Luke 20:27-38. Resurrection Changes Everything St Albans 6 November 2016
Back in the early 1900s a tight knit group of Jews from Eastern Europe found
themselves as new arrivals in New York City.
They stumbled across something they’d never seen…
and small enough to be held in the palm of the hand.
No – not a cricket ball... a tomato.
And within this closed, conservative community the tomato caused a crisis.
Could it be eaten?
Were you allowed to?
Was it kosher?
As devout Jews, the newcomers didn’t want to transgress…
They knew God had given certain laws about what and what not to eat.
So they made a beeline to their Bibles.
What did Moses have to say about tomatoes?
Alas, Moses had nothing to say about tomatoes.
The community was divided.
Some said that since Moses didn’t ban them, they were at liberty to eat them.
Others said “no way!” If it’s not in Moses, then it’s not on the menu.
Well the Sadducees in our NT reading this morning are the ancestors of the antitomato
They’re the Bible believing conservatives of the day.
If it’s not in their Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leveticus, Numbers,
Deuteronomy – then forget it!
The Sadducees didn’t have tomatoes, but you can bet your house on
it… if they had, they would have been agin’ them.
They did however have their own issues to deal with.
One came in the form of a certain religious idea that kept cropping up.
People were talking about something called “resurrection”, where God will
supposedly bring people back to life.
For the fundamentalist Sadducees, this was heresy.
Check it out… Moses doesn’t mention “resurrection”.
As far as they’re concerned, resurrection is a tomato.
And to prove how right they were they approach Jesus – and with the backing of
Moses they pose a hypothetical…
“Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies
childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother.”
So… seven men, all have been married to the same woman…
Now, tell us Jesus, in this so-called resurrection, whose wife will she be?
There you go! They’ve just squashed a tomato!
How’s Jesus going to wiggle out of this one?
Well, he says:
“You know that’s dumbest thing I’ve heard!
You all know Mr Davis down Dominion Road here… he’s a funeral director.
His dad before him was a funeral director.
And his grand-dad too… he was a funeral director.
Now in the resurrection, which one of them is going to
run the family funeral business?
None! Because in the resurrection there won’t be
any more death.”
Well no, Jesus didn’t actually say that… But what he did say makes a similar point.
He says,“In this world marriage is a big deal – but not in the world to come.
In the resurrection there won’t be any more marriage.
In the resurrection things are going to be different!”.
Your little ruse supposes that the world to come is nothing more that a re-run of the
here and now.
Here we’ve got marriage – so there we must have marriage too.
But no! “The men and women of this age marry,” says Jesus, “but the men
and women who are worthy to rise from death and live in the world to
come will not then marry.”
In other words, the future is no mere cut-and-paste of the present.
Things will be different!
There were Sadducees then.
There are Sadducees now.
Most Kiwis have no real belief in a life to come.
When you’re dead you’re dead!
In fact there used to be a texting abbreviation (my kid’s tell me it’s gone
out of use now) that sums this up. Y.O.L.O, meaning You Only Live Once.
You see something you’d like to buy or try and so you text me…
“Just seen bright red dress, but not sure if red suits me.”
And I text back… “YOLO” – meaning “go for it – you’ve
got nothing to loose – because you only live once”.
The problem with YOLO though is it’s pretty severe.
So when grandma dies and after the funeral 6 year old Johny asks “Where’s
Grandma?” we can’t quite bring ourselves to say “She’s no more dear. She’s
finished, washed up, come to the end of the line”.
Instead we soften the blow with something like, “Well Johny, Grandma has
been taken to a better place… she’s up there someplace… she’s with the
stars, in the clouds, looking down on us…”
Even those of us who comprise the church can unwittingly end up thinking this way.
Despite the fact that week after week we repeat “on the third day he rose again”
(and that) “we look forward for the resurrection of the dead” – despite this
affirmation, we too end up haunted by the idea of stars, clouds and wafting spirits.
I call it John Brown theology… you know…
John Brown’s body lies a moulding in the grave,
John Brown’s body lies a moulding in the grave,
John Brown’s body lies a moulding in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on.
We toy with the idea that what happens when we die, is that the body moulds in the
grave, but another part of us, a non-material, ethereal, spooky something called a
“soul” goes marching on.
But we do not say in our creed, “I believe in some kind of life after death.”
No, we say something qualitatively different, “I believe in the resurrection
of the body.”
Will you take this on board today!
Our faith as Christians is not rooted in a John Brown “something”.
Our faith is not rooted in a something in us at all.
Our faith is in a God who raises the dead!
And when we say we believe in resurrection we mean not a spooky spirit, a
disembodied soul, drifting ether, or a wandering ghost - but a renewed physical
After all, we aren’t the majority of religions, or ordinary pagan Kiwi’s for that
matter, who trust in a “soul” that just keeps trucking on.
We believe in the resurrection of the body.
Our money is on the God of Jesus who raises the dead!
The image the Apostle Paul uses when talking about resurrection is a seed.
He likens our present bodies to seeds, which after they are dead and buried, are
resurrected into full material bodies.
So back to the tomato.
This morning you received a small plastic bag with your order of service.
Pick it up now will you.
Inside the bag are a few tomato seeds.
Borrowing from the Apostle’s illustration, let’s say that those
little tomato seeds represent our present bodies…
so easily lost between the cracks.
But let one of those seeds die… let it be buried in the ground… and wait just a little
while, - look what happens! (Show tomato plant)
That which is sown perishable is raised imperishable…
That which is sown in dishonour is raised in glory…
That which is sown in weakness is raised in power…
That which is sown a natural body is raised a supernatural body.
What the seed blossoms into is still connected to the seed, it’s only so much greater!
It’s now what the seed was always meant to be.
Our resurrected bodies still hold something in common with our bodies
now, - only so much more fulsom, what our bodies were always meant to be.
But ultimately, I’d be short-changing you and trivialising the resurrection if I
characterised the resurrection as merely about what happens to you and me after we die.
Resurrection is not just about you and me… ultimately it’s about God!
Resurrection is about God turning the present order upside down – or more accurately
– right side up.
Resurrection is about God’s unwillingness to let go of his creation… it’s his
reversal of the fall.
Resurrection is about God who created this world and who saw it was
good, not leaving this world to rot away.
Resurrection is God’s way of creating a new heaven and new earth
without doing away with the old heaven and old earth.
Resurrection is God getting what God wants on earth as in heaven.
Resurrection is God’s ultimate word about his great reversal.
And if all this is true - and I believe it is, then there are far-reaching consequences that
flow from that.
. Resurrection sets us free from grasping.
Free from the need to cling on to everything that we manage to acquire, in
the here and now - as if it’s all there is and this is the only chance we’ve got.
It means that we’re free to let go of our grip on wealth, career, loved
ones, reputation, our very lives.
Resurrection signals the end of the tyranny of the demands of
. Resurrection means we don’t lose hope.
All about us we see pain, suffering and destruction.
Iraq’s now turning her guns on Turkey. Over 4,200 drowned in the
Mediterranean this year alone. More than 300 Isis child-soldiers
slaughtered in Mosul.
And at a personal level we all encounter adversity, hardship,
loss, hurt, betrayal and disappointment.
Resurrection means that distressing as these things are,
they don’t have the final word.
Resurrection signals the end of sorrows.
. Resurrection also inspires meaningful action.
It means working in anticipation of the new world that Jesus is bringing.
C. S. Lewis said, “If you read history you will find that the Christians
who did most for the present world were precisely those who
thought most of the next.”
It means that the alleviation of poverty is a Gospel issue,
that care for the environment is a Gospel issue,
that working for justice is a Gospel issue, not an optional add-on.
Resurrection signals the end of brokenness.
Let me finish with a story.
A good book is worth re-reading…
And I figure a good story is worth re-telling.
A few years back I asked a member of this church – the late Don Binney – to speak to
a senior class of art students.
He was speaking about paints and pastels and pencils when one of the students
asked “What do you think of Damien Hurst?”
Now Damien Hurst was the British artist who took a human skull and embedded
it with 8,601 flawless diamonds – costing a whooping 14 million pounds.
Don paused - an old kumatua, leaning on his walking stick.
“The skull – I get the skull” said Don. “It’s the lot of us all… From dust we came
and to dust we will return”.
The students were stone still.
“But to embed the skull with diamonds… I’m not sure that it’s the
human lot to embed the skull with diamonds.”
There was a long, long pause…
Don looked up.
“Seems to me there‘s only one answer to the skull” he says.
Then taking his stick, he thrusts it skyward and shouts “RESURRECTION!”
We can only respond with a hearty Amen!
By way of response this morning, we’re circulating some small plant pots.
We invite you to take one home, and plant those tomato seeds in the soil.
With the right care you’ll see tomato plants rising in no time.
Let them be a reminder to you of the
far-reaching difference the resurrection really makes.