November 7, 2004
The Sadducees were a group at the time of Jesus who did not believe in the resurrection. In this respect, they disagreed with the Pharisees who believed that life would continue after death. In this debate, Jesus sided with the Pharisees, and that is why the Sadducees come to him in today’s gospel in order to question his teaching. He defends it and insists that there will be a resurrection. That belief has become a central part of the Christian message. We as Christians believe that death is not the end, but that we are called to eternal joy with God forever. Of course there is no way to prove this belief. We cannot demonstrate scientifically that there is life after death. In our worst moments, as we struggle with grief and loss, we might be tempted to doubt whether the promise of life eternal is real. So what can we do to deal with these doubts? What can we say that would, if not prove eternal life, nevertheless assist us in believing in it?
I would suggest that we consider two questions. The first question is this: Do you believe that God is loving you now? This question is at the heart of the gospel. It faces the believer with a choice between two alternative views of life: Are the events in our life the result of randomness and chance, or are they the result of a God who is guiding us and loving us?
The Christian believes that God is both Creator and Savior, that God has a plan for our lives, that God is in fact blessing us and loving us. Now of course this belief cannot be any more proven than the belief in eternal life. We cannot demonstrate scientifically how all the blessings of our life are the result of God’s love. Others could say we are just having a run of good luck. But what the believer can do is point to concrete people and circumstances in his or her life to support the belief in God’s love. Look at the way you first met your fiancé, spouse, or life long friend. Was that meeting by chance or was God loving you? When you hold a newly born child or grandchild in your arms, is that child you are holding the result of a random sequence, or is he or she a personal gift from a God who cares? Even as you struggle with the difficulties of life, with grief, with disease, and even death itself, look at the people in your life who continue to love you and support you. Is their presence in your life the result of good luck, or are they there because God is loving you?
When we clearly look at what we have received, how we have been blessed, the believer knows how to answer the first question: “Is God loving me now? Yes. I believe God is.” And once we answer that first question positively, we can move on to the second. If God is loving me now, why would God stop loving me after death? If God has blessed me with life, family, friends, talent, and happiness, why would God end those blessings when I die? The Christian of course believes that God will not stop, that God continues to bless us with the eternal gift of Heaven.
Now, as I have already said, these two questions do not prove that there is life after death. But taken together, they provide a suggestion that is based upon the consistency of God. If God is blessing and loving us now, why would we think that God would change? Christians believe that God does not change. Who God is for us will continue. Therefore, when you are tempted to doubt what will happen after death, look at what is happening before death. Ground yourself in a deep thankfulness for all you have received and how deeply you have been blessed. For the more that we can claim God’s love for us here and now, the easier it will be for us to believe that God will continue to love us forever.