O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Marriage is what brings us together today
"Marriage is what brings us together today"
November 7, 2010
Fellow baptized saints, when you were in school, did your teacher ever say, "Time for questions, and remember, there is no such thing as a dumb question." I don't know about you, but I heard this expression a lot. And to this day I still haven't figured out why. Now supposing the teachers were right, then there is no such thing as a dumb question - all questions should be asked - but is it possible for questions to have errors in them? Can we ask questions based on false assumptions?
When we explore our text for today, we find that Jesus faces this exact problem. He is confronted by the Sadducees, a religious group that denies the resurrection. They are trying to trap Him with a question about the resurrection. They present an outrageous scenario in which a woman marries into a family where the brothers can't stay alive. Each of the seven brothers marries the woman at some point during her life, and they all die. Then comes their trap of a question. "In the resurrection, whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?" It seems like an impossible question. The Sadducees are probably thinking 'haha' we got Him this time. However, the reason this question is impossible is not because it has no answer - but because it was based on false assumptions. The Sadducees have asked a question that is riddled with errors.
Can you see the assumption they have made? They have made an assumption about marriage. They assume they know all about marriage. They do not ask Jesus, "what is marriage?" but try to trap Him in their earthly assumption about what it is. They presume that marriage has its origin here on earth. They are convinced that marriage must work the same way in heaven as it does here on earth. They are guilty of a grave error - assuming that the vastness of eternity will be based on our limited earthly existence, and not the other way around.
Let us use a helpful illustration to understand this better. Our earthly lives fit nicely on a line. A timeline you could say. One thing happens, and then the next - all in a nice orderly line. Things begin and things end. However in heaven, where there is no time - where things do not begin or end - there are no lines. It would be best to use the shape of a circle to represent heaven. No beginnings, no endings - no reference to time. Earth is like a line. Heaven is like a circle. Straight lines and circles do not have a lot in common. So when the Sadducees assume that marriage had it's beginning here on earth, that is on the line, and will somehow be exactly the same in heaven where there are no lines - they are mistaken - and their error puts them in danger. Nevertheless, they presumptuously ask their question.
So what about us? We live on the same line as the Sadducees. How do we ask questions? How often do we ask questions based on assumptions? Do we assume that we are innocent of these sorts of mistakes, or do we actually examine ourselves?
When we honestly look into the matter, we realize we do this all the time. We ask people questions after trying to figure out the answer on our own - we do not always let them tell us the answer - we have a timeline in our head, and we do our best to fit them into the timeline so that we can make sense of what is happening. Our questions reflect this - and as a result, they are full of assumptions. Very often we judge people before we even let them speak.
When it comes to God - We do the same thing. We assume God thinks the way we do. We approach the Bible with all sorts of assumptions about how we think God should act. We create God in our own image, based on our earthly line, instead of letting Him speak for Himself from eternity and explain how we are created in His image. We try to bring the vastness of eternity into our human timeline, as though we have the power to do so. We approach His Church in this way also - making human assumptions about what will work - or what will please Him, without listening or asking what He actually has to say. We draw the line thinking - as long as it works - for that must be what He wants (for that is what I would want if I were God). Somehow in all our assumptions - without even knowing it - we have set ourselves up as God. And we all do it, every day.
We are obsessed with earthly things and we are convinced that heaven must reflect earth.
However, Jesus says, "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" Jesus wants to teach us about heavenly things, yet sometimes we do not even believe what God says about earthly things.
I saw a good of example of this in a television show recently. People trapped in a hotel were infected with a painful virus. They all assumed that they would die. So to minimize suffering, the people were offered suicide pills. The authorities were committing euthanasia in the name of mercy - to end suffering. But as it turned out - many of their assumptions were wrong. People were rushing to death based on assumptions, when they could have survived. When God tells us about earthly things - matters that have to do with our life on this line - He does not make assumptions - because from eternity He can see the beginning and the end of all things. When we take matters into our own hands and follow our assumptions, it is only one thing - dangerous.
So, what are we to make of Jesus' answer to the question of the Sadducees? Dearly beloved, the unity of His heavenly answer will shock you - for in Christ all of these things, marriage, resurrection, assumptions, circles and lines - they all find their answer. For unlike us, Christ did not make assumptions. He did not assume anything, except our flesh. From His throne in heaven, the Son of God assumed our human nature into His person and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. As we confess in the Nicene Creed - he was made man. He was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the life of our Lord is a great circle. A circle from heaven to earth and back to heaven. God in Christ Jesus has brought the eternity of heaven down to earth. In His flesh, He has wrapped the circle around the line.
And why did He do this? To restore His heavenly marriage with His bride, the Church. For marriage has its origin in heaven - between the Son of God and us, His Bride. Our earthly marriages merely reflect this true heavenly marriage - the marriage between Christ and His Church. For there are not seven Christs, like the brothers from our text, but One - the One and Only Son of God - your beloved Savior.
For Christ knew our assumptions would bring us death. He knew His bride, His beloved wife would be swallowed by death for her sins. So He assumed our flesh to bring her back to life - To win her the resurrection of the dead. He did not die and leave you childless, but was resurrected. He overcame death out of His great love for you, so that you may leave the line and join Him in eternity forever. In order to restore His marriage, Christ brought eternity from heaven down to earth, where His resurrection secured the life of His bride and the fulfillment of the circle. The resurrection is His promise of love to His bride. It is the wedding gift from His Father on the day of His Son's royal wedding.
Now if the unity of His answer wasn't shocking enough, consider how He continues to bring heaven down to earth for His bride even today. The very first verse about marriage in the Bible is in the book of Genesis. It says, a man will be united to his wife - "and the two shall become one flesh." The fulfillment of this Scripture is in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, which we will eat and drink of today, where the Lord makes Himself of one flesh with His bride, the Church. He unites Himself with His wife, the two become one flesh in His Holy Supper. Christ gave His body up to death so that He could unite His resurrected flesh with you, His precious bride. You are forgiven of your doubts and assumptions. You are saved from death, because Christ has chosen you as His beloved bride. In this Supper when we eat and drink His body and blood, Christ wraps the eternity of heaven around us and we are together with all of the saints, the entire Church, the bride of Christ. So today, as we become one flesh with Christ, let us abandon our assumptions and drink deep of the mercy and love of the God that has chosen us as His bride. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr