Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 122; 149, Numbers 24:12-25, Romans 8:18-25, Matthew 22:23-40
The Sadducees – an aristocratic group of Jewish religious leaders who did not believe in resurrection – were determined to discredit Jesus. They had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo with Rome by squashing this rabble-rousing preacher. Their attempts to trick him into appearing foolish consistently backfired.
According to Mosaic law, if a married Jewish man died, his brother was to marry his widow. The Sadducees posed a scenario in which a woman was married to seven different brothers, because each had to marry her when another brother died. Which brother, they wanted to know, would be her husband in the resurrection?
At first it may sound like legitimate question, but it’s actually a pretty juvenile approach, not unlike asking whether Superman could beat up The Hulk, or what would happen if a werewolf and a vampire bit each other at the same time. Sure it might provide hours of heated distraction for people who get geeked over hypothetical situations, but it doesn’t mean anything.
Jesus stopped this whole line of “reasoning” in its tracks by telling the Sadducees they couldn’t even ask the right question. “In the resurrection,” Jesus told them, “they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”
When the Sadducees retreated, the Pharisees – who were political rivals but united against the common enemy of Jesus – tested him by asking what was the most important commandment. Jesus said:
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Some Christians thrive on essentially meaningless debates over technicalities which seem vital to theology wonks, but bruise and break the Body of Christ; we’ve got the evidence of hundreds of denominational scars. When we’re drawn into conversations which are more invested in division than unity, especially with other Christians, let’s remember the two great commandments. They teach us to ask better questions.
Comfort: Nobody has all the answers.
Challenge: Including you.
Prayer: Lord of Heaven and Earth, I love you with all my heart, mind, and soul. Give me strength to love my neighbor as myself, and to love myself well. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever gotten into a debate that generated a lot of heat and little or no light?
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