection.
Jesus Silences the Sadducees
The Sadducees who had left Jesus alone pretty much until the latter part of his ministry, until he turned over the tables of the money-changers in the temple, challenging their authority..
They now seek to put Jesus on the spot with a trick question: the same event being included by Matthew, Mark and Luke:
Suppose there are seven brothers; the first marries, there are no children and then he dies; the second brother marries the widow, but he also dies; and this goes on right up to the seventh brother. All die and there are no children.
Whose wife will she be at the resurrection, they want to know?
.The Sadducees are referring to part of the Mosaic law which provides for children to be born of the brother, “seed” to be raised up, as belonging to the one who has died-
his posterity- so providing for the widow. This is an example of God's care for his people, but they are twisting it to try to catch Jesus out.
They don't believe in the Resurrection anyway, but Jesus uses the very law, the Pentateuch itself which they believed was more important than the rest of the Old Testament..- to prove there is a resurrection:
In one account Jesus pointedly says, “You are in error.. because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God” Mt 22:29 .. this law of which they were so committed to..
Mark puts it his normally concise way with Jesus saying “You are badly mistaken”
The Sadducees have got it wrong
Jesus distinguishes between this age when people marry and are given in marriage; in the security of the marriage relationship children are born.
But in the resurrection he argues,
people no longer die;
they are immortal like the angels;
they are God's children... if all live forever there is
no longer the need for children to be born, so no need for marriage either
Interestingly there is a play on words as the Greek for “raising up children” and for “resurrection” is both “Anastasis (from which the girl's name Anastasia comes- meaning resurrection)
In this age- yes children and marriage are a necessary particular
But in the resurrection- all live forever like the angels, and as children of God there is no need to have children or marriage.
Referring back to Moses and the burning bush, God is revealed as the God of “ I am the God of ..Abraham, Isaac and Jacob- not the God of the dead but of the living... not I was the God of..
though long dead physically, God sees them living and awaiting a glorious resurrection
The Sadducees are silenced.. and dare not ask him any more questions..
the Pharisees (predictably) say “well said Teacher”-glad to see their old rivals trumped.
Resurrection in the Old Testament
Many other Old Testament passages speak of Resurrection- we have two of them today:
Psalm 17: And I- in righteousness I shall see your face; when I awake I shall be satisfied with seeing your likeness”
Job 19:25 - when despite all his losses and sufferings,
his family his flocks and herds,
his loss of health-
his wife's attempts to get him to curse God..
despite supposed friends saying he must have sinned to suffer this
much- repent Job!
not knowing what we know of the end of the book and restoration- he says in faith “I know that my Redeemer lives.. after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.. I myself will see him, I and not another..
Job believes in a resurrection- and is certain of a time when he will see God for himself..beyond all the trials he is currently suffering-
Resurrection in the New Testament
If we follow the use of the word “Anastasia” through the Gospels, Acts and Paul's letters to the early Church, we see how important the resurrection was for them:
Following Jesus was not an easy option- it carried the possibility of persecution and death as it does for some Christians in our world today.
says “This is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but will raise them up at the last day John 6:39
When Jesus, and later his disciples, raised people from the dead, this was a foretaste of what will happen in the resurrection
When the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind are invited to our banquet table, Jesus says this will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (sobering thought)
Spoke of Christ's resurrection in his sermon at Pentecost quoting Psalm 16
Acts 4:1 The Priests, the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John.. they were greatly disturbed because the apostles were .. proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. Acts 4:2
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus even after imprisonment and release .4:33
In Athens he preached the good news about Jesus and the resurrection ..
some sneered but others wanted to know more
Was put on trial several times en-route to Rome
– before the Sanhedrin knowing some of them to be Sadducees and others Pharisees, he asserts his credentials as a Pharisee, and shouts out
“I am standing trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead” Acts 23
Paul's trial before Felix- as a follower of “The Way”- “I have the same hope in God ... that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man”24:15
Before King Agrippa, .. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen- that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people (the Jews ) and to the Gentiles26:23
At each of his trials Paul said he was there for preaching the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of the dead.
Paul's argument for the resurrection in I Corinthians 15.. some of whom had been saying there was no resurrection..
...Is based on the fact that our resurrection is crucially dependent on Christ's- without one, we do not have the other:
If there is no resurrection from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
More than that, we are then..false witnesses..
for we have testified..that God raised Christ from the dead.
But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.
For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised...
your faith is futile and you are still in your sins..
those who have fallen asleep are lost..
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep;
For since death came through a man,
the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man..
Christ the firstfruits, then when he comes, those who belong to
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.
The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;
It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory;
it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
We started with the Church's season of remembrance and asking what we could offer to folk who are grieving that would give them comfort and hope.
Because Christ was raised from the dead all who die in Christ will be raised to life in the resurrection that is to come- whether we have died, or are living at his coming- we shall be together with the Lord. This is our hope- our certainty as Christians, one we need to be convinced of ourselves and confident in offering to our world.
Paul's prayer is “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, to share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, so that if possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead”. Phils 3:9.. a good prayer for ourselves...
Insightful, enlightening, thorough... we can really sink out spiritual teeth into this one and you took your readers on the journey with you. Thank you once again for a great piece, Anne. His anointing is upon you to preach and set the captives free.....