Why Did You Ask Me That?Fr. Barnabas Powell
I love Oliver Twist. It’s a great story about confronting a system that had grown inhuman because of an attempt to reduce persons to mere cogs in a machine. Ah the joys of the Industrial Revolution. Our hero, Oliver, does what he wasn’t “suppose” to do; he asks for “more” and that one request starts us off down the path of revealed hearts, weak morals, and true repentance.
But, just like the our hero in Oliver Twist and his inconvenient request for “more please”, sometimes asking inconvenient questions reveals something very important.
So, why is it we avoid asking inconvenient questions. Or maybe they are just uncomfortable questions. Questions that get to the heart of a real injustice, or a deep seated prejudice, or even a real life-stalling behavior? Why are we moderns always in therapy but never getting really free?
What will it take for us to confront some inconvenient questions in our own lives, or better yet, what will it take for us to finally “hear” the answer to uncomfortable questions? That last question was a bit uncomfortable for me!
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Luke 20:27-44. Here’s just a portion of the passage:
“At that time, there came to Jesus some Sadducees, those who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the wife and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and died without children; and the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.’ And some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ For they no longer dared to ask him any question.”
Here Jesus is being challenged by a group of religious leaders called Sadducees. These people, frankly they were the intelligentsia of their day and the most influential group in the leadership of Israel at the time. Their claim to intellectual superiority was their insistence that the Jewish religion limit its teachings to the books of Moses, the first five books of our Old Testament (I really don’t like that phrase, preferring “First Testament” but that’s a discussion for another day). Because of this they had no teachings about a resurrection of the dead in their religious philosophy. In fact, they made fun of any notion of resurrection. They felt any talk of a resurrection of the dead or eternal life was a distraction from the here and now. Boy were they wrong. Turns out the “here and now” is where we prepare for the “later on!” But I digress!
Using only their own recognized Holy Scriptures, the Lord Jesus turns this “hypothetical” question meant to back the Lord into a corner into an embarrassing silence from these “oh so smart” religious leaders. He also confronts their misplaced confidence in their own superiority by saying “but to those who are accounted worthy” clearly confronting these proud leaders with their own need to empty themselves of their arrogance and pride so they can “hear” the answer the Lord gives. He invites them, as He invites us today, to follow His example of emptying ourselves of our pride, our ego, our own self assured notions, and confront the invitation to hear piercing answers to inconvenient questions.
Today, our journey to Bethlehem’s Manger confronts us with the inconvenient question of our priorities, our motives, and our desires. If God really has come among us and united our human flesh to His divinity in His Son, then what will we do with this news? How will we respond to such love and power? Answering those inconvenient questions at this time of year invites you to be Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Here’s a note we received from someone supporting our Video Project: “The initial video taught me more about my faith and hope this journey is the start of a beautiful path for many more.” We have a very generous challenge gift till the end of the year. All donations will be matched up to $25,000 toward our funding goal of $85,000. Just go to www.JourneytoFullness.com and find out more! Have a great week.