Susie was at school in the fourth grade. She had a pet dog named Jimmy. When Susie got home that afternoon, her mother told her that Jimmy had run out in the street and got hit by a car. Mother had taken Jimmy to the veterinarian. She told Susie that she wasn’t sure if Jimmy was still alive. And so Susie went with her mother to the animal doctor’s office. When they got there, they were ushered into an adjacent room where Jimmy lay on the table, motionless. Susie began to cry. Poor Jimmy looked to be dead. When the veterinarian came into the room, he had a hypodermic needle in his hand. He went over to where Jimmy lay and gently pushed the needle into Jimmy’s skin.
Susie’s mother hugged her tightly and whispered, “Jimmy is alive! The doctor gave him an injection to make him better.” Now Susie’s tears were replaced with a broad smile. She understood that her pet dog was alive since a dead dog wouldn’t get a shot [story by Eldon Weisheit].
In the Gospel of Luke 20:27-40 Jesus is talking to people who did not believe that dead people are raised from their graves to live again. Some people believe that once a person dies, that’s the end to every-thing. A dead person is gone. There’s no “happy hunting grounds.” There’s no “Valhalla.” No heaven above, no hell below;“only sky” (John Lennon’s Imagine). But Scripture teaches differently.
Jesus was asked a question by a group of people who were Sadducees (Luke 20:17-40). They were wealthy politicians of the priestly order in Jerusalem. They carefully followed the teachings of the Pentateuch, the first five books of Moses but not the other writings. They also didn’t believe there was any life after death. They posed a tricky question about a woman who had been married seven times and had never had any children. The Law required that if a married man died before having a male heir, the wife was to be married to the man’s brother to raise an heir to the dead man (Deuteronomy 25:5-10, the Law of Levirate Marriage). Thus, the man’s family name and title to the land remained. The Sadducees asked a cynical question, wondering whose wife the woman would be in the resurrection. Jesus told them that marriage, first of all, is for this life, for companionship and for procreation. In death, the soul is released from the body which dies. That soul lives on, Jesus assured His audience, because Moses taught that when God spoke to him from the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15), He identified Himself asthe God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God used the present tense, saying “I AM the God of Abraham, etc.” He does NOT say, “I WAS the God” etc. We remember that the children of Israel had been in captivity in Egypt for over 430 years after the last Patriarchs had died. Yet God spoke of Himself as a living God and of His people, though long dead, as still living.
Jesus explained that in the afterlife, people don’t marry. God is their eternal companion. The people don’t need to procreate for there is no more death. The people with God are like the angels. They are immortal. The people with God are alive, just as they were given new life through faith in His promises, fulfilled in Christ. We learn from Scripture – written by prophets of old and eyewitnesses of Jesus Himself – that He suffered and died on the cross to pay for our sins. From the point of view of the people of His day, it looked like Jesus was dead and gone. But Jesus is God in human flesh. He is the living God who suffered and died for us. On the third day Jesus arose alive again, body and soul. We believe in the resurrection because Jesus died for us and rose again for our pardon. We too, like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are alive to God, now and always. Our Lord is not the God of dead people but the God of the living, who has shown Himself to be “our Savior Jesus Christ, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). Even for the hardships and heartaches of life, a shot of Gospel “good news” enlivens our hearts with faith in Jesus, the God of the living.“So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8b).