How did it come to this?

Signpost for Sunday 6 November, 2016: Hagg 1:15b–2:9; Ps 145:1-5,17-21 or Ps 98; 2 Thess 2:1-5,13-17; Luke 20:27-38.

We are heading towards the day when I suspect many people in the world will be holding their breath – next Tuesday.

Americans have a habit of using hyperbole to great effect. Whoever becomes president of the USA after November 8th will be elected to what is habitually called throughout the western world, the most powerful position on earth.

I don’t know about you but I think a lot of people are wondering what on earth is going to happen if a man with really bad hair and even worse prejudices becomes the person who holds that position. And many are wondering how things could possibly have come to this.

So let’s cherry pick a few words from this weeks’ reading from Thessalonians:” … we beg you, brothers and sisters, to not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed.”

Actually shaken in mind and alarmed is exactly how the Pharisees and the Sadducees were feeling in this week’s reading from Luke. Jesus has reached Jerusalem, been greeted by crowds, hailed as the one who comes in the name of the Lord, kicked out the money changers in the Temple and is now presuming to teach there every day. There’s no mention that he did what most first century Hebrews did on their first visit to the Temple – went in to pray. He’s simply done and said the unthinkable as far as a lot of people were concerned.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees then, seem to have been even more scared of what Jesus might do and say than I am of Donald Trump’s behaviour. And no wonder, because totally unlike the Don, Jesus appears to have been extremely intelligent and brilliant in debates.

He has already stymied the Pharisees twice. First, when they ask who gives Jesus the authority to say and do the things he does, and second when they ask him the tax dodging question. Now it the Sadducees’ turn. Which brings us to the question of the seven brothers and their one wife. This is like the last attempt in a presidential power debate designed to trick one candidate into falling flat on their face.

We know immediately that this is a track question because we’re told the Sadducees don’t believe in resurrection anyway. We might be tempted to just agree with Jesus’ first part of his answer – life after death is bound to be different from life before death, but that’s not the brilliant bit. The best bit is what Jesus says next. He tells this devious bunch of Sadducees that they don’t even understand the Torah, which was the only part of the Hebrew scriptures they gave any credence to.

By referring to Exodus 3 (Moses meets YHWH in the form of a burning bush) Jesus points out that that passage of scripture states that God is – present tense – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Not that God YHWH was their God. Therefore, according ‘their own scripture’ Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must in some sense still be alive. Stick that in your anti-resurrection pipe and puff on it, Jesus didn’t need to say.

Paul

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