Sermon: One Wife and Seven Husbands

One Wife and Seven Husbands
Luke 20:27-38
6 November 2016

 Have you ever read the children’s book “Are You My Mother?” It was written by P.D. Eastman.  It is a book we used to read to our son when he was younger.  Here is a portion:

A mother bird sat on her egg.
The egg jumped.
Oh, oh. Said the mother bird.
My baby will be here.
He will want to eat. I must get something for my baby bird to eat.
Then she said. I will be back.
So away she went. The egg jumped.
It jumped and mumped and jumped.
Out came the baby bird.
He said, “Where is my mother?” He began to look for her. 

You see the baby bird didn’t know what his mother looked like. He left the nest in search of its mother.  In the next 40 pages the bird went to the following:

  • A Kitten
  • A Hen
  • A dog
  • A Cow
  • A Junk Car
  • And a Steam Shovel.

And the baby bird asked the same question to all of them. “Are you my mother?”  The answer was always the same: “No.”  Somewhat dejected, the baby bird finally found its way back to the nest.  Let me pick up the story on page 60.

Just then the mother bird came back to the tree.
She said to her baby. “Do you know who I am?”
The baby bird replied. “Yes I know who you are.
You are not a kitten. You are not a dog.  You are not a cow.  You are not a junk car or a steam shovel.  You are a bird and you are my mother. 

In today’s gospel we have something different. It is an “Are you my wife?” story.  It is about a question that the Sadducees asked Jesus.  My text is Luke 20:27-39.

 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28 and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30 then the second 31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”

34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” This is the Word of God.

When the Sadducees asked Jesus about marriage in the afterlife, they used a hypothetical question that the rabbis and their students would discuss at length. It was this question of 7 brothers and 1 wife.

The Sadducees did not expect Jesus to have an answer to the 7 brothers and one wife question. Their logic was this:  If the 7 husbands who were all married to this one woman at one time or another, The Sadducees figured that when they got to heaven there would be a problem and because heaven is a perfect place, it would be impossible to have chaos or disorder.  Therefore this illustration proves beyond a shadow of doubt that there was no heaven or life after death.

However Jesus’ answer elevated this discussion to a higher plane. He showed that in the age to come, people would not be involved in “marriage relationships” as we know it, but relationships would be at their ultimate best.

Most people seem to try to project earthly conditions into the heavenly state, like it is a continuation of what we have done here. I remember Sen Kennedy eulogizing his mother Rose at a church service and said his mother was in a kitchen above serving a meal to her husband Joe Sr. and her three sons Joe Jr, Jack, Bobby and sister Kathleen.  I completely understand why he said that; it makes heaven real.  But relationships would be different in heaven; they would be at their ultimate best.

When people read this gospel text and find out that there is no “marriage relationship” as we know it in heaven, there are usually several reactions. To those who have unhappy marriages or who are divorced, this may be greeted as good news.  But if a couple is deeply in love, it seems kind of sad.  Take heart and think about it this way: we will love each other more, and our relationships will be on a higher plane.

Our newly resurrected bodies will have increased capabilities to include an enlarged mental capacity to process and understand.

Have you ever been surprised by something because it was better than you had imagined. Perhaps you planned a vacation to an exotic place such as Hawaii, Bermuda, the Caribbean, Europe or the Fiji Islands; and when you got there, the weather, the scenery, the food and the atmosphere was much better than you had imagined.  For those of us who have loved ones who have died and are now with Christ, we will see them again.  We will recognize them; however their personalities will be more complete.

Over the years I have met some people who have had Near Death Experiences (NDE’s). The afterlife is very real for them; they saw either Christ or family members while there. The experience was so wonderful that they didn’t want to come back, but it wasn’t their time. After the experience, their relationship with God was deepened thanks to that brief glimpse of what is to come.

When Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States, he said, “I am interested in eternity because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.”

In 1996, Astronaut Shannon Lucid was part of a team that spent over 6 months aboard the Russian Space Station Mir. Shannon’s final ride home was delayed a month and a half due to a couple of hurricanes and assorted mechanical problems.  As the days wore on, Shannon knew where she wanted to be.  She wanted to be home with her family, to feel the sun and wind on her face and to read the latest new books.  Just before she was picked up by the Space Shuttle Atlantis, Shannon said, “You can be rest assured that I am not going to be on the wrong side of the hatch when they close it.”

Well, there is another important door in her future and for us as well. It is the door of heaven.  We should do whatever it takes to make sure we are on the right side of heaven’s door before it shuts for the last time.

The promise of heaven is not to be spoken of just at Memorial or Funeral Services or for those who are under hospice care.  The promise affects the way we live out our existence.

  • We live that promise.
  • We make decisions in that promise.
  • We sort out our values in that promise.
  • We live with others in that promise.


The promise of eternal life is not a pie in the sky hope for those who are getting ready to meet their Maker. The promise was given to us at our Baptism and when we make a profession of faith.

There are many areas in our lives in which we can afford to make mistakes, but, when it comes to eternal life, this is one area that we have to get right. Once we have crossed over, we can’t go back and do it over again.  Even though we don’t have all the answers of what heaven is like, we do have the hope and promise of a glorious life.  In the meantime, let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling.