CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…
WHOSE WIFE, ANYWAY? [T, 5-8-18]
No, this is not about Henny Youngman saying, “Take my wife… please.”
A young friend recently wrote to ask a question. He and his wife had been watching a movie in which the main character’s wife died, and he remarried. He loved both women. So, she asked, what about in the life to come? How will they work that out?
Here is what I wrote to him:
The Bible has little to say about this question, and Jesus doesn’t mention it, except in answer to a question when the righteous folks were trying to trip him up to prove he wasn’t as smart as common folks thought he was.
That story is in the 6th chapter of Matthew, along about verse 20. Family was the only economy of the time, so if a woman were widowed, she had no means of support. So The Law provided. Her husband’s brother had to marry her, which meant taking her into his household so she could eat. So, the scribes and Pharisees ask Jesus, what if her husband had six brothers and each of them in turn dies. So,” in the resurrection,” whose wife will she be?
Jews throughout Old Testament times were not particularly interested in afterlife, and were vague about it. By the time of Jesus, though, the idea of resurrection had taken currency. It was, however, a fairly primitive physical body resurrection—we shall be exactly as we are now, physically, after the resurrection. So “whose wife” was a practical, and reasonable, and difficult question.
Jesus replies that his interrogators don’t understand either the scriptures or the resurrection. There will be no marriage in heaven, but that folks will be like the “angels in heaven.” We don’t know exactly what he meant by that, because he does not talk about angels much elsewhere, but he was obviously trying to say that the resurrection means something different from a physical cloning of earthly bodies.
After the resurrection of Jesus, Paul refers to a “spiritual body,” when he says he does not know what kind of body we’ll have in the resurrection, physical or spiritual, but that we’ll have one. He means that we’ll have personal identity, since it is by the body that we are able to recognize one another as different individuals. [He expands on this in I Cors 15: 44-47.]
Now here’s the most important part, I think. Jesus says to the scribes and Pharisees, “You don’t know the power of God.” In other words, God will take care of this.
God’s power is not power at all, but love. As Paul says so eloquently in Romans 9: Love never ends.
So the love between a woman and man in marriage will not end, because the love in that relationship will not end. We don’t know how that works, but we know that we can trust God to keep love alive.