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LSB Proper 27C Sermon – Luke 20:27-40

November 29, 2016

November 6, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 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, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

As the Church Year begins to draw to its close, the focus shifts from the life of discipleship to what awaits those who have been made beneficiaries of Jesus’ work of atonement. That is seen in these next three weeks, as the emphasis in the appointed Scriptures readings is on resurrection, Jesus’ return at the Last Day, and the eternal kingdom that is the promised inheritance for Jesus’ followers. This shift in focus means less teaching about the actions that Jesus’ believers should do while they live here on earth. Instead, there is more speaking about how Jesus’ work is fulfilled for His people.

Today’s Scripture readings may not seem like they fit that pattern. But they do in a bit of a roundabout way, they end up there. Think again on the incident from Jesus’ life that you heard about in the Gospel Reading. Jesus has entered Jerusalem. He is present in the Temple during what we now call Holy Week. While He is teaching there, Jesus faces a series of confrontations: first from the chief priests and scribes, then some political hacks, and finally from the Sadducees. Each of them attempted to trap Jesus in His words, to make Him speak something that He would have to retract or that would be shown to be in error.

The incident with the Sadducees is what you heard about. It began with a statement about the practice of Levirate Marriage: “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….” Then the off-the-wall question is asked: “In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.” The Sadducees want to goad Jesus into speak something that would be seen as ludicrous or contradictory to accepted understanding of Moses’ Law.

But note what Jesus said: “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 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, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” Jesus’ answer shows that there are some institutions that the LORD has established which find their completion when this world ends. Marriage is one of them. It is a good institution. In fact, it is the first established by the LORD at creation. But it is only meant for this lifetime.

That fact is captured in our wedding rites. At the beginning of the wedding rite is the wedding address that speaks about the purpose of marriage: “The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for the mutual companionship, help, and support that each person ought to receive from the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Marriage was also ordained so that man and woman may find delight in one another.  Therefore, all persons who marry shall take a spouse in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust, for God has not called us to impurity but in holiness. God also established marriage for the procreation of children who are to be brought up in the fear and instruction of the Lord so that they may offer Him their praise.” Those great statements note all the reasons and benefits of marriage, as the LORD established it. But they all are temporal; they are meant for this age.

The same can be said for other institutions that the LORD established: family, government, even the Church. All of them are divinely-established. But they are not meant to endure beyond this lifetime. Rather, they were created as ways for the LORD to extend His order and blessing to mankind as they live now. But the LORD has an even greater blessing to give: a place in the life of the world to come. And when that is given, the institutions needed in this life are no longer required. Instead, the LORD will bring His people into a perfect relationship with Him and with each other.

Jesus introduces that thought when He completes His answer to the Sadducees: “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. Now He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him.” Jesus is reinforcing the truth that something greater awaits for the LORD’s people. There is a resurrection of the dead that will take place. It is the result of His dying and rising to life again. The God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob comes into the world to fulfill all the promises that He made to the patriarchs. He becomes the life for all who put their hope in Him, so that they do not have only a temporal existence, but an eternal one.

A foreshadowing of that was seen in the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt. Recall what the LORD said when He called Moses to be the leader of the Exodus: “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land.…” The LORD recalled His promises to Abraham and his descendants. The Egyptians who afflicted and oppressed them would be dealt with. His divine action would take them out of their suffering to the land promised to be theirs.

Even more so, the LORD has seen the affliction of all His people in this world. He has witnessed the oppression and enslaving that sin, death, and Satan have caused to humanity. But He also recalls His promises, including the one made at the moment that death came into the world as the wages of sin. And that caused Him to act again. But the deliverance that He gives is not a temporal one. It is not only a way to make people feel good about themselves in their daily living. Instead, it is an existence that will be completely free from all that plagues mankind.

That is why Jesus speaks of the LORD: “He is not God of the dead….” The devotion that the LORD has to His people is not for this lifetime only. “He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him.” The LORD’s connection to His people is not seen only in His providential work of giving everything that is necessary for this body and life. It is put on full display by bringing the source of full and abundant life into this world, so that people may enter into an existence that has no end.

That is the great fate that has been achieved for you by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Those acts put an full end to the matter of sin and guilt. The wages of sin are dealt with, so that you may have the benefit of eternal life. Jesus’ work takes you from being simply “sons of this age” to “sons of the resurrection.” As the merits of Jesus’ death and resurrection are applied to you, the result is that you become “equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” You get to share in the glory of the Risen Lord, for that is the fate assigned to you: “Because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this He called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now while you live in this age, the LORD does have His established institutions benefit you in your daily living. For those of you who are married, your spouse is to be a source of mutual companionship, help, and support. That’s why the LORD created holy matrimony and united you with your husband or wife. But even that union comes to an end, even as spoken in the marriage vows: “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, till death us do part.”

But the relationship that the LORD has to you goes further, so that you may receive everlasting blessing. That was stated in the benediction that Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” Until the time that we receive full benefit of everlasting life, we are called to good works and words within those institutions that the LORD established. But even that is done in anticipation of the great day that has been foretold, “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to Him.”

So as we enter these last weeks of the Church Year when our hearts and minds are focused on that Last Day, let us consider the prayer that we offered and the two truths that it addressed: “Living God, Your almighty power is made known chiefly in showing mercy and pity.” Yes, that mercy and pity are shown to us through the institutions that the LORD established, even the temporal ones. And we are thankful for that. But we also know the second truth that leads us to pray: “Grant us the fullness of Your grace to lay hold of Your promises and live forever in Your presence.” That will be the result of living to the LORD, the God of the living who has made us sons of the resurrection destined to be raised from the dead with our Lord Jesus.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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