Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mark 12

Modern people, the worldly-wise, the smart set, fashionable icons, those in the know, power-brokers, the Establishment, they all have a little time for Jesus Christ. Notice the indefinite article. They don't dismiss him out of hand, but they have no time for his church, which, they believe, has misjudged him, mixed him up with mumbo-jumbo and been seduced by a narrow Pauline view of life. Paul is a great villain, a self confessed Pharisee who usurped Jesus's teaching of love and tolerance and substituted a legalistic, anti-sex, anti-feminine code that simply induces guilt where there should be none. Guilt is the great imprisoner of the human spirit. Jesus was a great and charismatic teacher, but he was honestly mistaken about many things, being a child of his time. One wonders how Jesus would confront these people today.

Actually, we know. The Sadducees were exactly that. They were the powers that be in Jerusalem. They hated the Pharisees. They lived for the moment. They believed that this life is all that there is, and while they would say that they believed in God, they believed that God's favor was shown by earthly rewards. Their very position in society was evidence that they were pleasing God. They thought a lot of Jesus; not that they believed all this stuff about miracles and the supernatural, but he was terrific at self-promotion. Look at the crowds following him. He was building up a power base to threaten their own. He had celebrity status. But they knew how to puncture his popularity; they saw his very belief in the supernatural as his Achilles' heel.

Although the Sadducees had no time for those mystical books like Isaiah and Daniel, they did believe in the Pentateuch, the first five books of Moses. They sought to catch him out with a question about the resurrection taken from Deuteronomy Ch 25, about the Mosaic Law that if a woman is widowed while childless, her brother-in-law must marry her to sire children on her in his brother’s name. They envision a situation whereby seven brothers all rise to this particular task and all are childless. “At the resurrection,” they ask, “whose wife will she be since all seven have married her?”

They seek to ridicule the idea of life after death. Jesus is short with them. “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

They knew not the Scriptures because they had ripped great chunks out of the Bible, and their view of God was of a remote force who took little interest in the ways of men.

As most Christians know, CS Lewis has dismissed the idea that Jesus was ‘honestly mistaken’. You can only think that if you have never read the Bible. Read the Scriptures and it is plain that the Jesus of the Bible is either mad, bad or Lord. Either he knew what he was saying and was deceiving thousands of people in a most wicked way or he was a crazy as a man who thinks he’s a poached egg. Or else He is God Almighty.

“At the resurrection there will be no giving and taking in marriage. They will be like the angels in heaven.”

I am afraid that modern Christians are confused about life after death. They talk about heaven and see this as a sort of disembodied future, floating on clouds, singing hymns. No wonder, cynics think of hell as a much more interesting place, as a sort of lower pleasure gardens.

But the Bible teaches of a new heaven and new earth. It talks about a general resurrection. It talks about new bodies.

Now eschatology is not my specialty and I think that there are so many different interpretations of what the Bible says about the last things that I would hesitate to be support any definitive program of eventual happenings. But the Bible is very definite about a general resurrection. What our resurrection bodies will be like is not clear but both Paul (in I Cor ch 15) and John (I John ch 3) testify that it will be like Jesus’s resurrection body and that is good enough for me.

Belief in a future resurrection makes a lot of difference to the way you live. It makes you better able to bear the trials and tribulations of this life. We know of a certainty that our sufferings will end and a future is coming which is better by far. We know about laying up treasure in heaven. We know that we matter to God and He will vindicate us. We know that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God. Without the hope of the resurrection we might curse God and die (as Job’s wife suggested). There are times in this life when God seems distant; when the enemies of God seem to have the upper hand. As we see the sufferings of Christians in Turkey, in Iraq, in Indonesia and many other countries, we can’t imagine why a loving God would allow it to happen. That’s because we are shortsighted. We do not see the bigger picture. We forget about the resurrection.

Don’t envy the rich and powerful; pity them. Pray for them. Remember that God takes no pleasure from the death of the wicked; rather he is pleased when they turn from their ways and live. Jesus was willing to die that the wicked might live. It seems that believers must continue to suffer to give them time to turn.

Some might be rather miffed that there is no marriage on this new earth. No marriage; no sex. What will be there is better by far. CS Lewis tries to picture it in his short book, The Great Divorce. He sees our new bodies as so much more substantial than our earthly ones. In one episode he traces the difficulty of an old earth body walking on new earth grass. The grass is so much more substantial it penetrates the old earth feet making walking there painful and next to impossible. It’s only a picture. I am content to leave the future to God, but I am reassured that he wants the best for me, because he sent his son to die for me.


justme said...

This was just wonderful. Thank you!

Looking at the "bigger picture" when going through difficult times has always been helpful to me...when I actually remember to do it.

Vance Esler said...

My other comment got messed up. Let me try again:

This fits very well with the most recent post on my blog. I really enjoy your insights and your way with words.

Don't stop!

Anonymous said...

Seeing your words was very timely for me. Today I have been a bit down about having CLL, the demands on my time, etc. I needed to reminded again about our future hope (and bring it back again to our present reality).
I was just telling one of my co-workers whose mom has CLL about you and how I am looking forward to meeting you in heaven. Smile.

Liz W.
Minnesota, USA

Anonymous said...

A refreshing reminder! Thanks for putting it so well. Your high view of Scripture is most encouraging.

Todd in Arizona