Is there a Resurrection of the Dead?
Jesus said: "He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.”” (Mark 12:27, NRSV)
“You are wrong!”
When these words are spoken, you may want to get defensive. You might feel hurt or unloved or other strong emotions. It can be a life-altering moment to realize that you are wrong about something. Your first inclination may be to explain why you are right. You might question the person who dared say you were wrong. However, if the person speaks the truth and you are wrong, it can shatter your perception of yourself and your world. Still, wouldn’t you rather know the truth?
There was only one occasion in the gospels where Jesus said openly, “you are wrong!”. I find it interesting that Jesus even told those present were wrong twice in one gathering! On the day it occurred, Jesus was being questioned by the Sadducees. The Sadducees thought themselves very religious. They saw themselves as righteous before God. In fact, the name “Sadducee” comes from the amalgamation of Hebrew words for righteous and the name of the priest, Zadok! We are told in Mark 12 that the Sadducees did not believe in any form of resurrection. They even questioned Jesus about the resurrection using a man who had seven wives (Mark 12:18ff). In Jesus’ response to them, He mentioned twice that they were wrong about the resurrection; in Mark 12:24 and in the scripture for today. Jesus informed the Sadducees that God is “not the God of the dead, but the living”. Then, he put them in their place by stating forcefully, “you are quite wrong” (Mark 12:27)
Jesus was adamant that His followers realize that there is a resurrection of the dead. There is life after this life. On other occasions, Jesus mentioned that after life in the flesh in this world, there is a future in Heaven or Hell, depending on your choices and God’s grace. Later, when Jesus was resurrected Himself, it was proof positive that resurrection is not only possible but inevitable. So, the sum of Mark 12 is a challenge with two questions: “What kind of future do you want? and Will it be Heaven or Hell?”
In a wonderful meditation on this scripture for today, Diana Wallis wrote: “The Bible tells us that our personalities persist, go on. The Sadducees, who did not believe in angel or spirit or resurrection, once came to Jesus with that question about the seven-times-married woman who had survived all her husbands. The Sadducees wanted to know whose wife she would be in the Resurrection. Jesus told them that they misconceived the nature of the Resurrection and the future life. He reminded them of what God said to Moses at the burning bush: “Have you not read, … ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ God is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Personality, the you, the me, goes on.” (Take Heart, p. 188)
Of all the things Jesus taught, He wanted to make sure that His followers knew about the resurrection of the dead. That is why Jesus called the Sadducees wrong twice in these verses. It was Jesus’ ultimate stamp upon history, that there will be a resurrection of the dead.
I had a very interesting and fun conversation with a close friend of mine in my third church. As we were eating together one day, she said to me, “Since I will probably die first (she is 35 years older than I am), after I die, I’m going to let you know I’m in heaven.” I laughed and responded, “You do that! It would be very nice knowing I’ll see you again.”
On July 21, 2019, I was lying in my bed reading. I had taken a break from a project in the house. It was a Sunday. It was a pretty day. As I was lying there, enjoying what I was reading, I felt a hand touch my arm and rub up and down on it as if it were caressing me. I could hear my wife in the kitchen preparing dinner, so I knew it wasn’t her. I was alone. It was such a loving touch. I didn’t understand what happened. But, it so shocked me that I leapt out of bed and ran in the kitchen and told my wife, “Someone just caressed my arm!” Many times before in my ministry, metaphysical things happened around me. Often, God would let me know of a death in the congregation or a terminal illness before I even got a phone call. Sometimes, while praying with a person, I could sense their spiritual hurt or pain or joy or even their future. I always considered it a gift of prophecy of a sort. But, as I spoke to Laura on that July 21st, I responded, “It felt as if it was the touch of a ghost. But, I could feel a loving caress. I don’t understand who it could be. I don’t’ know anyone right now who is dying or who would need to visit me.”
The next day, I got a call from the daughter of the woman who told me that when she died, she would let me know she was in heaven. I didn’t even know the friend was sick! She hid it from me. However, she made sure to come and visit me when she was on her way to Heaven. Even now, in this moment, I can feel what it was like to feel her loving caress where she touched me on my right arm.
Some people might be spooked by such an event. I am thankful to God. It is one more little glimpse I have been given of the resurrection of the dead.
Jesus wanted to make sure His followers were convinced of resurrection. He wanted them to be prepared for Heaven. He wanted to warn them of Hell. Still, don’t just believe in Jesus because there is a Heaven or Hell. Don’t just love Jesus because you want to go to Heaven. Don’t love Jesus only because you want to be reunited with loved ones in Heaven. Love Jesus because He is your Savior and Redeemer. Love Jesus because He died for you on a cross. Love Him because He is preparing a place for you in Heaven. In the end... just love Jesus, will ya!