And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. (Act 4:1-4)
Jesus had warned the disciples that this sort of thing would happen to them for the sake of the gospel. They annoyed the Sadducees who were in charge of the temple, because they were proclaiming the resurrection in Jesus. This is perhaps a bit subtle, but important. What annoys the Sadducees here is precisely the point that Paul makes explicit in 1 Corinthians 15. If Jesus is raised from the dead, you will be raised from the dead. If there is no resurrection than neither is Jesus resurrected. But because Jesus has been resurrected we know there is a resurrection. This annoys the Sadducees because they like many Christians today don’t believe in the resurrection, but for the Sadducees this was a major point of contention with the Pharisees. With most Christians today it is an oversight or a misunderstanding.
Jewish theology did not have much “dogma” in our sense of the word. Not in the first century. There were a lot of rules, and interpretations of them. This seemed to occupy most of the time a rabbi would have. This is also why scribe and lawyer are almost synonymous in the gospels. There were some conflicting thoughts on the nature of the Messiah that could cause a good argument with which to entertain yourself. But that which was most hotly contested, and provided the best entertainment was the controversy regarding the resurrection. Towards the end of Acts, Paul will play the Saducees and the Pharisees off on each other during his trial with this controversy. The Sadducees refuse to believe it. They are then confused by Jesus, because in so many ways he seems to be on the side of the Sadducees. He taunts the Pharisees. He plays with them. They set traps for them and he springs them on him. But when the Sadducees approach him, he is adamant about the resurrection. He even gives scriptural proof and argumentation for it. God is the God of the living and not the dead, so if God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then these men must be alive and there must be a resurrection. Jesus would be critical where criticism was needed no matter who you were, on the other hand he’d be supportive and encouraging where this was useful and needful no matter who you were also. He wouldn’t bow to group think. He wouldn’t toe a party line if it was wrong just to be accepted. He had bigger things on his mind. I think we could learn a lot from that today. Churches have way to much group think where theology is approached like it was nothing more than a football game. But the resurrection is the point of controversy here. Now Peter and John are saying Jesus was raised from the dead. In doing so they are not proclaiming the resurrection of just one man, they are proclaiming your resurrection. And it is convincing. The number of men comes to be five thousand! So you wonder if that is another five thousand added to the three from chapter 2, or if this is five thousand more this evening. Either way, you can see why the Sadducees would be upset, but Peter and John have incontrovertible evidence of the resurrection. They have Jesus Christ whom they have seen alive after he died, whom they touched and ate with after he died, and rose from the dead. This is the resurrection. This is why I say many Christians don’t believe in it today.
I say that because we have this prominent myth that we become angels. Sure, Jesus talking about the resurrection said we would be like angels in regard to marriage. That is we would not be married. He did not say we become angels. Jesus did not become an angel, not a cherubim or a seraphim. Jesus rose a man, just as you will, unless of course you are a woman, then you will rise as a woman. We don’t go to heaven as spirits, or disembodied souls to spend eternity. We are resurrected in the flesh. Don’t worry, though. Your body, though it is your body, is transformed into a glorious body. It won’t be the vessel of death and decay we now inhabit with pain and suffering. This is something that needs to be emphasized here. We aren’t debating young Elvis or fat Elvis. In teaching the resurrection I’ve had people absolutely horrified that they lived too long to leave a good looking corpse. You preach the resurrection and touches the nerves of modern vanity. But honestly throughout history most people have been dissatisfied with their bodies. It is why Platonism has been such an infection in Christian doctrine, it is why the gnostic sects have always been popular. And it really doesn’t matter who you are, at some point your body lets you down. Athletes become fat in old age. It takes a lot of work and pain to keep a body in good shape, many sore mornings. And if you don’t you experience pain in other ways. Women are worried their breasts aren’t big enough and that their posterior is too big. There is back pain. At times we find we lack the endurance we would like. I’ll be honest, spending the next ten years with the body I have in the shape it is in now is a thought that horrifies me. The idea of eternity? No. But this body has been corrupted by sin. Yes, sin infects your body. It isn’t merely a matter of the soul, or choices of right and wrong. The death of your body, is a result of sin. The pain in your hip, is a result of sin. Your bad eyesight is a result of sin. That isn’t to say there aren’t also natural explanations to this, or that these things are punishments for sins you have committed or anything like that. They are the result of the sin you were born with, the sin that causes you to sin. But when are baptisms are consummated in death, and we are resurrected, well then our bodies are transformed and we will no longer be sinful. Our bodies will be healthy, healthier than they were when we were in high school, or finally got in shape in college. Healthier than the airbrushed bodies decorating the checkout isle at the grocery store. No longer bothering us with bad eyesight, or pain in our backs. And this we know because Jesus was raised from the dead.