Haggai 1.15b — 2.9
In his argument with the Sadducees in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says:
Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.
What does it mean to be a ‘child of the resurrection’? Let me mention two things:
- It means to be a person who even in grief or disappointment lives in hope of the living God.
- It means to be someone whose way of life reflects the new life of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.
A child of the resurrection is someone whose way of living is marked by the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A child of the resurrection is not determined by the past, by its hurts and slights or even by its abuses. A child of the resurrection lives out of the future, God’s future, God’s new world.
A friend of mine, a child of the resurrection, recently wrote:
…we have the power to change the voices and rewrite the patterns and not make ourselves wrong or soiled or not good enough.…we have to have the courage and believe we are worthy.
A child of the resurrection receives the strength to have this courage and belief through the presence of the living Jesus within.
I said that even in grief or disappointment, a child of the resurrection lives in hope of the living God. We can see that in the Book of the prophet Haggai.
Haggai wrote about 500 years before the birth of Jesus. Remember that the armies of the Babylonian superpower had demolished Jerusalem and exiled its people back in Babylon around 587 BC? Some of the exiles had returned from Babylon in 520 BC; Haggai wrote around that time.
The Babylonians had destroyed the great Temple of Solomon, the Temple of God. Now they were home, the people of God could rebuild it. But work on its reconstruction was going slowly, and it was clear that the end result was going to be something way less than magnificent. Haggai grieved this situation. He said:
Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?
Yet he goes on to say, ‘Take courage…’ Haggai’s solution to the poverty of the Temple project and the anxious malaise of the people was for them to put their hope in God and God’s future. Living in hope, he was a child of the resurrection before its time had come.
In our Gospel story, the Sadducees come to Jesus as people without hope. Not that they were despairing, not at all! The Sadducees were a religious group within first-century Jewish life. We don’t know much about them, but it does appear they were people of influence and wealth. They didn’t need ‘hope’, they had plenty of the world’s goods.
For them, ‘scripture’ meant only the first five books of our Bible, the so-called Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. There was little if anything about life beyond death in these books, so as far as they were concerned, when you’re dead you’re dead. That’s it, there’s no more. But: when you’re at the top of the social ladder, you can live with that.
They tell this story about an archaic practice of marriage, which means that if a man dies without a son, it is his brother’s duty to take his wife and try to produce a son. This is all about the imperative for the family to survive through the generations, for the man’s name to be carried on, for the woman basically to be a baby machine.
At its best, this law could perhaps protect a widow from being thrown out of home and be reduced to begging or prostitution. But it’s a very blunt instrument indeed, and in all of this the woman has no rights. She can’t refuse to become her brother-in-law’s wife. He can refuse, and he is publicly shamed if he does; but the widow has no right of refusal at all.
So the Sadducees tell this story about a poor woman who is handed down through one by one seven brothers, and who never has a son. And they tell it for a joke, a laugh, just to show how ridiculous it is to believe in life beyond death.
There is no hint of compassion for the woman in their telling of the story. Jesus turns the tables around, and shows the Sadducees that the heroes Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive in God. And what’s more, he declares that women like the fictitious one they talked about so carelessly will be among the children of the resurrection.
A child of the resurrection is someone whose way of living and being in the world reflects the new life of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.
We may not have died yet, but we can be children of the resurrection now. The risen Lord is with us, the Spirit energises us, and, as my friend wrote—
we have the power to change the voices and rewrite the patterns and not make ourselves wrong or soiled or not good enough.…we have to have the courage and believe we are worthy.
In Christ, we are worthy. We are forgiven, we are God’s beloved children. We matter!
And every other child of the resurrection matters too, including the least and the last—those who will be first in the kingdom of God. That’s why African slaves in America sang spirituals like I got a robe. It was because their hope was in God. They were children of the resurrection. Their subjection did not define them.
We can join with them in this hope as we seek to build a Christian community here, and as we reach out in the Spirit’s power to people in need. This hope is grounded in the Resurrection of Christ, and if we have this hope we will link hands to put it into action as the Body of the risen Christ here and now.
In Jesus Christ the risen-crucified Lord, we have hope; we have the power to change; in the risen-crucified Lord, we are worthy.