Sermons 2007
Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38

Home | In the Beginning was the Word, Christmas Day, 25 December 2007, John 1:1-14 | What's Missing? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2007, Luke 2:1-20 | Joseph, the Forgotten One, Advent 4A, 23 December 2007, Matthew 1:18-25 | Come with Joy, Advent 3A, 16 December 2007, Matthew 11:2-11 | Darkness or Light? Advent 1A, 2 December 2007, Matthew 24:37-44 | What Kind of King is He? Proper 29C, 25 November 2007, Luke 23:35-43 | Predictions and the Horseman of the Apocalypse, Proper 28C, 18 Nov 2007, Luke 31:5-19 | Just passing through? Proper 27C , 11 November 2007, Luke 20:20-38 | Not like others? Proper 25C, 28 October 2007, Luke 18:9-14 | "We are bold to say", Proper 24C, 21 October 2007, Luke 18:1-8a | "The ten lepers", Proper 23C, 14 October 2007, Luke 17:11-19 | Proper 22C and Holy Baptism, 7 October 2007 | A taste of cool water, Proper 21C, 30 September 2007, Luke 16:19-31 | We hear what we want to hear, Proper 20C, 23 September 2007, Luke 16:1-13 | "Lost -- but found!" Proper 19C, 16 September 2007, Luke 15:1-10 | "Who is coming to dinner?" Proper 17C, 2 September 2007, Luke 14:1, 7-14 | Doors and narrow gates, Proper 16C, 26 August 2007, Luke 13:22-30 | "Fire to the earth", Proper 15C, 19 August 2007, Luke 12:49-56 | "Do not be afraid, little flock', Proper 14C, 12 August 2007, Luke 12:32-40 | "How much is enough?" Proper 13C , 5 August 2007, Luke 12:13-21 | "Lord, teach us to pray" Proper 12C, 29 July 2007, Luke 11:1-13 | "The Better Part?" Proper 11C, 22 July 2007, Luke 10:38-42 | The Good Samaritan -- the Summary of the Law" Proper 10C, 15 July 2007, Luke 10:25-37 | "Travel Light!" Proper 9C, 8 July 2007, Luke 10:1-12, 16-20 | "Independence Day" Proper 8C, 1 July 2007, Luke 9:51-62 | "Three Questions", Proper 7C, 24 Jun 2007, Luke 9:18-24 | "In or Out?" Proper 6C, 17 June 2007, Luke 7:36-50 | "On Grace", Proper 5C, 10 June 2007, Luke 7:11-17 | Trinity C, 3 June 2007 | Pentecost C, 27 May 2007 | "Unity and Diversity" Easter 7C, 20 May 2007, John 17:20-26 | "Come, Holy Spirit, Come" Easter 6C, 13 May 2007, John 14:23-29 | "What is this thing called love?" Easter 5C, 6 May 2007, John 13:31-35 | "Numbers and Sheep", Easter 4C, 29 April 2007, John 10:22-30 | Virginia Tech, Easter 3C, 22 April 2007 Revelation 6:8-10 | Thomas Doubter and Believer, Easter 2C, 15 April 2007. John 20: 19-31 | ""Why do you look for the living among the dead?" Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007, Luke 24:1-10 | Good Friday 6 April 2007 | Maundy Thursday 5 April 2007 | Why are we not surprised? Palm/Passion Sunday C, 1 April 2007, Luke 22:39-23:50 | Party or Pout? Lent 4C, 18 March 2007, Luke 15:11-32 | To Stand on the Mountaintop, Lent 3C, 11 March 2007, Exodus 3:1-15 | "Ways Not Taken", Lent 2C, 4 March 2007. Luke 13:22-35 | "Liminal Thresholds and Lintels", Lent 1C, 25 February 2007, Luke 4:1-13 | Ash Wednesday Meditation 2007 | "Transfiguration and Transformation, Epiphany Last C, 18 February 2007, Luke 9:28-36 | "Weal and Woe", Epiphany 6C, 11 February 2007, Luke 6:17-26 | "Who, me?" Epiphany 5C, 4 February 2007, Luke 5:1-11 | "Filled with rage!" Epiphany 4C, 28 January 2007, Luke 4:21-32 | "The Spirit of the Lord is upon us," Epiphany 3C, 21 January 2007, Luke 4:14-21 | "Weddings and Miracles," Epiphany 2C, 14 January 2007, John 2:1-11 | Schism and Epiphany, Epiphany 1C, 7 Dec 2007, Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

Proper 27C 2007 Luke 20:20-38

One of the really interesting things about diving into the rich deep waters of Scripture, particularly the Gospels, is deciding which question or questions to ask of the text. There are only about five basic interpretive questions to ask, really, and one of them is this one: “What’s going on inside of what’s happening?”

Take the Sadducees, for example. This group first came into historical awareness in the 2nd century BC. They appear to be aristocrats of the temple cult in Jerusalem before and during their emergence as one of the three religious parties, along with the Essenes – the people of the Dead Sea Scrolls -- and the Pharisees, often thought of as the founders of modern rabbinical Judaism. After the destruction of the temple in 70 AD the Sadducees disappeared from the historical record and are heard of no more. With no Temple, their main purpose and function in ancient Hebrew society disappeared.

The contemporary historical record posits that “the Sadducees are said to reject the immortality of the soul, to attribute all human activity to free will and none to fate (or providence), and to reject other traditions, especially those of the Pharisees."

The Sadducees seemed to have been influential with only a few wealthy families and not with the people, who preferred the Pharisees' interpretation of the law. They were not particularly likeable people. They encouraged conflict with rather than respect for their teachers, were more harsh than the Pharisees in seeking punishments for crimes, and fell afoul of King Herod because they supported his opposition. It is likely that the Sadducees were mostly priests and wealthy, powerful community leaders who sat in the Sanhedrin, were greatly influenced by Greek culture, and cultivated good relationships with the Romans. (1)

So, what’s really going on here. Why were they asking Jesus about something -- resurrection – that they didn’t believe any way? The answer is complex.

The Pharisees had emerged as an influence in Palestinian society about the same time as the Sadducees and were in competition with them. The Pharisees functioned as a political and religious interest group with its own goals for society and constantly engaged in political activity to achieve them, even though it did not always succeed. As a group they generally did not have direct power and were not members of the governing class. They were members of a literate, corporate, voluntary association which constantly sought influence with the governing class.

The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the body and in future rewards and punishments. They had their own traditions about how to be faithful to Judaism. Their internal rules stressed ritual purity, food tithes, and Sabbath observances. They were admired by the people and served as a political and social counter to foreign and hellenized Jewish leaders. Many were learned in the law and some individual Pharisees had political power.

Specific beliefs in the resurrection of the body and purity and tithing rules separated the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes from one another and from the followers of Jesus as well as from numerous other messianic, apocalyptic, political, and reformist groups who populated the Palestinian scene. (2) The Sadducees appear only once in Luke and only three times in Acts. Pharisees about ten times more frequently.

The strong possibility is that the Sadducees weren’t really debating resurrection with Jesus as much as they were with the much more numerous and popular Pharisees. In any case Jesus’ answer shocked Sadducee and Pharisee alike. Such questions about resurrection are irrelevant and unimportant, he said. They betray your ignorance and demonstrate your narrow small minds. You are trying to make heaven conform to the earth. The rules of earth do not and cannot define heaven because they do not and cannot define or restrict God.

A tourist once paid a famous rabbi a visit. Astonished to see that the rabbi's home was only a simple room filled with books, plus a table and a bench, the tourist asked, "Rabbi, where is your furniture?"
"Where is yours?" replied the rabbi.
"Mine?" asked the puzzled tourist. "But I'm only a visitor here. I'm only passing through."
"So am I," said the rabbi. (3)


1. Harper’s Bible Dictionary, p.891; The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol 5, pp 892-894; HISTORICAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE SADDUCEES, Exegetical Notes, by Brian Stoffregen, eSermons Illustrations for 11 Nov 2007
2. Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol 5, pp 301-302; Harper’s Bible Dictionary, p.783, Oxford Companion to the Bible, p. 589
3. eSermons Illustrations for 11 Nov 2007