Reflection on This Week’s Readings


In the late 1990s at a one-hundredth birthday party, someone asked the guest of honor, “What is the most remarkable invention you have seen in your lifetime?” to which the new centenarian replied, “The ballpoint pen.” Those gathered found it hard to imagine a time without the ballpoint pen. The current age—whenever it happens—is defined by things that are so much a part of life that we cannot imagine how the world ever existed (or ever will exist) without them. Whether we are talking about ballpoint pens or legal bonds between spouses, we think, “That’s just how things work.”

In our gospel today, some Sadducees come to Jesus with a question. Their intent is to embarrass the teacher and to demonstrate how ridiculous the notion of resurrection is. Who could imagine such a thing? The scene they paint features would-be husbands lining up and waiting, like contestants on The Bachelorette, to see “Whose wife will she be?”

Jesus answers the question by speaking about a whole new age: the reign of God. When this new age is present in its fullness, those who have died will be alive, and they will be identified by their status not as a spouse, but as a son or a daughter. “They . . . are children of God,” Jesus says, and “children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36).

While we do not yet experience the new age in its fullness, it has indeed broken into our history and our lives: Christ is risen! In holy baptism Christ shares his risen life with us so that in our own time, “this age” and “the age to come” overlap. Christ’s reign brings about a new world beyond our imagining: we, too, are children of God and children of the resurrection.



The Sundays during November deal with the end of time, an appropriate time of year for people in the northern hemisphere to contemplate death. God who came in Christ will come in Christ also at the end of human time. Yet God is also among us now as we, the body of Christ, gather for worship.
The Sadducees meant to ridicule speculation about an afterlife. However, even this passage has served to feed Christian imagination about an angelic existence in the afterlife. The New Testament describes Jesus Christ as the first to experience resurrection, and believers continue to hope that the God of the living will be their God even after death. The New Testament proclaims the resurrection of the body, not the immortal soul that is currently believed by many Christians and affirmed by many clergy. Attention to the end of all things is fitting at the close of each liturgical year.
This passage is the section in Job most quoted by Christians since, when interpreted literally, it indicates a bodily life after death: “at the last” Job will “see” God. Thus the lectionary sets it next to Luke’s discussion of the afterlife. To God, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job are alive, and Christians expect the same for all believers.
Humans are perennially fascinated with speculation about the end of the world. Christians have come to connect this description of “the lawless one” with the Johannine “antichrist” (1 John 2:18, 22). Lutherans can think of the evils of the end time as law, that is, the harsh truths of human existence, and the second half of the reading as gospel: God has chosen us, we are saved, we are made holy by the Spirit, we will share the glory of Christ, we are loved by God, we are comforted and strengthened by God’s word.

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