Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ For they no longer dared to ask him another question. Then he said to them, ‘How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son? For David himself says in the book of Psalms, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’ In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’
Set alongside the challenges from the Chief Priests and Scribes in the text comes this discourse with some Sadducees.
According to Josephus they were a small but influential group many being placed in prominent positions within the Temple structure. Their existence was dependent on Temple life and no trace can be found of them following its destruction when Jerusalem was conquered.
One of the Sadducees’ defining strands was that they only considered the Torah to be scripture and this led to their doctrinal view that there could be no resurrection as they found no such reference within the Books of the Law.
This group asked Jesus a loaded question based on the Leverite Law which was intended to protect inheritance and property.
Jesus dismisses the conundrum simply by refocussing the need for marriage in God’s realm then quoting from the Torah offers the Sadducees new insights – God the God of the living Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The question of resurrection asked and answered.
I come back frequently to the vehicle for the teaching. Like a terrier I can’t let go of the widow’s experience in this story, however hypothetical, the notion of multiple bereavements, the loss of seven husbands, whatever the basis of those relationships, and the cumulative nature of grief overwhelms me.
Whilst seven life partners may be unusual the experience of multiple bereavements is not. This is the experience of older people and indeed many congregations made up of predominantly older members. It is the experience where people share a life limiting illness or indeed are experiencing some form of disaster or war.
We also know that there is a risk with suicide that it may appear in clusters including within familial groups. A fact that calls for evermore sensitive postvention.
Whilst we have become increasingly more sensitive to the needs of people experiencing grief I feel we have much to learn in order to offer support to those whose experiences of loss are cumulative.
Loving God there is simply nothing that we can do which allows us to step outside that circle of love you have for us.
Be with us today, whatever our experience, whatever our expectations for the day
Bring us integrity and growth through learning Bring us solace and healing when we struggle with loss and despair God of life bring us hope.