Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage (Mark 12:18-34) transports me to one of those Chapel of Love quickie wedding facilities outside Jerusalem, early 1st century, where a group of priestly aristocrats, the Sadducees, are walking out after witnessing a wedding where the bride took her vows for the seventh time. These Sadducees, powerbrokers of the temple, are in the midst of a pitched battle with the Pharisees for the hearts and minds of the masses, and they are losing. The Sadducees are the minimalists and reductionists of 33 A.D. – reducing their religious beliefs to what is logical to them, which is to say the temple system and the Torah. Anything more is superfluous. And the Pharisees have added plenty more to the plate of piety, new beliefs in things like angelic beings and the resurrection. Stepping out of the Chapel of Love, the Sadducees spot the new rock star on the horizon, Jesus, with a gang of groupies following him around, hanging on his every word. So they figure this is a great time to pitch a public riddle his way in hopes that he might join their side and discredit the Pharisees.
They point out the exaggerated example of a woman who has several times over followed the Torah’s instructions for Levirate marriage, a prescription for childless widows to marry their husband’s brother. Now if there is such a thing as resurrection, how will she possibly carry on in heaven with a convoluted family situation such as that on her hands? With cases like that all around, you can hear them saying, resurrection just doesn’t make sense! Jesus pretty much dismisses their rationale and their rationality. Oh brother, you can hear him saying, for He knows, as Ulysses Everett McGill knows, that it’s a fool who looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart, or in the chambers of God’s heart.
What strikes me about this passage is how Mark places the conversation about heavenly marriage right before Jesus’ statement about the most important commandment – to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength. It sounds to me that in answering the question about marriage in heaven, Jesus is essentially dodging the logic of theology, and is instead joining the ranks of the mystics through the ages, those who dreamed and felt and spoke so deeply and eloquently and passionately about our love affair with God. To say that there won’t be human marriage in heaven is not to say there won’t be marriage – for in Jesus’ eyes heaven is where we are all wed to the One who is the essence of all love. That is essentially what the greatest commandment is all about – being completely wed to the Way, the Way of peace and joy and justice and mercy, to have and to hold that Source of love and life from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish.
We are wed to many things in this life, our spouse, our work, our land, our ideas, and Jesus seems to be teaching us that our ultimate wedding is to Life, to the God of Life, to whom we gladly surrender all, body and soul. The Sadducees had tied the knot with a system, while the Pharisees had tied the knot with particular view of morality, and Jesus was basically telling them both the same thing that He is telling us all – that we need to renew our marriage vows to God, to recover the head-over-heels bell-ringing angel-singing porch-swinging salsa-dancing fire-romancing relationship with the bona fide Creator and Sustainer and Mover and Shaker of all that is. And nothing, not even death, can do us part.
As always, your feedback and comments are welcome.