When Hypocrites Conspire

Posted: December 20, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , , , , , ,

It is interesting as I do like to spend time just enjoying the themes and events of Advent, that is the time surrounding and leading up to the birth of Jesus. I find too often in our insta-world when you enter a Liturgical season, the minister tries to speed up the story so that those who may be in seasonal attendance get the full pitch from birth to death to resurrection, so they “don’t miss a chance” but in so doing there is something lost to those who regularly attend upon the journey. That is a long-winded intro to share that my reflection comes out of Luke 20, and y’all are clutching pearls on the hypocrisy of my earlier statement cause that chapter is so close to the end of the Gospel am I not fast forwarding?

Yes, but it is more about a teaching moment, and yes I would love to spend more time unpacking Advent itself, and searching through different topics on my site, and the Marian Theology you will find quite a bit. This however is about when they started to question Jesus’ authority, that is the religious leaders of the day. See as Luke opened up, there was a cousin that was 6 months older than Jesus, who Herod beheaded because John The Baptist called Herod out for probably killing his own brother to steal his wife and niece to be his own wives. I know? And Herod was Israel’s puppet king in place by Rome (mostly due to the shrewd politics of the Herod family that had them play all sides of a conflict to ensure they remained in power at the end, like munitions dealers today).

As we enter into Luke 20, Jesus has been doing his thing. Challenging his authority to teach and heal. See, it wasn’t that the religious “leaders” did not know the love laws of God, it was that they used them much the way many churches use them today. Not as a guide map to widen the kingdom welcome to all and to invest in the blessed mosaic of God’s children, but as a manual for exclusion. Jesus’ ministry was a direct challenge and cracks were appearing (see my writings on Belonging Pyramid). Leading up to our teaching today, Jesus is confronted in Luke 20: 1-8 where the chief priests come to inquire about who gave Jesus authority to do these things. Jesus turns the question on them by asking where John’s baptism was from heaven or human? It freezes them, for they know if they discredit John the Baptist they lose the people, but if they say it is from Heaven, they lose all power. It is a lose lose question for them to answer, so they do not. Then in 20:9-20 Jesus shares about the evil tenants, a story of a man whose vineyard needs help, so he leases to others, but these tenants refuse to follow through on the contract. When the owner sends a slave he is beaten and sent back, same with another, when he finally sends his son, they kill the kid. It is Jesus pointing to the religious leaders and saying this is your story of abusing the name of God to your own ends. The prophets were sent to get your hearts back on track, and you beat them…then you will kill me. It was not a well received parable. Then they try to catch him by asking about taxes, and Jesus points out that you do your duty as a good citizen, you pay your taxes, for it is the graven image of the Emperor so it is not God’s. It is also a backhanded slap against the temple who collected the annual offering to the Emperor to remember who truly their God is, and that they cannot ethically serve two masters (I wonder of the allegory of the tax exempt status of churches, and nation churches in our era around this?)…a building and conclusion outcome from the preceding parable.

That brings us to the teaching to unpack today:

27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “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. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’[b] 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

-Luke 20:27-40 (New International Version)

First a quick recap of major religious groups of the time in Judaism, and that Jesus was simply one of 400 that could’ve been the Messiah to the people. There was the Zealots, a rather militant wing of believers (think the IRA), then the Pharisees, who were literalists but probably the more liberal as they believed in a physical resurrection with the kingdom the Messiah would usher in, the Essene that retreated to the Wilderness, and then the Sadducees, those that were more legalistic than the Pharisees, and did not believe in a resurrection. That’s right, they are asking a question of Jesus that is precept on a foundation they do not believe in.

Then they share the holy practice of keeping when “out of exploitation” according to the religious societal custom of Israel. A woman was only there to have babies, so this bride was in shame not being able to produce an heir when her husband dies. The practice is for the next brother to take the wife in as their own spouse to produce an heir, and this may create a polygamous situation as the goal was for the wife not to be left outside the city as a beggar or to be sex trafficked (for this see the story of Tamar, Genesis 38). Unfortunately she outlived all 7 brothers, and still no heir. Now, the religious were not concerned about what is to happen to her upon the death of her 7th husband, no their concern is around resurrection and who she would be married to.

Jesus throws down at this point. You can almost see the head shake of “have I been talking to myself”. For he points out that the next life, and the life within the Kingdom is completely different than the twisted oppressive system that humans had created. There was not going to be a need for business style covenant marriages to ensure procreation, to treat women as less than and property.

Rather Jesus points out the glory that is God, and that all are created in God’s image. He then points out that the problem at the heart of the question, is that not all are equal so this woman had to enter into 6 other marriages, and no one is sure if she even wanted the first because she had no voice, no person-hood.

That was what astounded the crowds as Jesus as Rabbi. Brother Jesus, laid out that the core of what is needed is to see one another as full persons, and that would change the way society functions, and oppressive predatory practices would die.

The question left festering for those that oppressed though, was would they hear the words of God, or would they continue to serve power at all costs?


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