Beckett: God of the Living

Resurrection of the Flesh by Luca Signorelli (1450-1523) | Wikimedia Commons

Jesus said, “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush [Exodus 3:1-4:17], 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” (Luke 20:37-38).

In his work, On Belief in the Resurrection, Bishop Ambrose of Milan (333-397) wrote,

The patriarchs also live, for God could not be called the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, except the dead were living; for He is not the God of the dead but of the living. And we, too, shall live if we be willing to copy the deeds and habits of our predecessors. We marvel at the rewards of the patriarchs—let us copy their faithfulness; we tell of their grace—let us follow their obedience; let us not, enticed by material appetite, fall into the snares of the world… The patriarchs changed their homeland for another soil—let us exchange earth for heaven; they changed in earthly habitation—let us change in spirit. To them Wisdom showed the heavens illuminated with stars [Genesis 15:5]; let that same Wisdom enlighten the eyes of our heart.

quoted in Schumacher, 23

These words of Jesus should be of greatest comfort to those near death. Our God is not God of the dead, but of the living. For this is why the saints inspire our faith. As Ambrose notes, we often marvel at their faithfulness in adverse times, such as Moses leading over half a million people across the Red Sea to a promised land. When the Hebrews saw the Egyptian army, they were about to face death, yet the Lord led them to life through His servant Moses across the Red Sea. Just so, when we face death—whenever that will be—the Lord brings us to life through His Son Jesus Christ through the waters of Baptism with faith in the promised new creation.

The faith of Abraham is also most inspiring. For why, after waiting so long for God’s promised son, would he dare obey God’s command to sacrifice his only son? Because, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested… considered that God was able even to raise [Isaac] from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Hebrews 11:17, 19). And God provided a better, infinitely more sufficient sacrifice—the offering of His only-begotten Son.

Therefore, while the world exchanges faith in the only-begotten Son of God for faith in earthly things like sex, drugs, science (scientism), autonomy, sports, politics, and other vanities, we exchange these useless earthly things for Christ who reigns in Heaven. The world seeks wealth and prosperity; we seek Christ first, and all we need is then added to us (Matthew 6:33). For “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3). For all our daily bread comes from Christ, who Himself is “the living bread that came down from Heaven.” Therefore, “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and also, the bread that I Myself will give on behalf of the life of the world is My flesh” (John 6:51; my translation).

Because God is God of the living who has sent the living bread from Heaven, Jesus Christ, He is not content with leaving His saints dead. Those who eat of Christ’s body—both of faith and in the Supper—will live forever. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believe in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). So, do you? Because you do, God is not content to leave you dead but shall send Christ the bread from Heaven again to “raise [you] up on the last day” (John 6:39).

Bibliography

Schumacher, Frederick J., and Dorothy A. Zelenko. For All the Saints: A Prayer Book For and By the Church. Volume I, Year 1: Advent to the Day of Pentecost. Delhi, NY: The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 2003.

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