The Resurrection is No Joke

At this time of the year our thoughts turn to our Lord’s death and resurrection. Eternal life is offered to us because Jesus died for our sins and rose again in victory over death. This is what we celebrate on resurrection Sunday.

Yet there have always been those who deny the resurrection. The gospel of Mark describes an encounter Jesus had with some of his religious detractors. They did not believe in an afterlife or bodily resurrection. The way our Lord responded to them provides us with a reassuring basis for our own hope of life with God after death.

Jesus’ enemies wanted to do all they could to discredit him in the eyes of his followers. They tried to use the scriptures to disprove the resurrection. So they referred to part of the law of Moses which made provision for the care of widows in ancient Israel (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).

They treated the subject as a riddle, stretching the law to a ridiculous extreme. “Suppose,” they said, “a man died, leaving his widow with no children to care for her. So, in accordance with the law of Moses, the man’s brother married her to continue the family line in his brother’s name. He also died, leaving no children. So she married a second brother who died, and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, and a sixth. The woman had had seven husbands, all of whom died” (Mark 12:20-23 my paraphrase).

Then they asked their big question. “If there is to be a resurrection, whose wife would she be in the hereafter?”  They thought they had outmaneuvered Jesus. We can almost hear them snickering at the ludicrous joke they made out of the resurrection.

Jesus’ answered that the resurrection is a certainty. It is not a joking matter. He said that they did not really understand the scriptures they claimed to believe. And in denying the resurrection they were denying the power of God (Mark 12:24). After all, the God who created the universe is perfectly capable of raising the dead.

He clinched his argument by reminding them that the God they claimed to believe in, the God of their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mark12:27). The three patriarchs, long dead, were still alive in God’s presence. In heaven they continued to be who they were on earth, but without the limitations of earth.

Jesus also addressed the strange riddle posed by his adversaries. In the resurrection there will be an entirely new order of existence. “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage,” he said. “They will be like the angels in heaven” (Mark12:25). Now our Lord was not saying we will become angels. He was saying that in the resurrection God’s people will be like the angels. beautiful, powerful, created beings, engaged in the happy service and worship of God.

Marriage here on earth, as wonderful as it can be, will pale in comparison to the perfection of our relationships in heaven. Our relationships there will be unspoiled by misunderstandings, slights, frustrations and disappointments. There will be no jealousy, selfishness, offenses, or sin in heaven. In heaven we will know and love each other with a perfect love.

John Newton said, “When I get to heaven I shall see three wonders there. The first wonder will be to see many people whom I did not expect to see. The second wonder will be to miss many people whom I did expect to see. The third and greatest of all will be to find myself there.”

Jesus answered his critics who challenged his teaching on life after death. In his brilliant response he linked the resurrection to the existence of an all-powerful God and the authority of his written word.

In stating that God is not the God of the dead but of the living, Jesus is teaching us that those who die in faith will live with him forever. Is your faith in Jesus? In John 11:25 he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies.”

Pastor Randy Faulkner