Life after death

The Resurrection, 25 April 2021

The Resurrection
Series—Mark: The Real Jesus
Mark 12:18-27

Series Big Idea:
Mark’s gospel is the most concise biography of Jesus.

Big Idea: Someday all of the dead will be resurrected…are you ready?

Life is filled with questions and mysteries. How long will the COVID-19 last? Will the Cleveland Browns or Detroit Lions ever win a Super Bowl? What came first, the chicken or the egg? Is breakfast cereal soup?

Perhaps the greatest question of all-time is, “What happens after you die?” Religions and philosophers have an abundance of answers, but even the Bible leaves plenty of mystery.

This morning we’re talking about resurrection. No, not
the Resurrection that we celebrated three weeks ago. We’re actually going to look at your resurrection. I know what you’re thinking…I’m not dead…yet! There’s a good chance that someday you will die…and then what? In our text for today, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what’s on the other side of the grave and why it matters.

I often stress the importance of context. We’re in the middle of the book of Mark, the shortest of the four gospels—or good news—that tell us about Jesus. He has predicted his own death and the religious leaders are getting riled up over Jesus’ popularity and audacious claims to be God. The Pharisees and Herodians failed to trap Jesus in last week’s text. Mark chapter twelve, verse eighteen says,

Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. (Mark 12:18)

The Pharisees get a lot of attention in the Bible, but the Sadducees were a different group of religious leaders. The high priests Caiaphas and Annas were first-century Sadducees. They only believed in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible and there is no mention of the resurrection in those books of Moses. As Mark plainly states, they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, leading some people to conclude without hope of the resurrection, were “sad, you see.” They viewed the resurrection as a new, dangerous idea that depended upon dubious books like Daniel and groups like the Pharisees.

To better understand, listen to these words from N.T. Wright:

…the Sadducees saw belief in resurrection as politically risky. It had become popular particularly during the revolutionary movements of the second century BC, as a way of affirming that the martyrs had a glorious future awaiting them, not immediately after death, but in the eventual resurrection when they would be given new bodies. This belief was based on the fundamental idea of God as the maker, and therefore the remaker, of the world. People who believe that God is going to recreate the whole world, including Israel, and even including their own dead bodies, are much more likely to do daring and risky things. Wealthy ruling classes prefer people not to think thoughts like that.

Dr. Luke tells us in the book of Acts:

(The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.) (Acts 23:8)

Now they setup their question.

“Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. (Mark 12:19)

This is a fascinating instruction given by Moses. Obviously, it’s not something we follow today, nor are we obligated to do so since we are no longer under the 613 laws of Moses, the Mosaic Law. This particular command would certainly be practical a culture where women rarely earned income and Social Security did not exist. What’s a widow to do with her kids?

Genesis 38:8 and Deuteronomy 25:5-10 describe a scenario in which a man dies and his brother marries the widow. But now they offer an absurd scenario, seemingly in an attempt to discredit Jesus and other Jews who believed in the afterlife. You might call them skeptics.

Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. (Mark 12:20-22)

At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” (Mark 12:23)

Do you see how they were trying to twist the truth? Maybe they were even giggling. They put Jesus in the middle of a theological controversy between the Sadducees and Pharisees (who believed in the resurrection).

Perhaps you’ve had someone challenge your faith with a question like, “Can God create a rock so heavy He cannot lift it? (the answer is no because He cannot make a contradiction).

You can’t trick Jesus!

Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? (Mark 12:24)

Before Jesus addresses their question, he addresses their ignorance. They didn’t understand the power of God, denying the supernatural world of spirits and angels. They also didn’t understand the Scriptures. They refused to believe anything they couldn’t see.

This is true of many today, deists who believe in a Creator, they believe in God, but they deny miracles or supernatural activity today. Famous deists include Benjamin Franklin, Neil Armstrong, John Adams, Thomas Edison, Victor Hugo, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, and perhaps even Abraham Lincoln.

Our faith is not based upon merely a Creator, but the vital work of Jesus Christ the Messiah, dying for us, conquering sin and death, and the resurrection. The Sadducees ignored most of the Jewish Bible and failed to understand miracles and God’s power.

I don’t worship a weak God!
I don’t worship a dead God!
I don’t worship a God who is sleeping or distracted!

I worship a God who is omnipotent and all-powerful!
I worship a God who is omnipresent and with me always!
I worship a God who is omniscient and all-knowing!

Jesus answers their question—after asking one himself—and just like his response to the Pharisees in last week’s text, he amazes them. It’s mic-drop time!

When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. (Mark 12:25)

I love that phrase, “When the dead rise.” That’s hope! He doesn’t say, “If.” He’s very clear. The dead will rise!

Notice what Jesus doesn’t say. He doesn’t say we will become angels, get wings, fly, play the harp, or sit on a cloud. The only reference to angels is that the resurrected will not marry or be given in marriage.

He doesn’t say there won’t be married people in heaven.
He doesn’t say we will be without gender.

He never explicitly says spouses won’t be together in heaven or even that there won’t be marriage in heaven. He simply says there won’t be weddings in heaven. There won’t be new marriages.

If you examine the
purpose of marriage, one of the primary purposes is procreation. In the beginning, God made us male and female (Genesis 1:27) and said, “Be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:22).” People in heaven are eternal and there will be no need to procreate in order to continue the family line as we do today (which was the point of the law about the widow marrying the brother).

Resurrection means transformation with a new and improved body.

Resurrection means a new, embodied life in the future…not necessarily at the moment of our death.

Resurrection is the reversal of death to enjoy life in the new heaven and the new earth. What God has created, He will recreate. That is good news indeed!

Again, there are many things we don’t know about the next life. Great mystery remains, but what is clear is the Sadducees were wrong. There will be a resurrection, and Jesus goes back to one of their five books—Exodus chapter 3—to show them.

Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Mark 12:26)

Here Jesus is confronting their ignorance of the Book of Moses. If God is the God of these deceased men, these men must continue to exist in some form. Their bodies may be dead, but not their souls.

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12:27)

Jesus is trash-talking. Okay, maybe not exactly, but he clearly corrects them. “You are badly mistaken!”

But actions speak louder than words. I’m sure Jesus’ teaching was informative, but his own resurrection was transformative.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

I can’t overstate the importance of the resurrection—both Jesus’ resurrection and ours. Paul said it so plainly to the church in Corinth:

But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, NLT)

The Christian faith rises and falls on the resurrection. The reason I get so excited about Resurrection Sunday and the empty tomb is because without it, we have a dead faith. Literally.

The old hymn “He Lives” contains these lyrics:

I serve a risen Savior/He’s in the world today
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy/I hear His voice of cheer
And just the time I need Him/He’s always near

He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
Along life’s narrow way
He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

So What?

For thousands of years, there have been people who believed in God but not the supernatural. Deists have a reverence for a Creator, but no relationship. I can’t imagine such a life, such a faith. If this life is all there is, we might as well just eat, drink, and be merry. But if there is a resurrection…if there is a Judgment Day…if there is eternal life waiting for us on the other side of the grave, we must seize every opportunity to get ready and get others ready for the resurrection.

Are you ready?

Are you getting others ready?

I want us to be people of the resurrection, celebrating Christ’s resurrection and anticipating our own and that of our loved ones.

Life is filled with questions and mysteries, but one thing is clear: Jesus is alive!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

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