Prelude to a debate.

(The first of a series of posts from a message on November 6 based on Luke 20:27-40. I encourage you to read the passage first.)

After a few years of public work, Jesus had an anti-establishment reputation. He was a political outsider, taking on the religious insiders. And the crowds loved it.

Because they felt loved by him. And they felt abused by those in power. He broke the rules about “the day of rest” by healing people. He broke the rules that enforced the inferiority of women and lower classes by talking to them, by healing them, by offering them hope.

Jesus attracted crowds of misfits, like tax collectors and prostitutes and sinner. He attracted clusters of religious leaders, waiting for him to mess up. He attracted curious people, just wanting to follow the party. And he attracted followers.

And now, after three years, it’s showdown time. Those that tell the stories, Matthew and Mark and Luke, tell us about a series of debates. All the religious groups who felt threatened by Jesus took turns asking him questions. It was a kind of political debate. A group would ask Jesus a question that came out of their beliefs. If they could stump him, they won. Their power over the people, religious and political power, would be rebuilt.

In Luke 20, we read about one of those debates. The Sadducees were a religious group. We hear about people who are spiritual, but they aren’t very religious. The Sadducees were religious without being spiritual. They didn’t believe that there was a resurrection. When you were dead, that was the end. There was no Messiah, no hope beyond this life. And they didn’t believe in angels.

c78c39ae-33fd-4247-9638-0d25a086e39aThey did believe in peace with Rome. They were part of the religious establishment that stood between the Roman occupation and the people of Israel. From the perspective of the Sadducees, a religion that kept people calm and organized, that could put a little pressure on Rome and a little pressure on the crowd was perfect. And if they could be sitting in that in-between seat, they would benefit.

We know people like that, who believe more in their own present than their future. Who care about comfort more than transformation.  Who care more about power than about people.

Into that environment came Jesus, talking about spiritual transformation, It threatened everything the Sadducees lived for. And so they had to figure out a way to stop him.