The same day some Sadducees came to him, saying there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman herself died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.” Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven (Matthew 22:23-30)
In my single days (which lasted a long time) this story used to bug me. What it seemed to say was that not only was I not going to get any sex this side of heaven, but there was going to be nothing to make up for it after I died! (it still bugs me now I’ve been married 25 years, but that’s another story). Perhaps that was why I developed my theory of hypersexual angels, to make up for the usual interpretation that angels were asexual. Jesus never said, after all, that there was no sex in the resurrection, just no marriage. Maybe it’s a free for all?
Then one day I realized I was reading it all wrong. Jesus isn’t making any sort of statement about the presence or absence of sex in heaven (and anyway, I don’t believe in heaven in that sense any more, nor that the Bible teaches it – but I’ll deal with that in another post). He’s responding to the Sadducees at their own level. They, after all, are not asking ‘Which of her seven husbands will have a totally committed and equal relationship with this woman in heaven?’. They are asking ‘Whose property will this woman be in heaven?’. And Jesus, taking them on their own terms, is saying quite clearly, ‘In the kingdom of heaven’ (which is Matthewspeak for ‘the kingdom of God’), women are not property. Among the angels, he implies, marriage is not a deal between two men in which ownership of a woman is transferred from one man to another. Under ‘the scriptures and the power of God’, both sexes are made in God’s image, and both have equal status before God. And if ‘eternal life’ of ‘the Resurrection’ begins now, shouldn’t we be practising?