The Most Desirable Spouse
May 10, 2020 | Randy Smith
The Most Desirable Spouse
Mother's Day • Sunday, May 10, 2020
Pastor Randy Smith
Happy Mother’s Day!
I know some other pastors are preaching topical messages during the COVID pandemic. I’ve considered it, but it seems week-to-week as we stay in the gospel of Luke that the Lord has been presenting us specific teaching for practical instruction and encouragement as it pertains to this trial.
Though I can’t say it’s an overused phrase, we continually hear of the need to look to the Lord. In other words, because He is sovereign over germs and government and health, we can live in confidence and not run around with the fear and anxiety that many are facing. We might not have all the specific answers, but we have the general answer that God is working, and He will bring good out of this awful situation. We walk by faith and not by sight.
And if you consider the past few weeks, all of us have seen the tough times in our sight. Realtime situations that seem bleak and hopeless. Painful events that transpired. Times where it appeared that God was defeated by a news outlet or politician or a microscopic virus . Yet we have faith God is working.
Consider our recent biblical lessons. It was tragic that the vineyard workers would plot and eventually kill the owner’s son in 20:9-19. Yet this was God’s plan. This is how God used the “free acts” of evil men to fulfill His greatest purposes in putting Christ on the cross. The stone the builders rejected would become the cornerstone.
And then last week in 20:20-26 it seemed as if the creation cornered the Creator. How would Jesus answer the question (verse 22) if it were lawful to pay taxes to Caesar? “Yes,” and it appears He is not the Messiah. “No,” and it guarantees the Romans will kill Him. Both of which the enemies of Jesus wanted.
God was trapped. Or was He? Verse 25, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Verse 26, “And being amazed at His answer, they became silent.” In a crisis, just two days before suffering on the cross we see our Lord confident, fearless and wise. He is never caught off guard, never defeated.
We see in just these two examples how God used the darkest times to display His greatest glory and bring the greatest good to His people. Today’s passage is no different.
We can see in verse 27 that a different sect of religious leaders, the Sadducees, now take their shot to corner Jesus. Verse 27 also tells us that they did not believe in the resurrection which precipitates their question. No doubt this wasn’t the first time they posed this riddle. This was their best question to prove their point and trap Jesus. Apparently, they never received a sufficient answer to defeat their argument.
You see, a lot back then rested on having a son to carry on the family name and preserve a man’s legacy. There was even a provision in Scripture (Deuteronomy 25) that expected a dead man’s brother to marry his deceased brother’s wife to care for her and produce a male child for the man (we see that in verse 28).
So here comes their fabricated story in verses 29-32. The first man dies, and his brother marries his former wife. He dies and another brother marries the wife. And this happens to all seven brothers. You’ve got to wonder what was up with this lady! I’m sure the last few entered the marriage with fear and trepidation. Eventually the wife dies too after being married to all seven of the brothers.
Question, verse 33, “In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”
You get it. If the resurrection is true and there is an afterlife, which of the seven men will be the wife’s husband for the rest of eternity? Trapped you, Jesus, as they congratulated themselves with a smirk on their faces.
So how is Jesus going to respond?
First, as stated in Mark and Matthew, He rebukes them for being ignorant. “You do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God” (Mk. 12:24; cf. Mt. 22:29).
Second in Luke 20:37-38, Jesus specifically rebukes these guys focused on death for not understanding that God is a God “of the living” (verse 38). A God of the living will not abandon His people in the grave. Death does not destroy but enhances our relationship with God. The greatest enemy becomes the greatest friend. If God binds Himself to people in an eternal covenant relationship, there has to be a resurrection.
And third, because the afterlife is not comparable to this present life. In other words, the future in heaven is not just a routine continuation of life here on earth.
Look at verses 35–36. “But those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”
Why is the Sadducees’ question a ridiculous question contrary to God’s power and the Scriptures? Because the afterlife is a complete overhaul of this life. Too often, even believers think of heaven as a downgrade to life on earth. And to many, the fact that there is no marriage (and the physical aspects that go with it) only adds to the disappointment.
Yet the Scriptures teach just opposite. God’s power demands the opposite. We should live not in light of this life with heaven thrown in (i.e. it’s better than going to hell), but rather life in light of the life to come with this world thrown in. And that is where Jesus goes regarding marriage. So, on the Mother’s Day, let’s take some time to look into the concept of marriage more deeply within this biblical context.
Sadly, our world has completely lost a biblical understanding of marriage. Unfortunately, many in the church have as well. God is the one who ordained marriage and therefore to correctly understand marriage we must look to Him for its definition and meaning.
We go back to the time of creation. The man was created first and his solitude was shown to be not good. It was not good for the man to be alone. So, God in His goodness would create the perfect complement. God would make an individual (like him but different) that would be perfectly suited for him – a wife. God brought the woman to the man and God the Father gave away the first bride. The couple was commanded to be fruitful and multiply. And couples from then on would leave their parents and produce a new identity of their own. It would be a human union unlike any other where in the eyes of God they would become one flesh. And what God has joined together in this mysterious union, man is not to separate.
Do you see how marriage is all of God’s doing? It is His institution, His definition of one man and one woman and His weaving of two people together. Marriage is from Him. Marriage is through Him. And marriage is for Him. The primary purpose of marriage is that it exists to display His glory. The primary purpose of marriage is to put on display the relationship that He in Jesus Christ has for His bride, the church. Marriage is a visual illustration of the Gospel.
Think about it!
Why is our union with our spouse the most important human relationship? Do we dare assume another human relationship is more important than our union with Christ which marriage represents?
What’s wrong with adultery? Does that display the covenant fidelity that God has with His people?
What’s wrong with fornication? Does intimacy with Christ happen before we have a covenant relationship with Christ?
What’s wrong with homosexual or polygamous so-called marriages? Do those display Christ and His bride?
Why do we have marital roles within marriage? Does the church lead Christ or does Christ lovingly and sacrificially lead the church?
Why must spouses love and forgive one another? Does Christ do any less for the church?
Why does God forbid divorce? Does Christ divorce the church or the church divorce Christ?
Marriage is intended to put Christ’s covenant love, the gospel, on display for His ultimate glory. And when our marriages fail to do that, we not only have personal heartache, but we also fail to show the world the truth about Jesus Christ and the way He relates to His people.
So, the Sadducees are arguing about the prospects of marriage in heaven. Jesus replies in verse 35 and says their question is fundamentally wrong. That there is no human marriage as we know it in heaven. Human marriage in heaven misses the entire plan of God. Why?
One, because the love that we will have for one another in heaven far surpasses the love we have even for our spouse here on earth. In heaven it’s sinless mutual love with only Jesus as personal favorite.
Second, as Jesus says in verse 36, we will be like the angels. That’s not that we will become angels (that would technically be a downgrade), but we will be like the angels in that we never die. Obviously if we never die, there is no need for reproduction.
And third, marriage is for verse 34 “the sons of this age.” It is an earthly institution. It is a very good institution, but it is earthly , temporary in that is applies only to life in this world. As I mentioned, marriage is a sign to point to something far greater. So, when the fullness of time comes and evangelism ceases and we are perfectly redeemed and we are living in the reality of the gospel promises, there is no longer any need for the sign. We have already arrived at the destination.
I believe the main thrust of our Lord’s teaching here is that we must all get our eyes on the things to come. We must understand that they transcend in greatness anything that we can imagine. 1 Corinthians 2:9, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” We must see this life not as the prize, but rather preparation for the best that is still yet to come.
Life is a wonderful gift, but so much this side of heaven is unfulfilling, temporary and even disappointing. Even marriage is fraught with imperfections. It is finite. Yes, it is an unwavering covenant we make with one another until death does us part, but it is still a temporary covenant we make with one another until death does us part.
Our hope is always in resurrection and the life to come. Not as an extension of this life, but a new life with new bodies and new desires and new understandings where we live by sight and faith will be no more.
And this is how Jesus ultimately turns the question of the Sadducees back on themselves. While they are playing their little “got-ya” games with their trite theological questions, Jesus indirectly asks them the deepest question, the one they should ultimately consider in verse 35. Don’t assume heaven. Ask yourself if you are “worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead.”
Of course, none of us are. But the very One they were opposing was the only hope they had. As Jesus said in John 11, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (Jn. 11:25-26). We need God to adopt us into His family so we can go beyond “sons of this age” (verse 34) beyond the status of “angels” (verse 36) to be called “sons of God” (verse 36).
It’s not about being an earthly father with a future lineage. It’s not even about our earthly marriage. It’s about understanding Jesus and everything marriage illustrates pertaining to Him. It is about a loving God who would lay His life down for us, pay for our sins and offer us a relationship that we can receive by faith. It’s about being married to the living God Himself for all of eternity. That is our hope as we tarry here on earth.
John Piper’s book “This Momentary Marriage” was a reference and explains much of this in further detail.