Resurrection & its Christian Shape – Part 1

Over the past few weeks we have explored Jewish views of both “life after death” and “life after ‘life after death’” – a.k.a. resurrection.

  • We saw how exile influenced the development of resurrection, both as simply a metaphor for return and restoration and as a literal bodily resurrection.
  • We then saw how in the 2nd Temple Period, resurrection moved into the front of Jewish thought.
  • And as views of resurrection developed and took hold in Jewish thought, history was moving ever closer to Easter Sunday – not a coincidence.
  • So all the views of resurrection were in place, to both accommodate what happened to Jesus, or to be redefined and turned on their head by what happened to Jesus.

 

 

1) JEWISH RESURRECTION RECAP

 

We saw that 2nd Temple views of resurrection contained at least 10 things.

  1. The hope of an actual bodily resurrection for the individual.
  2. Judgment of the wicked – the pagan.
  3. Vindication of the righteous – the Jew.
  4. It is grounded in YHWH’s power – the same power that led the Jews out of Egypt; the same power that created the world and everything in it.
  5. It serves as a metaphor for Return and Restoration of the Nation, Land and People of Israel.
  6. It’s corporate in scope – all the righteous Jews and wicked pagan’s we be resurrected at one time for judgment or vindication.
  7. No one thought the Prophets, Moses or David were already raised or would be ahead of anyone else.
  8. Resurrection hope was separate from Messianic hope. “There are no traditions about a Messiah being raised to life: most Jews of this period hoped for resurrection, many Jews of this period hoped for a Messiah, but nobody put those two hopes together…” – N.T. Wright.
  9. There are two “ages” the “present age” and the “age to come” – resurrection was the dividing line so no resurrection means still the “present age”.
  10. Likewise, with resurrection comes the “age to come” where, importantly, everything would be “put right”.

 

As we said last week, we simply can’t think of resurrection as only referring to a bodily rising.

  • And we will find that the same is true for resurrection after Christ.
  • We cannot make the mistake of thinking only about Jesus coming out of the grave.
  • We will see over the coming weeks that to do so is to misunderstand and misapply the massive implications of what happened on Easter Sunday.

 

 

2) JESUS AND RESURRECTION

 

Jesus’ Bold Claim:

  • Mark 8:31 (ESV) — 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
  • Matthew 17:22–23 (ESV) — 22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.
  • Luke 18:31–34 (ESV) — 31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

 

So, Jesus clearly taught that His life would culminate in an unjust death.

  • And then, importantly, that He and thus His Messianic “Kingdom of God Movement” would be vindicated through resurrection – Wright.
  • But, oddly, we see from Luke’s text that the disciples were a little perplexed.
  • What are some reasons the disciples did “not grasp” what Jesus was telling them?
    • Hint – look at the 10 things resurrection was for the 2nd Temple Jew.

 

Jesus’ Bold Move:

Matthew 19:28–30 (ESV) — 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

 

This text does not speak of resurrection directly.

  • And yet, knowing what we know now about the meaning of Jewish resurrection, we can see that Jesus is revealing something about the implications of resurrection.
  • How so?

 

The “…will inherit eternal life” (vs. 29) phrase is our clue.

  • The Greek here is “zoe aionios”.
  • This is mistakenly thought of by us as referring to a life lived forever in heaven.
  • To read it this way is to misunderstand the implications of Jesus’ words.
  • Wright says the literal translation should be “life pertaining to the age” or “life in the age to come”.
  • In other words, it is a life lived forever in an “age” different from the “present age”, but in an “age to come”.
  • The BDAG characterizes this “age” as “in the Reign of God”.
  • The NT and Jesus Himself characterize this “age” as the “Kingdom of God”.

 

So knowing what we do about the 2nd Temple view of “ages” – the context in which Jesus was operating – we can begin to see why this text has resurrection overtones.

  • Any talk of a “new age” means that resurrection is necessarily in play.
  • Resurrection is what occurs to usher in the “new age”.
  • Additionally, the text speaks of the “zoe aionios” as containing judgment – “judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (vs. 28).
  • The talk of judgment also means resurrection is in play.
  • The righteous are vindicated and the wicked are punished at the resurrection.
  • And interestingly, vs. 30 hints that judgment will contain some surprises – “first will be last, and the last first”.

 

But here is what is remarkable about Jesus’ talk of the “age to come” and judgment…

  • He centers both on these words – “for my names sake” (vs. 29).
  • In other words, He claims that judgment and eternal life in the “age to come” center on Him.

“The main thrust of this passage is, in fact, to assure Jesus’ followers of that which was normally assured to ‘all Israel’; this is part of the extraordinary redefinition of Israel around Jesus himself…” – N.T. Wright.

  • This is an absolutely extraordinary thing to do!
  • Jesus is radically claiming that Israel’s relationship to the “age to come” hinges on its relationship to Him.
  • Is it any wonder the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was teaching?
    • Something needed to happen to bring it all together for them.

 

Jesus’ Bold Teaching – Sadducees Get “Served”:

Mark 12:18–27 (ESV) — 18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven [immortal – will not die]. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

 

What just happened?

  • Jesus schooled the Sadducees in both the nature of the resurrection body and the fact of resurrection.

In scholarly speak, “Jesus first rebuts the Sadducees’ conclusion by [1] postulating a discontinuity between the present embodiment and the future one, and, [2] second, quotes a passage of scripture which he takes to imply resurrection” – N.T. Wright.

 

Point 1 – Marriage and Resurrection:

The conservative Sadducees bust out some Torah on this liberal, Pharisaic-like Jesus fellow.

  • Deuteronomy 25:5 (ESV) — 5 “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.

 

Having learned what we did about the great hope of the Jew – people, nation and land.

  • What is the significance of this passage?
  • In this context, their question seems fair enough.
  • But Jesus points out something about resurrection that makes their point moot.

 

Children, for the Jew, were the way to continue in the hope of people, nation and land.

  • “Live long and have children” was, early on, their greatest hope – not life after death.
  • So, thanks to Moses, even if a husband died before impregnating his wife, no worries.
  • His brother could continue his name by taking her as his own.

 

The Sadducees come up with a comic caricature of this process playing out by killing off one brother after another as each marries the widow.

  • So they want to know when the seven brothers and the one woman are resurrected, to which of the seven brothers will she be married to.

 

Jesus reveals that their question shows they neither know Scripture or the “power of God”.

  • In response to whose wife she will be, Jesus says, “they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (vs. 25).
  • In other words, something is quite different about the resurrection body.
  • It, like angels, is immortal.
  • It will not, as Paul would later say, see corruption.
  • Therefore, there will be no need for marriage.

 

Why Not?

  • Marriage was the context in which children were born.
  • And, as we discussed already, children were how the people, land and nation were carried forward.
  • But since the resurrection body will not die, this is no longer a concern in the “age to come”.
  • And because of this marriage is unnecessary.

“A key point, often unnoticed, is that the Sadducees’ question is not about the mutual affection and companionship of husband and wife, but about how to fulfill the command to have a child, that is, how in the future life the family line will be kept going” – N.T. Wright.

 

Point 2 – Resurrection Itself:

Jesus then turns His attention from marriage to resurrection itself.

  • He asks the Sadducees if they have “not read in the book of Moses” (vs. 26).
  • He knew they obviously had done so, and that they would have known the text He cited.
  • Exodus 3:6 (ESV) — 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

 

Jesus logically concludes that if God is not the God of the dead, but the living, then the patriarchs are still alive.

  • “But that is not the end of the actual argument.” – N.T. Wright.

“The patriarchs are still alive, and therefore will be raised in the future. Prove the first, and (within the worldview assumed by both parties in the debate, and any listening Pharisees) you have proved the second” – N.T. Wright.

 

Why?

  • Because both the Sadducees view and the Pharisaical resurrection tradition rejected the pagan belief that life after death was the end game.
    • The Sadducees thought death, sleep, was it.
    • The Pharisees believed life after death was merely an intermediate state to be followed by resurrection.
    • So if it is true that the patriarch’s were still “alive”, then it is also true that they will be resurrected to new bodily life.

 

Jesus’ Bold Switcheroo:

Matthew 12:39–42 (ESV) — 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

 

Again, Jesus speaks of his resurrection.

  • And He, like His Pharisee audience, also associates judgment with a bodily resurrection.
  • But then he pulls a switcheroo on them.
  • “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it” (vs. 41)
  • The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it” (vs. 42).
  • Instead of a Jewish vindication and a judgment of the wicked pagans, Jesus radically teaches that the pagan Gentile “men of Nineveh” and “queen of the South” will judge “this generation” of Jews.
  • Neither Matthew nor Luke records the reaction of the Pharisees, but they must have freaked out.

 

Jesus’ Bold “Present-Future”:

John 5:24–29 (ESV) — 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

 

Jesus continues to speak of resurrection in terms of vindication and judgment.

  • But in verse 24, He makes a rather peculiar claim.
  • He says that the one who believes has, in some sense, “eternal life” now.
  • He says that those who believe have already, in some sense, “passed from death to life”.
  • N.T. Wright puts it as follows, “the note of present, albeit partial, fulfillment is heard” – N.T. Wright.

 

Summary of Jesus and Resurrection:

Jesus’ view of resurrection, then, was similar in many ways to the typical Pharisaical views of resurrection.

  • Yet it also differed significantly.
  • The typical Jew would have been confused by Jesus’ claim that He would be raised from the dead ahead of everyone else.
  • They would also have been troubled by Jesus’ claim that He will be the hinge on which the “age to come” will turn.
  • Jesus also gave us some insight into the nature of resurrection life when He spoke of no need for marriage.
  • He also introduced the radical idea that Gentiles would sit in judgment of Jews.
  • And finally, Jesus spoke of the “age to come” associated with resurrection as somehow breaking into the present.

 

Next week we will explore how Paul brought all the threads of Jewish resurrection and Jesus’ resurrection together to give the Christian view of resurrection its shape.