(The second 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.)
The question the Sadducees asked Jesus was pretty impressive sounding.
“We have a question that grows out of what Moses taught,” they said.
They didn’t mention that most of what Moses taught was from God.
“Moses taught that if a man died without a child, his brother should marry his wife. The first son she has will carry on the name and property rights and history of the brother who died.”
It was a way of preserving family names, of preserving family identity. It feels funny to us, but it made sense in their culture.
Everyone in the audience would know the rule. So let’s not, for the moment, get stuck on the cultural practice. Because Jesus didn’t.
So the woman married the man’s brother. He died, too. The man came from a big family. So she married another brother and another. Never any children. Seven brothers in all. And then she died without children.
The listeners would have smiled and felt sad.
Smiled because seven husbands who all die is a story from a Jewish book of the time. So this was kind of like using a story line from a popular TV show to tell a story.
And then they ask their question.
Their question appears simple: “In the afterlife, which one is her husband?”
You can imagine the crowd turning to Jesus, waiting for his response. “That’s a really good question.” “I never thought about that. Because I was always just looking forward to seeing my wife in heaven again. But what if…”
It’s a great debate strategy, this emotional appeal. If your answer is only intellectual, you can lose the crowd. And although we don’t have a rule about brothers marrying wives, we do have pretty clear imaginations about the afterlife.
And sometimes, our romantic imagination gets in the way of truth.