We continue our Fall preaching series on DISCIPLESHIP, the seventh part entitled: DISCIPLES are prophets.
A prophet is a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God. Surely some of you are already thinking, how can I be a prophet? I’m having a hard enough time just being a simple believer – and you want me to be a teacher or proclaimer of the will of God – forget it!
Many people think of prophets as fortunetellers who predict the future. In reality, they are much more like social critics or op-ed writers. They challenge political and religious leaders and their people to do what God wants them to do. They frequently attack political and economic elites for not taking care of the poor. They even criticize foreign entanglements and wars. And they frequently do it with harsh words.
I think that in a way, prophets do speak about the future by reminding the people of their time that should the positive and necessary changes not happen here and now, today, there will be consequences, even negative ones in the future. In a real way, prophets challenge us to see the big picture.
The Old Testament reading today tells us the tragic story of the martyrdom of a mother and her seven sons – tortured for not breaking their faithfulness to God’s law. Listen again to their conviction:
You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life,
but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.
It is for his laws that we are dying.
Theologically, the major aspects of the second book of Maccabees that resonated with Roman-era Christians and medieval Christians were its stories of martyr-ology and the resurrection of the dead. Christians often gave sermons and comparisons of Christian martyrs to the Maccabean martyrs, along with the hope of an eventual salvation – underlining their belief in the resurrection.
The Maccabean faithfulness to their belief in God’s law directed their actions, guided their words, and gave them the courage to face the consequences of their actions, even and including torture and death. Unlike many who would change with every wind and whim of the temporary trends and leaders of the times, these Maccabean martyrs saw the big picture and kept their eyes on the goal.
Today’s Gospel from Luke is the story about the Sadducees questioning Jesus about the resurrection. The Sadducees weren't really concerned about how to word the wedding vows. They were using the wedding example as a way to discredit Jesus' teachings. The Sadducees appear as opponents of belief in the resurrection, a doctrine which was held by Jesus, and ridiculed it by citing a possible, but far-fetched case, which makes nonsense of it. The Sadducees are part of a trend of trying to trap Jesus at this point in Luke's gospel. We even read further on in Luke:
From that point on, the chief priests, the scribes and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him (19:48).
So, as he teaches in the Temple, various groups come to try to trap him with questions about his authority, about paying taxes, and now, about resurrection.
Remember, the Sadducees are different from the Pharisees. They didn't believe in the Resurrection, and so they were “sad”. And Jesus counters their attempt to trap him with a scriptural story that affirms that which they did not believe: the reality of the life to come, but one in which current relationships take on a different form. He exposes them to the bigger picture.
What is our bigger picture? What are the things that we hold on to dearly? Are we like the people in the time of Maccabees who switch and sway with the temporary trends of the times, the newest fads, the cliché words, movements and thoughts, or our lives grounded in the big picture and the promise of Jesus?
As disciples, as disciples who are called to be prophets, that’s our task … to teach belief in and proclaim that our goal is heaven … resurrection and life forever with Jesus and all the saints.
My friends, let’s be prophets!