Yesterday I posted about how Jesus brilliantly refuted a trap question from a group called the Pharisees. Today I want to look at how he refutes the Pharisees’ rival group, known as the Sadducees.

18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children.21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”

The Sadducees were a different group from the Pharisees. The two groups often engaged in sharp debate, and the resurrection was one of those flashpoints of conflict between the two. The Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection; that’s why they were sad, you see. (Whaa-whaaaa)

They came to Jesus because they had heard that he believed in the resurrection, and they wanted to pose a question to him that they had probably posed to many Pharisees. It was a dishonest question, meant to make resurrection look like a ridiculous, and even unbiblical, idea. I imagine that no Pharisee had been able to give them a satisfactory reply, so they thought they could trap Jesus with this one.

One woman. Seven brothers. Each man obeyed the biblical law by marrying his older brother’s widow and trying to produce an heir for him. This was how a family was able to continue it’s line. Should the oldest brother die without an heir, the next brother in line was responsible for marrying his brother’s widow and producing a male child for his dead brother. It was a sort of surrogacy.

So the woman and the seven brothers die without producing an heir. When the resurrection happens, and here the Sadducees are probably snickering to themselves, whose wife will she be? She couldn’t possibly be married to all of them; that would be adultery! How can there be adultery in the resurrection? How can obedience to the biblical law in this life lead to disobedience to the biblical law in the resurrection? That’s exactly the situation we have in this scenario. Obviously, the Sadducees conclude, the resurrection cannot exist.

But Jesus refuted them, and quite easily actually. But he did it by dropping the bomb that destroys the hopes and dreams of every young, evangelical Christian. “When the dead rise,” he said, “they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” There will be no marriage in heaven. Or, to put it more accurately, romantic, sexual love, and the unique bond between two people that goes along with it, will not exist in the resurrection.

Now let me say this. If you find that thought so depressing, so repugnant, so distasteful, so disappointing that you don’t even want to participate in the resurrection anymore, then you have made marriage and romantic love into an idol. In fact, I believe one of the most powerful idols that afflicts young people, and especially young people today, especially Christian young people, is the idol of romantic love.

We put a lot of hope into romantic love. We think of it as normal. We think it’s our right to be loved, and to experience this romantic love, for all of our lives. But there’s a greater love, a better love than this, and too many of us are missing out on it because we’ve made romantic love an idol in our hearts.

The greater love is the agape love that we will experience with Jesus for eternity. At the end of the Bible there’s a wedding; the groom is Jesus, and the bride is the Church. But they’re not getting married under the compulsion of romantic love, but rather in the promise of agape love.

Agape love is the love of the cross. It’s the love that lays down its life, that forgives sins, and refuses to demand its rights. This is the love that Jesus made a reality for us when he died for our sins on the cross.

There won’t be marriage in the resurrection, because in the resurrection, agape love will replace romantic love. Romantic love is a shadow, a wonderful, exciting shadow, but still a shadow of the deep self-sacrificing love of God that we will all experience together, with God, for all eternity. We are invited to fully participate in divine love of the Trinity.

People hated Jesus. They tried to trap him. They wanted to kill him. This passage represents one of their best efforts at trapping him.

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him.

So now the religious leaders are pretty upset. They’re trying to trap Jesus with this question. If he said that it’s not right for the Jews to pay taxes to Caesar, then he would be arrested by the Romans, and potentially tried for insurrection. If he said that it is right to pay taxes to Caesar, then the people would reject him because they despised the pagan Romans, and deeply resented their presence in Israel. What’s he supposed to do? What can he say? There’s no way out of this conundrum.

Well, you can’t trap Jesus. He knew exactly what was going on, and he wasn’t going to be caught in their trap. So he had someone bring him one of the Roman coins, a denarius. “Whose image is this?” he asked.

“It’s Caesar’s,” they responded.

“Well then, give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

But he left something out. Where is God’s image inscribed? On us. On every human being on the face of the earth. Genesis 1 says that we are made in God’s image. We bear God’s inscription.

So everything that has Caesar’s image on it belongs to Caesar, but everything that has God’s image on it belongs to God. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Go ahead and give your money to Caesar. God doesn’t really care about that anyway. But give yourself to God. That’s what he wants. He’s not concerned about your taxes. He’s not concerned about the pagans collecting your money. He’s concerned about your generosity toward him. How much of yourself are you giving to God?

Are you being generous with yourself—your thoughts, your actions, your heart, your will, your talents, your gifts, your being, your future—are you being generous in giving yourself to God? You are made in the image of God. You belong to God. All of you.

There have been some dominant themes that, I believe, God has been trying to pound into our heads and hearts throughout the course of Ember’s existence. One of those themes is that God can change us at the level of our deep heart desires. He changes us through the power of the Gospel, through his grace and mercy seeping into the cracks of our hearts, our minds, our wills.

But in order to be changed we must give ourselves over to his grace. We must throw ourselves down at the foot of the cross, placing all of our trust, all of our hope, all of our dreams, all of our desires upon the broad and broken shoulders of Jesus. We must abandon our way of doing things, our agendas for this life, and throw ourselves fully onto the grace of God found only in his son, Jesus Christ.

I flew on my first business trip yesterday, leaving Columbus at 5:30 in the morning and getting into Savannah at 4:30. (It shouldn’t have taken that long, but that’s another story for another day.) The thing I love most about flying is being able to see the ground from 30,000 feet, especially at night. It’s breathtaking.

I know that God doesn’t live in the clouds, but when I think about God looking out over the earth, I always imagine him having this airplane-level view. He can see far more than we can see on the ground.

Many of Jesus’ parables offer a picture of life from God’s perspective. The parable of the vineyard, in Mark 12, is one of them.

1 Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.

9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.

Jesus just took the entire history of Israel and turned it into a parable. That’s what this is about. It’s about what the kings and leaders of Israel and Judah did to God’s prophets from the time of Elijah until the time of Jesus. They were stoned. They were impaled on spikes. They were sawn in half. They were thrown into pits and left to die. They were rejected, scorned, mocked, ridiculed. They were treated shamefully, beaten, killed. This was the pattern that existed in Israel for almost a millennium. God’s people killed God’s messengers.

It’s an interesting way to look at it, isn’t it? From God’s perspective? How often do you look at the circumstances and events of your life from God’s perspective? And if you were able to see your life through God’s eyes, what would you see? How would you see things differently?

The other night my wife and I were talking about stress, and the things that add stress to our lives. She talked about how she gets stressed when I’m in a bad mood, or when I’m angry. It doesn’t even have to be at her, but she still feels stressed and guilty. I said I feel the same way. When she’s stressed or frustrated, I have an emotional reaction to that, even when she’s not upset with me.

In that moment we experienced this wonderful thing called empathy. We understood each other. We saw things from one another’s perspective. And that felt like a relational breakthrough.

What we need in our relationship with God is empathy. We need to see things from his perspective. That’s what Jesus offers us in this parable. In fact, that’s what Jesus offers us in himself. He is God’s living and breathing perspective. He is God. Knowing Jesus, having a personal relationship with him, means empathizing with God.

And here’s the amazing thing about Jesus. Yes, he is God. But he is also human. And he empathizes with us. Jesus understands. Whatever you’re going through, Jesus gets it. He knows how it feels to be lonely, rejected. He knows the meaning of suffering. He was victimized. He was tortured. He was mocked. Jesus gets it. Jesus gets you.

Breena and I watched a movie the other night called Like Crazy. It was an interesting movie that I think I liked–a love story without being a chick flick. I don’t want to give anything away, in case you decide to spend the dollar and rent it from redbox. But I will say that it got me thinking about love and relationships.

You’ve probably heard it said before that, in the early stages of a relationship, you experience the emotional joys of being “in love”; later, however, if you want the relationship to work, you have to choose love. Eventually, love doesn’t come pouring out of your heart like a river at flood stage. You have to do things that nurture and foster love, even to the point of choosing love against your emotions and will.

This is true. Sorry to disappoint you, but the Hollywood love story is a myth. Happily ever after is hard work. But I want to look at this from a slightly different perspective.

What do we mean by “love”? What are we talking about when we talk about love? The trouble is, love is far too big a concept to be confined to one word. The Greeks knew this, and had four words that each defined part of the love spectrum.

The love that we often talk about is eros, or romantic love. This is the butterflies-in-your-stomach kind of love. It is erotic and sexual. It’s the love of every Hollywood love story.

The funny thing about eros is that it dominates then dissipates. At first, it’s all you feel for the other person. You’re captivated by them. You can’t help it. You think about them all the time. It’s always hot when they’re around. You just want to rip each other’s clothes off. This is normal. It’s good. You’re meant to feel this way…for a time.

But then…life happens. Your googley eyes return to normal. You’ve thoroughly digested most of the butterflies in your stomach. You stop feeling toward this person in such extremes. This is also normal. And good. eros is meant to fade. Not all the way, obviously. But it’s meant to become a healthy part of your love spectrum, not the only sort of love within it.

When eros doesn’t dominate anymore, it can feel like you’re falling out of love. You might even find yourself saying that you don’t love that person anymore, that they’re not “the one”, or that you just don’t feel it any longer. When this happens, it’s important to remember that eros isn’t the only kind of love. In fact, it’s not even the most powerful kind of love. When eros fades, there is a greater love ready to come in. That love is called agape.

I’ve written a lot about agape, especially as it pertains to God’s love toward us. (You can find the most definitive post here.) But agape is also the love that we are commanded to have toward one another, particularly between a husband and a wife. Agape is not so much a felt love as it is a willed love. We choose agape, often against our own wishes and desires.

When eros fades, that creates more opportunity for agape. A healthy marriage will have a good mix of both eros and agape, as well as the other kinds of love in the love-spectrum. As my own marriage grows and matures, I’ve found that choosing agape has led to feeling more eros. Making room for agape has actually created more space for eros. These two kinds of love are not mutually exclusive, but actually serve one another.

So, in your marriage, when you feel yourself “falling out of love”, choose to love your spouse in a new way. Choose agape.

I talk a lot about Jesus being King, both on this blog and at Ember. Last night, a friend asked me about the different images that language conjures up in people’s imaginations. What sort of King is Jesus, anyway? Is he like a medieval feudal king, a tyrant of sorts? Is he a tribal king? Is he a modern, royal figurehead type of king? Is he like the Roman emperor?

This is an important point, and I’m not entirely sure how to answer it. I suppose the image I think of when I talk about Jesus as King is Tolkien’s great literary character, Aragorn. We find ourselves at various points within the story, and so he is like Strider to some, like the king-in-exile to others, and like the conquering-hero-king to still others. The metaphor is imperfect in many ways, but this is helpful for me, at least.

Let me explain it another way. Jesus reigns as King in the same sort of way in which he became King–through his death and resurrection. Jesus’ reign continues in the same spirit in which it was inaugurated, through the humble exercise of self-sacrificing love that leads to victory over the power of death. Why should we expect Jesus to rule any differently than this? The “iron scepter” by which he governs is nothing other than his own cross.

What sort of King is Jesus? He is humble and self-sacrificing; then through that, he is powerful and strong. The power and sovereignty of Jesus exist on the far side of his humility and agape love, not his might. Remember the image of Revelation: On the throne was the lamb that was slain.

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