Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a question… --Luke 20:27
Not long after I began my call as bishop, a member of one of our Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod congregations called me with what seemed like an innocent question. A teacher at heart, I responded to his question, provided him with information and shared what I knew. Two days later, the man’s pastor called me. She was angry. The man had taken the information I had shared and used it as a cudgel against her. Gotcha! I apologized profusely and learned I needed to ask why someone was asking their question before answering. A member of the media interviewed me a few years later. I answered as honestly and as forthrightly as I knew how. The next day, the quote in the paper looked like I had said the exact opposite of what I thought I said. Gotcha! I’m still paying for a sales pitch I fell for years ago without seeing the “hidden” costs. That misadventure almost did me in financially. Gotcha!
We live in a “gotcha” world, don’t we? It’s not quite lying, but it’s not being truthful either. It is not clever, it is manipulative. It is a false witness that tears down rather than builds up the other. It rattles our trust in one another. It damages and even destroys human relationships and community.
During his final week in Jerusalem, Jesus’ detractors played the game of “gotcha!” with him again and again. Each time they came to him with a seemingly innocent or sincere question. Each time, they touched on one of the “hot button” political/theological issues (they were often both) of the day. Authority. Taxes. Messianic hopes. Resurrection. Each time, hidden beneath the seeming innocence and sincerity lay a hidden trap. Each time, the goal was to take Jesus down. Each time, Jesus answered their questions in a way that both revealed the trap and taught them (and us) something about God and God’s truth.
I think these lessons both remind us of how insidious the game of “gotcha!” can be, and how important it is to stay rooted in our core beliefs about God and God’s truth in a “gotcha!” world. Take this week’s “gotcha!” moment as an example. The Sadducees come to Jesus and try to trap him with some cleverness regarding the belief in the resurrection. (Around which the Sadducees and Pharisees vehemently disagreed). Jesus sidesteps their crafty arguments about marriage, and then reminds the Sadducees that God is a God of the living and not the dead. That point is proven at the end of the week when God raises Jesus from the dead! The resurrection is real – not an illusion, not wishful thinking, not some ghost or zombie appearance, but a flesh and blood, honest-to-goodness resurrection – and there is great hope in that for all of us. The God of the Living, gives life. That’s what really matters.
Many people in the world around us can see right through clever arguments and “gotcha!” theology. It’s not what they’re looking for. Instead, many people yearn for hope and seek lives that are full of life. The story of Jesus reveals a God whose love and life are more powerful than the “gotchas!” that break us down, and the ultimate “gotcha!” -- death -- that eventually catches us all.
This week, consider how the truth of the resurrection can change how you think about and face the struggles of your daily life. Thanks for reading.