My father always said marriage is a wonderful institution, that is, as long as you don’t mind living in an institution.
There are many truisms about marriage: Married men live longer than single men, or at least, it seems longer.
Some marriages are always on the rocks: Comedian Wendy Liebman says she went through a messy divorce. She says, “It was messy because there was a child involved…my husband.”
There was an off-Broadway hit called Old Jews Telling Jokes. Here’s one of them: During a bank robbery, the robber’s mask fell off. He put it back on, turns to a man, and says, “Did you see my face?” The man says, “Yes, I did.” The robber shoots him. He turns to a woman, “How about you?” She says, “No. But my husband did.” (Readers Digest USA).
Some marriages last. I’ve learned the secret. When we go anywhere, we always hold hands. If I let go, she shops.
We will celebrate our forty-second anniversary next month. I asked my wife, “Where do you want to go for our anniversary?” She said, “Somewhere we’ve not been in the last year or two!” I suggested to her, “How about the kitchen?” (I’m going to pay for that one!)
Members of a religious group called the Sadducees asked Jesus a question about marriage. The Sadducees were the religious conservatives of Jesus’ time. They were the kind that never asked a question without already knowing the answer and being ready to correct someone who didn’t have their answer. For the Sadducees, if it was not in the Torah, the books that Moses wrote, then it was not crucial to the faith. None of these five books say anything about resurrection or immortality of the soul. Therefore they thought these things should not be taught as part of the faith. They didn’t believe in an afterlife. No heaven or hell. Get what you can get today.
So they ask Jesus this long involved and ridiculous question about a poor woman who was caught in a cultural practice in which she was married to one man, he died, and so she was taken in by each of six brothers who died in succession. They asked, “Who would she be married to in the hereafter?”
Jesus answered, “It’s going to be a whole new ballgame for those who “are considered worthy,” so don’t worry about marriage in heaven.
And then he answered their real question before they could even start their argument: Is there life after death or not? Jesus said, “The evidence is right there in your Bible, written by Moses. Life does exist after death. When at the burning bush, God said, ‘I am . . .(not I was) . . .the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. God is not a God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all [of these men who lived long ago] are alive.’”
I think there are several kinds of death. And God will remain your God after all three kinds. First, there is a thing called spiritual death. Jesus told a story about spiritual death in the parable of the Prodigal Son. A son demanded his inheritance, left home, squandered his inheritance with wild living, and ended up living in mud. If you are not living the quality of life God wants for you, the kind of life for which Jesus was the perfect example, then you are dead to the abundance God wants for you. Money and parties and wild living are not true life. They don’t bring peace, love, contentment, patience.
Resurrection from spiritual death began for the wayward son when he came to his senses and returned home. He finally was able to see the good life was available to him in his father’s house. His father excitedly welcomed him home. The father said, “This my son was dead, and now he is alive again.” He was dead. Spiritually dead. And now he was rising from the dead. Resurrection is about rising up out of a life that is not abundant, knowing our heavenly Father is always willing to give us another chance at the good life.
A second kind of death we experience is emotional death. Many of you understand, after losing the love of your life, how the abundant life seems impossible. Why go any further? And yet, with the help of family and friends, light gradually overcomes the darkness.
That’s one kind of emotional resurrection – there is life after a good marriage. And then there’s life after a not-so-good marriage. After that emotional trauma, there appears to be no life to be lived. There is life after a failed marriage. There is resurrection – the chance to breathe new air and start anew.
And there’s a third kind of death from which we see resurrection — physical death. In 2005, Burke Aldridge was diagnosed with cancer. His wife (Faye) said she fully expected God to perform a miracle. “I just believed against all odds that God would heal him,” she said. “Death is not the end. I expressed my faith. I covered him in the word of God. I read the Bible to him every day.”
But things progressed very fast. Knowing he was in the final stages of cancer, he promised to send his wife a fax from heaven. She assumed it was just the morphine talking. Twenty-one days after his diagnosis, he was dead, at fifty-three years of age. Then a strange thing happened. Within hours of being pronounced dead at the hospital, oncologist and neurosurgeon, two men who had never met each other, both swore Burke Aldridge paid them a visit at their homes before either of them even knew he was dead. In both instances the doctors said his visit was brief and his message of peace and comfort was concise. And both doctors sent the news of his visits to Faye, letting her know by way of — fax.
That pretty well convinced her and gave her peace in knowing that there is resurrection from physical death. This is not an isolated story. We hear it over and over again.
Yes, we know Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, and the disciples, and others, after he died showing them there is life after death. But it appears that it continues to happen today. Some people believe it and some people don’t.
There is life after death. There is resurrection from spiritual death. Every day there’s a new chance to rise up and experience the kind of life God wants for you now. There is resurrection after emotional death. Life goes on with the help of friends and loved ones carrying you through tough times. And there is resurrection after we leave these mortal bodies.
There is hope for every kind of death we face. Resurrection is at hand.