Red Letter Year: 2/18

Mark 12:13-27

13 Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 14 “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”

Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” 16 When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

17 “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

His reply completely amazed them.

18 Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: 19 “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name. 20 Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children. 21 So the second brother married the widow, but he also died without children. Then the third brother married her. 22 This continued with all seven of them, and still there were no children. Last of all, the woman also died. 23 So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.”

24 Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God. 25 For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—haven’t you ever read about this in the writings of Moses, in the story of the burning bush? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said to Moses, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 27 So he is the God of the living, not the dead. You have made a serious error.”


The key to the first part of today’s reading is the understanding that all humans – male and female – are created in the image of God. This comes out of the creation narratives of Gen. 1 and 2. Jesus’ answer amazes them, not least because he is the only one who seems to have remembered and applied an understanding they all shared. These things we believe are not just things to memorize. There’s no heaven-SAT, where entrance depends on how much doctrine you can correctly identify. These things either inform how we live our everyday lives or else they are completely worthless.

The second part is different though. No clear understanding about the afterlife emerges in the Hebrew Scriptures or was in place in Jesus’ day. We can see this much from the ongoing debate between the Pharisees and Sadducees. Here Jesus clearly teaches, what he shortly after demonstrates, bodily resurrection of the dead. The Gospels and Paul are very direct in teaching this. But many who believe in Jesus persist in thinking in terms of a future that involves a soul-only existence; the eternal soul has more hold on our imaginations than resurrection of the body (remember the Patrick Swayze movie, Ghost?). This is another case of our doctrines not informing our actual lives. If bodies aren’t resurrected, then they’re not as important, then it doesn’t matter so much what we do to them or with them. Hear Jesus today. The power of God does not bypass the body. It resurrects the body.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

the importance of the body

The other day I tweeted that I have noticed a troubling trend among my theology students: too few understand or even speak of the resurrection of the body. Most will acknowledge it after I point it out, but by default they tend to discuss the afterlife in terms of a body-less existence. Here are a few more thoughts on that.

In neglecting the teaching of the resurrection of the body, I think we show how little we appreciate the importance of the body – the human body – in the Christian faith. Christianity (especially in its north American Protestant-evangelical form) has become too much of a cognitive religion, more about thinking (we call it believing) the right things, less about doing things that demonstrate trust (what the Bible means by believing) in the Lord. This brings us much too close to the ancient heresy of Gnosticism. In this form of Christianity, we are less able to account for the fact that most acts of sin are bodily acts (e.g., adultery, lust) or involve physical objects (e.g., stealing, coveting).

We are also unable to account for the fact the Jesus required his followers to engage in acts that were primarily physical in orientation, e.g., feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick or imprisoned, laying hands on the sick and healing them of physical ailments. These are things Jesus did and set his followers to doing. Some of them we still do, but we often fail to understand the spiritual import of such acts precisely because we have severed the connection between the physical and spiritual in our thinking. They were not separate in Jesus’ thinking. Feeding the hungry was not some side project for Jesus, he set it as one of the fundmental criteria on which we will be judged – as in eternally judged.

Visiting those who are sick or in prison is not just a nice thing to do, it is a fundamentally spiritual act. Laying hands on someone who is sick and praying for them is a physical act that invokes real spiritual power to gain a phyiscal result. Does that even make sense to us? Or has the physical been so divorced from the spiritual that we cannot even imagine such a thing happening? Is this perhaps why we don’t see it happening?