Now God is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to God all of them are alive.
The Sadducees ask Jesus a question. If a woman remarries 7 times, to whom will she be married in the resurrection of the dead?
Jesus has two choices in terms of an answer.
1) He could pick 1 of the 7 husbands, perhaps the first, or the last, or one in the middle, to be her husband in heaven. But none of them make for a good answer since 6 of the former husbands would be left to inherit the wind.
2) He could admit that the Sadducees have a point – If she can’t be married to one of her husbands in the resurrection, then perhaps there is no promised resurrection.
But, of course, Jesus doesn’t go with either of those options. Instead, he breaks through with an answer previously unthought of. Jesus simply asserts that the resurrection is an entirely new ballgame in which the present rules and assumptions about marriage no longer apply. Additionally, he furthers his answer with the claim that the Torah proves the resurrection since God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all of whom were not alive at the same time and if God is to be their God they all must be alive together in some other way.
Jesus’ answer is less about the nuts and bolts of marriage, and more about how the kingdom of God works. He asserts, in just a few verses, that the people we marry and bury in this life don’t really belong to us.
And that’s Good News.
However, for some of this this might actually sound like radically bad news; we shudder to think of a time when we will lose the people we’ve taken hold of in this life. We don’t want to imagine a moment in which someone wearing a ring is no longer bound by that ring.
But that’s exactly the kind of assumption that Jesus is overturning.
It’s why we say, “‘Till death do us part.”
Jesus changes everything. The life, death, and resurrection of the Lord obliterates all of our previous notions of possession, particularly when it comes to people. Notably, the Sadducees held to a rigid understanding that women belonged to men as if property. But then Jesus stands and offers a truly radical witness to marriage: We aren’t lesser halves or better halves until (and after) we get married. We are fully and wonderfully made by God whether we get married or not. Marriage is something that happens in this life, but in the resurrection of the dead all notions of labels fade away as we gather at the Supper of the Lamb.
It’s as if Jesus addresses the crowd and says, “Listen up! A new world is colliding with the old. Behold, I am doing a new thing, something beyond even your wildest imaginations. In this world, the world you’re so wedded to, there is death. But in the world I’m bringing there is life and life abundant. In this world, your world, people are made to feel less than whole. But in the world to come, all people are children of the living God.”
On Sunday, Christians across the globe will gather to remember the saints (unless they did so already on Tuesday). It is an occasion for us to give thanks to God for those now dead while, at the same time, rejoicing with the knowledge that they now await us at the Supper of the Lamb. Oddly enough, we can happily remember the saints, even in our grief, because we worship the God of the living.