27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’[a] 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.Luke 20:27-40 (NIV)
Growing up, I enjoyed watching Sesame Street just like countless kids have over the past sixty-one years. A frequent segment on the show featured four items with three of them being similar in some way and the fourth being dissimilar. They would sing the song, One of These Things, and challenge the viewer to determine which item was not like the others. The exercise was intended to assist children in looking for commonalities. Maybe you can still sing the song just as I can if you also grew up on Sesame Street.
In today’s reading we witness an encounter between Jesus and a few Sadducees. The Sadducees are attempting to trip Jesus up by bringing to him a question about the resurrection using a very unlikely scenario. What is interesting is that Sadducees said that there was no resurrection so why they used this scenario seems puzzling. The Sadducees use earthly marriage laws and customs to attempt to challenge Jesus on the resurrection. Jesus basically says to them that one of these things is not like the other. Earthly situations do not apply to the resurrection life. Then he continues by pointing out the reality of the resurrection using Moses’s words and the fact that God is God of the living and not the dead.
We can be guilty of the same mistake which the Sadducees made in regard to applying earthly understands and norms to the resurrected and spiritual reality of God. In one respect can be forgiven for this mistake because we live an earthly existence which we know and understand. Our understanding of the resurrected life is very limited. Knowing this should be a warning to us though. We have to remember that one is not like the other. We cannot assume that our customs and norms apply in any way to God’s reality. When we assume God will respond in a certain way, or our resurrected self will live as we do on earth, we are projecting earthly realities on the spiritual.
God is the God of the living both on earth and in the resurrected life. However, the two are not the same. So when you are tempted to try and make them the same, remember what we learned from Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the other.