He is not God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.
Last week I reminded us that God is not a God of the dead but of the living, so all who have died in Christ are alive and we are together with them in Christ’s presence here today, living to God. That need not be a worrying thing, if our perfect righteous creator can forgive you, those former sinners, murders, liars and cheats washed by the holy blood of the lamb can certainly forgive too. And here is where we find that teaching, Jesus telling some of the Jewish leaders just how dumb and short-sighted they were regarding the resurrection and also marriage.
The Sadducees were trying to catch Jesus out, to prove that the resurrection was dumb, but they themselves had a dodgy view of what was to come, of how to understand the resurrection from the dead, believing it meant that people’d rise from the grave and continue living just like people have always lived in this corrupt world. Sometimes we might think the same, that this world will just continue, and nothing will really change, governments come and go, people born, marry and die and God’s promise that He’ll sort everything out was just wishful thinking. Maybe we’ll slowly get better, maybe there’ll be a big conflict between Christians and everyone else, maybe we’ll all just die from war and depression. Always found it a funny quirk that the Greek here sounds like the English for sad.
But rather than this sad state of affairs, Jesus paints a different picture, in the Matthean account He calls them wrong saying they don’t even know God or the Torah, the Jewish scriptures (Matthew 22:29). Instead of saying things will continue the way they’ve always done, Jesus says, those who attain the resurrection in the new age will not marry, things will be fundamentally different. Now I want to talk to you about the concept of foreshadowing. There’s some more precise language of type and antitype but I’ll stick to our vernacular. Jesus is the fulfilment of all God’s Word, of the whole of the Law, of all the promises and prophecies God gave throughout time (Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4; John 19:28-30). This is what we teach and why we look to Jesus for all things, but sometimes God gives a taste of what’s to come, just a little of what we will experience in the fullness of time. An example, The ancient Israelites rejected God in the desert, God sent snakes that started killing them, then God got Moses to make a bronze snake on a wooden pole that the people would look to and be saved (Numbers 21:6-9). Now all people have rejected God, we suffer and die because of our sin, God sent His Son to die on a wooden cross that whoever looks to Him, whoever trusts Him has eternal life; Jesus Himself tells us that the bronze snake foreshadows Him (John 3:14f). Okay, so the Old Testament foreshadows Jesus, now what about marriage?
Jesus had told us that God gave us marriage at creation and that, what God has joined together let no man separate (Mark 10:9). But now He says there is an end to marriage, as long as we both shall live as we vow in the rite. But now I’ll put to you this, marriage between a husband and wife foreshadows the marriage between the church and Jesus Christ. I’m not sure how much we can say but clearly the Spirit tells us through Paul that the wife and bride reflects you with the whole people of God, the church, and the husband and bridegroom reflect Jesus and His ultimate love for the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). If this is the true way to hear Christ’s words, your marriage finds its fulfillment in our relationship to Christ as His bride, His wife.
But regardless, Jesus is not just teaching that the resurrection is true, and we know this from His own resurrection and the Spirit’s words throughout Scripture, But Jesus is also teaching that even in marriage we live to God. So no idolising your beautiful, wonderful and caring wife, or your helpful husband, and no idolising your children, even if they are the cutest in the world. Rather we love our spouse and children because God first loved us (1 John 4:19), to the glory of God. Yes they are wonderful and lovely people, usually, but God has put them in your life to practise your faith, to love, to care, to encourage, to forgive, to practise reconciliation and also to bring up the next generation, but all this ultimately to the glory of the God who has given this wonderful gift to you. So yes, the resurrection is true, at the end we will live to God, but all live to Him even now and in marriage; as Paul writes to the Romans, whether we live or die we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:7-8).
So we live to God, as Paul writes, in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28); whatever you do, do it to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31); and as Hannah Samuel’s mum prayed the Lord brings death and makes alive, He brings down to the grave and raises up (1 Samuel 2:6). All live to God, He is the goal of all good things, and in Him we have peace (Haggai 2:9). This is true, here in Christ Jesus, in His presence, we have peace; but there are those who want to destroy that peace, the man of lawlessness, that want us to live not to God but to others. Thank God He has given us Christians around us, even in our marriages and families, to encourage us in the faith, to hold to the teachings of the apostles, to pray to God for us, as Paul did, that “our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17). To be encouraged and strengthened, body and soul until we join with those who have gone before in the resurrection to our wedding feast with Jesus.
And the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.