Read­ing Time: 8 minutes

(Ref. Text: Macc 7:1–2.9–14; 2Thess 2:26–3:5; Luke 20:27–38)

The sym­bol­ic lan­guage of the cru­ci­fix­ion is the death of the old paradigm; resur­rec­tion is a leap into a whole new way of think­ing. Let every man and woman count himself/herself immor­tal. Let him/her catch the rev­el­a­tion of Jesus in his resur­rec­tion. Let him/her say not merely, Christ is ris­en, but I shall rise.”

Plotting to trap Jesus

Fol­low­ing Luke’s present­a­tion, Jesus has made his ingress into the of Jer­u­s­alem. And in Luke 19:45–48, Jesus per­formed his first activ­ity in Jer­u­s­alem. Luke notes that as soon as Jesus entered the Temple courts, he drove out those who turned the house of God into a mar­ket arena. After that, he taught the people in the Temple on daily basis. Instead of listen­ing to his teach­ings, the chief priests, the teach­ers of law and the lead­ers of the people were ser­i­ous look­ing for a way to accuse and kill him. At the begin­ning of the twen­ti­eth chapter, Luke observes that as Jesus was busy teach­ing the people in the temple, the same chief priests, the scribes and the eld­ers who have been look­ing for some reas­on to kill him, ques­tions his author­ity for driv­ing out those buy­ing and selling in the temple and for teach­ing in the temple. As usu­al, Jesus mes­mer­izes them and silenced them, mak­ing them look more stu­pid (cf. Luke 20:1–8). After such cal­cu­lated dis­trac­tion, Jesus con­tin­ued with his teach­ing, this time with a par­able of the vine­yard and the ten­ants. The con­clu­sion of this par­able is that the Jew­ish author­ity wanted to arrest Jesus because they per­ceived the par­able was against and about them. As usu­al and as evil people, they were afraid of the people (cf. Luke 20:9–19). Giv­en the fail­ure of their plan A, the chief priests, the scribes and the eld­ers, now resor­ted to plan B. This time, they decided to send spies. After expos­ing their trick, Jesus saw through their dupli­city and silenced them too, mak­ing them look stu­pid and fool­ish as those who sent them (cf. Luke 20:20–26).

And now the Sadducees

With the silen­cing of the chief priests, the scribes and the eld­ers togeth­er with their spies, the Sad­ducees now take up the stage. It is now about the resur­rec­tion. Read­ing the Gos­pels, we see Jesus con­front the Phar­isees on cer­tain issues. In this Sunday Gos­pel, it is the turn of the Sad­ducees (Greek: Sad­dukaioi). Like the Phar­isees, the Sad­ducees were among the Jew­ish groups. The term Sad­ducee is asso­ci­ated with Zadok the high Priest under King Solomon (cf. 1Kgs 2:35). In oth­er words, they were a priestly sect. More so, they were an aris­to­crat­ic and polit­ic­ally minded group. They held many seats in the San­hedrin. Unlike the Phar­isees, the Sad­ducees held firmly to the lit­er­al word­ing of the Law, and they did not believe in the angels and the demons (cf. Acts 23:6–8). They rejec­ted the oral tra­di­tion taught by the Phar­isees. Fur­ther­more, they did not share the belief in the resur­rec­tion (cf. Mark 12:18–27). This is why they presen­ted Jesus with the ques­tion though in a trick­ing man­ner. This ques­tion came imme­di­ately after Jesus dis­mantled the plan of the Scribes and the Chief Priests to trap him down with the ques­tion of pay­ing or not pay­ing tax to the Roman Emper­or. Prob­ably, this was anoth­er plan to catch him in his own words. But as usu­al, Jesus sur­prised them. Really, light and dark­ness have no communion.

Jesus silences the Sadducees

Whatever their inten­tion was, Jesus silenced and dis­ap­poin­ted the Sad­ducees. He enlightened them and made them under­stand the dis­tinc­tion between earthly life and life after resur­rec­tion, between this age and the age to come. They are com­pletely incom­pat­ible. They thought they had won­der­ful example, but they nev­er knew their pre­sumed won­der­ful example was not won­der­ful enough as to get Jesus on the hook. Jesus had a more won­der­ful explan­a­tion which he offered them. Mar­riage is not for those who have been judged worthy of the resur­rec­tion. On the con­trary, it is for the earthly men and women. Chil­dren of God have some­thing more ser­i­ous to think about, oth­er than mar­ry­ing and get­ting mar­ried. In the new age, there will be noth­ing like mar­riage, no pro­cre­ation and no death (cf. Mark 12:25). Chil­dren of the resur­rec­tion refer to those who will be priv­ileged to par­take in the resur­rec­tion of the right­eous (cf. Mark 4:2; 23:6).

The levirate law

In the Jew­ish cul­ture, the right to inher­it­ance belonged only to agnates (related only on the father’s side). Only sons (not daugh­ters nor wives) can inher­it. There are traces to show that in the earli­est times wives, as prop­erty of the man fell to his heir along with the rest of his estate. The whole insti­tu­tion of levir­ate mar­riages prob­ably finds its explan­a­tion here. Accord­ing to this Law, if a man dies without sons (not without chil­dren as the Jews later read it), his broth­er must marry the wid­ow. The first son of this mar­riage shall be reckoned the son of the deceased broth­er, so that his name be not blot­ted out of Israel (cf. Deut 25:5–10). It is in this con­text that we should insert and under­stand the inter­rog­a­tion of the Sad­ducees. The ques­tion they asked Jesus and the way they asked it gives the impres­sion they were aware of Jesus’ stand on resur­rec­tion. And the inter­rog­a­tion offered Jesus more oppor­tun­ity to cla­ri­fy fur­ther on the concept of resurrection.

Well said, Teacher!

After explain­ing to the Sad­ducees that there is noth­ing like mar­riage for the chil­dren of the resur­rec­tion, some of the Scribes who were watch­ing acclaimed “well said, teach­er!” What does this mean? Although they were seek­ing for a way to deal with Jesus, the teach­ers of the law, who of course, were the Phar­isees, formed an alli­ance with Jesus against the Sad­ducees on the issue of resur­rec­tion. As noted above, unlike the Sad­ducees, the Phar­isees believed in the doc­trine of resur­rec­tion. This is really inter­est­ing. In order to offend their oppon­ent, the Phar­isees sided with Jesus on a top­ic that saw them in dis­agree­ment with the Sad­ducees. The same thing happened dur­ing the unjust tri­al of Jesus. In his nar­ra­tion, Luke notes that Herod and Pil­ate who have been great enemies used the occa­sion of Jesus’ tri­al to settle their dif­fer­ences and became friends. When your enemy agrees with you because he or she wants to fight his or her enemy with you. Although there was great anim­os­ity against Jesus, but the Phar­isees were ready to applaud him for silen­cing the Sad­ducees who dis­agreed with them on the mat­ter of resur­rec­tion. This not­with­stand­ing, Jesus warned his dis­ciples to beware of the teach­ers of the law who pre­tend to be holy when they are wolves in sheep cloth­ing (cf. Luke 20:45–47).

The issue of barrenness

Besides set­tling the issue of resur­rec­tion, Luke 20:27–38 also touches anoth­er essen­tial and dis­turb­ing ques­tion espe­cially in the life of most Afric­ans and Nigeri­ans espe­cially ndị Igbo (the Igbo people). I am refer­ring par­tic­u­larly to the issue of bar­ren­ness and/or not hav­ing a male child. How many mar­riages are in crisis because few years after weeding/marriage, there is still noth­ing to show for it in terms of child bear­ing. How many women have lost their lives because des­pite three, four or more female chil­dren, it is as if noth­ing has happened because there is still no male child, who, in keep­ing to the Jew­ish cul­ture, will not allow the man’s name to be blot­ted out? How many young women have dam­aged their womb in the name of search­ing for off­spring or even spe­cific­ally for search­ing for a male child? How many women are sub­jec­ted to psy­cho­lo­gic­al and phys­ic­al tor­tures because of their inab­il­ity to con­ceive imme­di­ately? How many con­coc­tions giv­en to these young and inno­cent girls all in the name of look­ing for chil­dren? These are some of the unfor­tu­nate situ­ations which many “proph­ets of doom” take advant­age of, prom­ising one thing or the oth­er; extort­ing huge amount of money from these couples; and doing so many queer and ques­tion­able things to and with these women. In case we have for­got­ten, chil­dren are gifts and bless­ings of and from God. Some­times some factors might hinder this bless­ing from com­ing forth, and for such situ­ation, God has also equipped men with the med­ic­al know­ledge to put things in order. Those con­cerned should make appro­pri­ate use of it. It is not even excluded that few people (espe­cially women) might have on their own com­prom­ised this bless­ing. If this is not your case, then, learn to wait on the Lord because God’s time is the best. Con­sequently, you do not search for chil­dren because they belong to God. Instead, search for the reas­on that is pre­vent­ing you from receiv­ing this bless­ing of God. And the best way to do this is not to move from one busi­ness centre in the name of min­istry or pray­er house to anoth­er. Doing this might mean com­plic­at­ing your case and cre­at­ing a situ­ation that should not have been. Be care­ful! Beware of the proph­ets of doom!

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