25 November. Saturday, Week 33
King Antiochus was going through the upper provinces when he heard that Elymais in Persia was a city famed for its wealth in silver and gold. Its temple was very rich, containing golden shields, breastplates, and weapons left there by Alexander son of Philip, the Macedonian king who first reigned over the Greeks. So he came and tried to take the city and plunder it, but he could not because his plan had become known to the citizens and they withstood him in battle. So he fled and in great disappointment left there to return to Babylon.
Then someone came to him in Persia and reported that the armies that had gone into the land of Judah had been routed; that Lysias had gone first with a strong force, but had turned and fled before the Jews; that the Jews had grown strong from the arms, supplies, and abundant spoils that they had taken from the armies they had cut down; that they had torn down the abomination that he had erected on the altar in Jerusalem; and that they had surrounded the sanctuary with high walls as before, and also Beth-zur, his town.
When the king heard this news, he was astounded and badly shaken. He took to his bed and became sick from disappointment, because things had not turned out for him as he had planned. He lay there for many days, because deep disappointment continually gripped him, and he realized that he was dying. So he called all his Friends and said to them, "Sleep has departed from my eyes and I am downhearted with worry. I said to myself, "To what distress I have come! And into what a great flood I now am plunged! For I was kind and beloved in my power.' But now I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem. I seized all its vessels of silver and gold, and I sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judah without good reason. I know that it is because of this that these misfortunes have come upon me; here I am, perishing of bitter disappointment in a strange land."
Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a question, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her."
Jesus said to them, "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 anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive." Then some of the scribes answered, "Teacher, you have spoken well." For they no longer dared to ask him another question.
The Sadducees, who did not believe in any hope of life beyond our eartly existence, present a scenario to Jesus which seeks to make belief in life after death look ridiculous. It is obvious they understand that Jesus himself teaches the reality of life after death. Their challenge is based on the presumption that any life after death would simply be a continuation of our physical, earthly life. In his reply Jesus challenges this presumption and declares that those who belong to the world of resurrection beyond this earthly life no longer die, but live with a life that is eternal. Therefore, there is no need for procreation or for marriage where procreation occurs.
Logically, because the life that we enter after death is eternal, how people will relate to each other then will be totally different to how we relate to each other now. Jesus does not elaborate on how we will relate to each other in the next life; he simply states that this new way of relating to each other will be qualitatively different to how we relate to each other in this earthly life. When he speaks about what lies beyond this life, he uses images that suggest some form of communal life, such as the image of the great banquet where people gather together. He invites us to imagine a life in which we are in a new relationship with himself, with God, and with each other. Jesus' earthly ministry focussed on gathering people into a new kind of community. He understood this community, which was soon called the church, as a sign of the life to come. It pointed ahead to life in God's kingdom, even if the life of heaven is so totally new that no earthly experience can compare with it.