I don’t know when the last time you were tested was. It could have been clear back in high school or the early days of college. It could have been a recent certification for your career or even a job interview. My guess is that very few of us find those experiences fun. Nerve wracking is probably a more adequate description than
“entertaining.” And I assume you probably want the test to be over long before it actually ends.
The worst tests I have experienced in my life have been from miniature satans. The Hebrew word, “satan” actually means accuser and I have met my fair share. They are always innocently provocative, pretending like they are just doing their job for king and country and the betterment of humankind. Their accusations are anything but. They come at you with everything including the kitchen sink. They have been keeping a list of your wrongs and they have reached the point where they believe you need to know. So they corner you and let it all come out.
My only option at that point is to listen and to keep my own temper in check. There is nothing but to endure it and hope it is over soon.
In Mark 12, as Jesus teaches in the temple, the satans come out. The chief priests take their first stab, blatantly attacking Jesus’ authority. After their accusation fails to stick, the Pharisees take their turn, asking about taxes. After they fail too, it becomes the Sadducees turn.
For those of you whose only experience with the Sadducees is from that Sunday School song, they were not actually all that sad, you see. But they did flat out refuse the possibility of a resurrection from the dead. Their slogan may as well have been, “you only live once.” This put them at odds with everyone else around at the time.
But in Jesus they may have seen an opportunity to endear themselves to their opponents. So Jesus’ public testing continues as the Sadducees bring their most convoluted critique against the resurrection. They propose a very complex hypothetical concerning marriage. “Suppose a woman was widowed 6 different times forcing her to marry 7 different brothers. Whose wife will she be when everybody rises from the dead?”
Then I am sure they sat back in their smug arrogance, assuming that they had just stumped the famous teacher, as they had probably stumped many others. But Jesus does have a reply and as his reply to the Pharisees looked forward to his death, so his reply to the Sadducees looks forward to his resurrection.
“Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!””
I think like the Sadducees we do not know the power of God displayed in the resurrection. I think sometiems we get caught in this assumption that the New Creation will be just like the old one except without death. We simplify the reality of the resurrection of our bodies down to a cheesy romcom with a happy ending. We catch ourselves arguing, “New creation will be everything we enjoy about this life and none of what we don’t.” Or worse, “In the new creation we will get unlimited freedom to do whatever we want without consequences!”
I am not sure that is what Jesus is arguing to the Sadducees. Instead Jesus is advocating that the resurrection will touch every corner of our creation. There won’t be any institutions, establishments, nations, companies or people that will not be fundamentally changed and that includes even our sacred marriages.
As we look forward to Easter morning, we look forward to a cataclysmic, apocalyptic and fundamental change upon the world where everything we know is radically altered. Our eating, our drinking, our entertaining, our relationships will all be transformed by the new creation that God has wrought upon our existence.
And that is fundamentally good news!
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, create in us new hearts again today that long for the resurrection of the dead and the great new life to come!