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Following Jesus: Uncraftily

The Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, 10 November 2019
A Sermon on Luke 20:27-40 by Samuel David Zumwalt

Luke 20:27-40 English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]

27 There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, 28 and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first took a wife and died without children. 30 And the second 31 and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. 32 Afterward the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” 39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40 For they no longer dared to ask him any question. The Gospel of the Lord.

FOLLOWING JESUS: UNCRAFTILY

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

They didn’t like Jesus. They didn’t respect Jesus. And they sure didn’t want to listen to Jesus. They were the Sadducees, who were the blue bloods of Jerusalem. They were the Sadducees, the ones who ran things around Temple and town. For us, the closest parallel to the Sadducees in our day might be to think of the Ivy League graduates who run things in Washington DC, regardless of which party has control of the White House. The Sadducees were akin to what today is commonly called “the Swamp.” Again, the parallel would be how in earlier decades we Americans talked about the WASPs, the white Anglo Saxon Protestants, who went to the same schools, belonged to the same clubs, and were members of the same churches, especially the Episcopalians.

So, the Sadducees had all heard about the rabbi from Galilee, this Jesus of Nazareth. He spoke with a Galilean accent, which immediately singled him out as a hick from the sticks. When you run things and are used to calling the shots like the Sadducees, you don’t have much regard for outsiders. So, when they gave Jesus one of their standard scenarios to shoot down the notion of the resurrection of the dead, the Sadducees were certain they could stump the guy. You can almost hear them saying: “Now watch this. He won’t know what hit him.”

The Sadducees regarded the Torah, the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, as the totality of Scripture. They didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead nor did they believe in angels, because their reading of the Torah didn’t include those beliefs. So, they didn’t like Jesus. They didn’t respect Jesus. And they sure didn’t want to listen to Jesus when they floated before Him their standard scenario that, to their way of thinking, proved that the very idea of the resurrection of the dead was nonsense. Their intent in asking Jesus questions was crafty. They wanted to shut him down and shut him up. How’d that work?

You Can Ask Jesus Questions

The point in Luke’s telling of this episode is not: “Don’t ask Jesus questions.” The point is that Jesus’ enemies had already made up their minds about Jesus. They were just looking for an excuse to kill Him.

So, how do you ask Jesus questions? You do so without guile, without subterfuge, without going for that gotcha moment. We see other episodes in the gospels where Jesus has marvelous dialogues with people whose hearts and minds are open to Jesus. Often, they don’t know who it is they are dealing with.

When we have questions for Jesus or even about Jesus, it helps to be open to learning from Him. Again, that was the Sadducees problem. They didn’t like, respect, or want to listen to Jesus. And you?

When my father was dying of lung cancer, I didn’t wonder why. It was all very logical. For 11 years, I had been hearing the Surgeon General’s warnings about cigarettes. Dad was a heavy smoker. He got cancer. I hated it, but it was the logical consequence of his having smoked for more than four decades. I didn’t want dwell on what was happening inside his body. I feared Dad’s dying and denied he was dying when I could. But when Dad died, and it was horrible, I began to have a lot of questions. What really happens when we die? Does our body just go in the ground and that’s that? Is there really a God? And, if there is, does He really care? Is there a heaven? Is Dad there? Was Jesus really God’s Son? Did He really die and bodily rise from the dead? Will my Dad rise bodily from the dead? Will I see him again? I had so many questions, and my so-called friends in those days were shallow and narcissistic just like me.

The difference between the honest inquirer and the Sadducees is clear. When you come with an open heart and an open mind, open to the possibility that Jesus is exactly who the Bible says He is, then you are open to liking and even loving Jesus, open to respecting Jesus, and open to listening to Jesus. Don’t quit.

Jesus Is Who The Bible Says He Is

Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone needs to be loved. Sometimes, and I can admit to this now, sometimes a person will settle for somebody to be with because a person doesn’t want to be alone. More than a few people will settle for companionship instead of love, even when that person is not able to love, even when that person demands to be loved, catered to, and, yes, attended to but cannot reciprocate. There were times in my life when I settled for companionship with people who repeatedly were cruel. Looking back, my problem was theological. I didn’t trust God to answer my prayers in my time frame. I settled.

At the heart of the universe, there is a God who loves us with a passion we can’t begin to grasp and with a selflessness that is beyond our ability to understand. The Sadducees did not have a clue about that God, because they already had all the answers to all their questions. It was impossible for them to look at this Galilean rabbi in front of them and even try to imagine that they were looking at the Lord God in human flesh. But the Word of God is not simply words ornately copied on expensive parchment. The Wisdom of God is not simply test cases like the Sadducees’ in chapter 20 that you memorize and use to trap and be victorious over adversaries. Jesus is the Living Word of God, the image of the invisible God, the One through whom all things were made, the One who loved us so much He died in our place for our sins. He rose again bodily with the marks of the nails and spear in His hands, feet, and side. He ascended to the seat of power where He is praying for you, me, and everyone today. He has poured out the Holy Spirit in the washing of Baptism, again in His Word, and, again in the Sacrament of the Altar, so that we may be and remain God’s children, following Jesus uncraftily, without guile, with open hearts and minds!

Do you have questions of Jesus? Are they as painful and grief-stricken as mine were at 21? Are they as fearful, as yearning, as vulnerable as mine were even in the middle years of my life? Open your Bible often and read it accompanied by a prayer like this: “Lord, I have many questions, doubts, and fears, but I am open to the possibility that you are exactly who the Bible says you are. Help me to listen with an open heart and mind. I know how much the Bible says you love me. Help me to trust that you won’t betray me or let me go. I want to follow. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” If you aren’t baptized, ask to be His.

If you are baptized, come regularly to the altar with empty hands and open heart. Come, Lord Jesus.
In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

©Samuel David Zumwalt
szumwalt@bellsouth.net
St. Matthew’s Ev. Lutheran Church
Wilmington, North Carolina USA

Bulletin Insert
Following Jesus: Uncraftily

Praying

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 624).

Listening

Luke 20:27 “There came to him some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection…”

St. Augustine [late 4th – early 5th century bishop of Hippo Regius, Algeria]: “When the Sadducees posed this problem, the Jews were uncertain, hesitant and could not really answer it, because they assumed that flesh and blood could possess the kingdom of God, that is, the perishable could possess imperishability. Along comes Truth. The misguided and misguiding Sadducees questioned him and posed that problem to the Lord. The Lord, who knew what he was saying and who wished us to believe what we did not know, gives an answer by his divine authority which we are to hold by faith. The apostle, for his part, explained it to the extent that it was granted him” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Luke, 312).

Luke 20:24 “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage.”

St. Clement [Late 2nd – early 3rd century theologian in Alexandria, Egypt]: “If anyone ponders over this answer about the resurrection of the dead, he will find that the Lord is not rejecting marriage but is purging the expectation of physical desire in the resurrection. The words ‘the children of this age’ were not spoken in contrast to the children of some other age…This process of birth is balanced by a process of decay and is no longer in store for the person who has once been cut off from life here” (313).

Luke 20:37 “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”

St. Cyril [Early 5th century Patriarch of Alexandria]: “Of whom is he God, if, according to their argument, these have ceased to live? He is the God of the living. They certainly will rise when his almighty right hand brings them and all that are on the earth there. For people not to believe that this will happen is worthy perhaps of the ignorance of the Sadducees, but it is altogether unworthy of those who love Christ” (313).

Luke 20:38 “Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”

St. Augustine: “…because the Jews did indeed believe the dead would rise again, but they had crude, fleshly ideas about the state of humanity after resurrection. He said, ‘They will be equal to the angels of God’… In his own resurrection, he has shown us in what specific form we are to rise again” (312).

Reflecting

1. Do I ask of the Lord only questions of which I am certain I already know the answer?

Learning

The Ten Commandments (from Luther’s Small Catechism)

As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.

The Close of the Commandments

What does God say about all these commandments?

He says: “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

What does this mean?

God threatens to punish all who break these commandments. Therefore, we should fear His wrath and not do anything against them. But He promises grace and every blessing to all who keep these commandments. Therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands.

Doing

1. Pray for every unbaptized child you know and for the child’s parents, too.

2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.

3. Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend how the close of the commandments warns of the danger of entrenched sin but points us to Jesus, the Savior of the world.

4. If you have not done so (members), please turn in your 2020 pledge card. If you use Simply Giving (automatic withdrawal), please complete a new sheet for 2020. The bank requires us to complete a new authorization each year. There is no carryover.

5. If you have not done so (anyone), please sign up to serve on 11/23 at Christkindlmarkt.

6. Place a crucifix or cross on the wall opposite your pillow so that the last and first thing you see in your waking hours is the Lord’s holy cross. Remember who and Whose you are, baptized child of God, and offer up your prayers, praise, and thanksgiving.

For Husbands and Wives

Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”

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