Tag Archives: Resurrection

Matthew 22: 23-33 One Bride for Seven Brothers

By James Tissot – Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2007, 00.159.143_PS2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10195994

Matthew 22: 23-33

Parallels Mark 12: 18-27, Luke 20: 27-40

23 The same day some Sadducees came to him, saying there is no resurrection;and they asked him a question, saying, 24 “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. 26 The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. 27 Last of all, the woman herself died. 28 In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.”

29 Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angelsin heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.

The second conflict story in this pattern of three shifts opponents to the Sadducees. This is the second time in Matthew the Sadducees are mentioned as challenging Jesus, previously they were mentioned with the Pharisees in Matthew 16:1-4, but now in Jerusalem they act on their own. Their question uses the practice of Levirate marriage and a story of one bride for seven brothers to mock the idea that both Jesus and the Pharisees apparently preached of the resurrection. Even though this is the only time the Sadducees are explicitly mentioned in the final week in Jerusalem, the chief priests and elders were probably composed mainly of Sadducees, and the silencing of the Sadducees before the crowds contributes to their desire to end the words of Jesus.

Just as the Pharisees and the Herodians can work together for mutually beneficial purposes, the Sadducees have maintained their power in the temple through their relationship with Rome. There is an old Christian saying that Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, so they were sad-you-see, and while this is a catchy play on words it misses the point of who the Sadducees are. The Sadducees, like much of the Hebrew Scriptures, do not have a concept of the resurrection and their belief that God’s blessings are a part of their experience in the world is probably confirmed in their minds by the more affluent priestly positions they occupied. Their faith centers on the first five books of both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, and particularly their actions as the cultic leaders for the temple.

The story that the Sadducees use focuses on the practice of Levirate marriage (the term comes from the Latin levir meaning husband’s brother, not Leviticus) which is outlined in Deuteronomy 25:5-10

When brothers reside together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her, taking her in marriage, and performing the duty of a husband’s brother to her, and the firstborn whom she bears shall succeed to the name of the deceased brother, so that his name may not be blotted out in Israel. Deuteronomy 25: 5-6

This practice is active in both the stories of Tamar (Genesis 38, Matthew 1:3) and Ruth (Ruth 4, Matthew 1:5) and was to ensure security for the widow by providing her both with a household and children (who will take care of her in old age), The story of seven brothers and one bride takes the practice to a ridiculous end, which is intentional, as the Sadducees attack the belief in a resurrection which they found contrary to their reading of scripture.

Jesus claims they have been led astray (Greek planao) in both their knowledge of scripture and their understanding of God’s power. Jesus answers first from God’s power to transform humanity in the resurrection where the values of securing one’s future through familial ties and reproduction are no longer important. In challenging the Sadducees’ reading of Moses, Jesus returns to God’s initial call of Moses where God refers to Godself as: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3: 6) Even though the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died millennia earlier, Jesus refers to this ancient self-titling of God to point to both an ongoing relationship between God and these patriarchs and that the promises God made to them have not been broken by death. As Richard B. Hays, following J. Gerald Janzen, can state:

ust as God delivered and saved the patriarchs, so he will do for his people in their plight in Egypt. Furthermore, if God acted to deliver his people from the “death” of slavery in Egypt, surely he will do so again in the future—not precisely in the same way, but in ways that are recognizably analogous. Consequently, Jesus’ use of Exodus 3:6 in support of the resurrection—that claim that God will finally save his beloved people from death—is nothing other than a metaphorical extension of the Exodus theophany claim. (Hays 2020, 59)

Jesus’ claim and repurposing of the title God claims as the God of Moses’ father, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob places the resurrection of the dead alongside God’s work to fulfill God’s promises to God’s people. The language of raising up seed (NRSV childless, the Greek is sperma where we get the English sperm) which is used frequently in the Hebrew scriptures in the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The failure of the seven brothers to ‘raise up seed’ for the first one corresponds to the misunderstanding of the scriptures and the power of God that the Sadducees have in their inability to believe God will raise the dead. In a manner, Jesus points to a sterility in their claims which matches the sterility in their story. Only a God who can raise up children for ones as good as dead and who can raise the dead can open their eyes where they have been led astray. In Matthew, Jesus comes out the victor in the eyes of the crowd and the Sadducees are silenced. Yet, the conflict between Jesus and those in religious authority will continue until his death.

Afterlife, Eternal Life and the Life of the Kingdom

Domine, quo Vadis? by Annibale Carracci, 1062

When most people who grow up in a Christian church talk about eternal life they are talking about ‘going to heaven’ or what happens to the ‘soul’ after death. Many Christians who faithfully come to worship each week do not realize that this is not the primary direction of Christian hope, instead most of this idea comes from the interaction of Greek philosophical worldview and the language of Christianity. Unfortunately, this focus on the soul’s ascent to be with God in heaven has transformed the profoundly grounded hope of the early followers of Christ into an otherworldly escapism which is often disconnected the horizontal dimension of faith which involve my neighbors and the world.

The Jewish covenantal understanding of their faithful relationship with God and their neighbor is the foundation upon which Jesus builds his vision of life under the kingdom of heaven. Despite Matthew’s frequent use of the kingdom of heaven, instead of the kingdom of God as predominant in Mark and Luke, what Jesus is referring to is God’s kingdom coming to earth. The entire direction of the New Testament’s hope is God’s coming to dwell among God’s people on earth. This is not unique to the New Testament, throughout the Hebrew Scriptures there is in the tabernacle and the temple a place where God can dwell among the people, the prophets dream and the psalms sing about the transformations that will come into the world when God reigns not only among Israel but among all the peoples. Just as the people of Israel were to be an alternative community among the empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Rome, these followers of Christ were to be an alternative community with alternative values to Rome or whatever society they found themselves within. When Paul, for example, in Philippians 3: 20 can state that, “our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” He is talking about living as person of an alternative community, the kingdom of heaven, and embodying those values within the space of the Roman empire and teaching others to do the same. Paul’s descriptions of the future glory in Romans 8: 18-27 beautifully dreams the interactive way that the unveiling of the children of God, those who are living under God’s calling and have been transformed for the sake of the world, is precisely for the liberation of the creation (not an escape from it). It is also why Paul ends 1 Corinthians, with the exception of the final travel plans and greeting, with a long discussion about the implication of the resurrection of Christ for the resurrection of all people. Paul is specifically arguing against a ‘non-bodily’ and ‘non earthly’ resurrection, even though many in the Hellenistic (Greek speaking) world would have embraced the idea of the ‘salvation of the soul’ willingly and viewed this bodily resurrection as scandalous. The book of Revelation is often thought of as the destruction of the earth, but what it narrates is the final coming of God to earth and the last but futile resistance of the forces aligned against God’s coming kingdom.

When the gospels speak of ‘eternal life’, the phrase that is translated is the Greek zoe aion. Zoe is where we get the feminine name Zoe from and it means ‘life.’ Aion is where we get the English word ‘eon’ from and while it is often translated ‘eternal’ but when most Christians think of ‘eternal life’ they think of life in heaven. For another perspective on how to think about the term ‘eon,’ it occurs as a noun at the end of Matthew’s gospel, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” While some might argue that Jesus really is talking about being with the disciples for ‘eternity,’ what I believe Jesus is telling the disciples is, “I will be will be with you to the end of this age” which will end when the kingdom of heaven/God comes to earth.

In Matthew, Mark and Luke when zoe aion is only used when either the rich young man (all three gospels) or in Luke when a scribe asks (Luke 10:25) Jesus always points them back to the commandments of how they are to live in this life. In both cases the question is not about how to get to heaven, but how to participate in the life of the kingdom of God in the present and Jesus’ answer reflects that earthly reality. John’s gospel uses this term more than the other three gospels combined, but John has long been associated with a ‘realized eschatology’ where the promises of God’s kingdom are already being realized. For example, in John 17 Jesus can state,

since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17: 2-3)

“Eternal life” in John’s gospel is already realized in knowing Jesus and the God who sends Jesus. This life is revealed by participating in the faith and life of Jesus

While the New Testament can use a diverse set of language to talk about the approaching of God’s kingdom to this world, the movement is always God’s movement towards the world instead of the escape of the soul to join God. There are at best hints of some immediate experience of an afterlife and they often come in parables (like the rich man and Lazarus in Luke’s gospel) or when Jesus (again in Luke) tells the bandit on the cross “today you will be with me in paradise.” Portions of the church in the last several decades have begun to rediscover the centrality of the resurrection and the coming of God to dwell among the earth instead of the otherworldly focus of much of the church in the previous centuries. It is a subject that pastors and teachers have to approach delicately because it is a drastic change to the imaginations of many of the faithful, but it also invites the faithful into a closer relationship with the world and with the neighbors God has placed within it. In Paul’s rich language it is a call to join in the groaning labor pains of creation while we and the world await the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)

New Growth

Vincent Van Gogh, Tree Roots, (1890)


Water washes away the sins of the night, pushing them downward to the gutters
Running back through the storm sewers and into the rivers and eventually into the sea
Where they sink down, deeper and deeper, into the abyss where no light shines
Blood is thicker than water, so in the deluge of the summer monsoon it sinks
As the rain washes away the chains that bind and the relations which smother
Allowing the newly baptized child to walk through the renewing waters as a new thing

Perhaps the blood will wash deep into the earth, passing on its life to the fecund ground
Reaching down towards hell with its roots, or perhaps rising towards heaven in the trees
Or perhaps doing both at once connecting the hell of the past and the reborn hope
Forming a perpetual reminder of the journey from darkness to light, from seed to sapling
That even new growth comes from the ground fertilized by the struggles we lived through
That only the killing frost of winter can prepare the earth for the new growth of spring

Death and life, bound together like the elements of ground and air and water and fire
Dying and rising, sin and salvation, blood, breath, water, new hope and long departed dreams
The past may no longer be seen, may have washed away in the rain and still it remains
Flowing through our veins, the blood of our forefathers and the sweat of our children
The earth gives its silent testimony of the blood it has ingested and the tears it drank
In the flowers, leaves and grass which cover it like a blanket, its bright quilt of resurrection

Christina’s World

She reclines among the grass of the field as the breeze gently blows across the plain
The only sounds are the sounds of the buzzing bees which dance across the grass
Searching for the scattered wildflowers which splash color upon the early spring’s brown
While the musty earth awakens from the long slumber while snow blanketed the ground
Waiting for the suns rays to warm the ground and open the seeds left at the end of fall
She reclines among the grass of the field as the wind moves over the fecund creation
She sees the humble dwelling of humanity with its walls and roofs to keep out the rain
As off in the distance the clouds thunder, announcing the advent of the April showers
Which come from the heavens bearing the gift of water and the promise of new life
Baptizing the ground with the joyous tears of God to awaken a season of resurrection
And as a daughter of Eve she awaits the rains which renew the creation’s fruitfulness
She dares to sit among the grass of the field as the rains sweep in to cleanse her anew
Perhaps the time will come when she runs through the rain back to the waiting house
But for the moment she sits surrounded by the sights and sounds of the prairie
She breathes in the scents carried on the wind and drinks from the celestial waters
Her hands run across the blades of last year’s grass and rest on the unturned plain
While life continues to cast off its long season of hibernation to stretch towards the sun
As she too arises from soil to sing and dance songs of spring with rhythm of life

The poem is inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World which can be viewed on the MoMA website

Prophesy to the Wind

The Knesset Memorial, Jerusalem (Detail) Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones

O mortal can these bones live? This people who continues to dwell in the valley of death
This people who refuses to learn from the past, these ears that did not hear
These hands which did not help and the eyes that remain obstructed so that they do not see
The cataracts of hatred and privilege that blind them to the neighbor they sacrificed
The ears made deaf by the cacophony of shouting voices that no longer hear the victims cry
And yet the Lord says to prophesy to the bones and once again they will rise up again
Bone will join to bone, sinew to sinew, flesh and tendons and heart and muscle will grow anew
So dry bones hear the words the prophet proclaims, from one who stands in the valley of death
Daring to enter into that place where dreams have died and history is forgotten
Walking to the remains of a people whose heart and soul shriveled and died as they forgot love
These shambling remains of the people of a dream and a hope, to a nation which lost its way
Stand upon the graves of the present and shout at the top of your lungs about resurrection
Not to some distant heaven but a new creation where eyes and ears and hearts are opened
The death of the moment is not the end of the story for the prophet tells of new beginnings
The prophet whose voice strained as he tried to change their direction of yesterday’s winds
Now prophesies again to the four winds that blow upon the earth as they return the breath of God
Which enters into the nostrils and fills the lungs with the air of the new creation which doesn’t die
For the voices of hatred and death, of separation and war, the raised voices of angry men fall silent
As the still, soft, silent creative words are finally heard after the fire, thunder, winds and quakes
And with tears in his eyes the prophet sees the dry bones live, the blind eyes see and the deaf ears hear
As the new hearts learn how to love rather than hate and arms are raised to embrace rather than strike
Perhaps the prophet is a madman listening to the voices in his head and prophesying to the wind
To continue to cry out for the possibility of something new as demons dance in the graveyard
To believe that the dry bones might someday choose something other than the death they know
Or perhaps the stubborn prophet is the only sane one, the voice of life in the midst of devastation
The dreamer who refuses to give up in the midst of the nightmare and believes the darkness will end
Perhaps like Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel the prophet will become a beacon of hope in the night
O mortal can these bones live? Can this people be renewed? O Sovereign Lord, you know
Until that day the prophet’s voice goes out to the dry bones and prophesies into the wind.


Images for the Third Sunday of Easter

Readings: Acts 2: 14a, 36-41, Psalm 116, 1 Peter 1: 17-23, and Luke 24: 13-35

The Luke reading is the ‘Walk to Emmaus’ text which is very familiar and very well represented in art. Here are some selections:

James Tissot, The Pilgrims of Emmaus on the Road (1886-1894)

James Tissot, The Pilgrims of Emmaus on the Road (1886-1894)

Journey to Emmaus on the Cloister Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, Burgos, Castille-Leon Spain

Journey to Emmaus on the Cloister Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, Burgos, Castille-Leon Spain

Rousselin, Les pelerins d' Emmaus, 19th Century

Rousselin, Les pelerins d’ Emmaus, 19th Century

Gebhard Fugel, Jesus und der Gang nach Emmaus, turn of the 20th century, copyright holder released to public domain

Gebhard Fugel, Jesus und der Gang nach Emmaus, turn of the 20th century, copyright holder released to public domain

Caravaggio, Supper at Emmaus (1601-02)

Caravaggio, Supper at Emmaus (1601-02)

Bloemart, the Emmaus Disciples, 1622

Bloemart, the Emmaus Disciples, 1622

Henry Fuseli, Christ Disappearing at Emmaus (1792)

Henry Fuseli, Christ Disappearing at Emmaus (1792)Gebhard Fu

Phoenix Rising- A Poem

Flight of the Phoenix by shutupandwhiper@deviantart.com

Flight of the Phoenix by shutupandwhiper@deviantart.com

Rising from the ashes of a past that consumed the dreams of the day
Embracing the rising sun of the new life and possibilities
The flaming pyre that were supposed to consume me
Became the necessary predecessor to resurrection
As the strength long lost returns as the desperation of the past dies
The pinions once clipped to prevent flight have regenerated stronger than ever
As the fiery feathers cover my contours radiate life and light
And my brightly covered wings yearn to taste the breath of the heavens
The phoenix rises from the ash pile of the past
To boldly fly into a new future, to climb the updrafts
And return his magic to the kingdom of the air

Neil White, 2013

Images for 25th Sunday after Pentecost- Lectionary 32C

This is the confrontation between Jesus and the Sadducees in Luke 20: 27-40, Job19: 23-27 and 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-5, 13-17

Before I get into specific Sunday there is a really cool link to the Wikipedia Commons for James Tissot’s Paintings of the Life of Christ, roughly 436 paintings from various scenes.

Job (oil on canvas) by Bonnat, Leon Joseph Florentin (1833-1922)

Job (oil on canvas) by Bonnat, Leon Joseph Florentin (1833-1922)

1394146_483357285112583_1050708757_nFor a little fun from United Methodist Memes

James Tissot, Annas and Ciaphas (between 1886-1894)

James Tissot, Annas and Ciaphas (between 1886-1894)

James Tissot, The Chief Priests Take Counsel Together (1886-1894)

James Tissot, The Chief Priests Take Counsel Together (1886-1894)


Ezekiel's Vision: Resurrection of the Dead, Synagogue interior wood panel Dura Europos, Syria

Ezekiel’s Vision: Resurrection of the Dead, Synagogue interior wood panel Dura Europos, Syria

Luca Signorelli, Resurrection of the Flesh (1499-1502)

Luca Signorelli, Resurrection of the Flesh (1499-1502)