The Sadducees deliberately bring a trick question to Jesus, believing they can trap him with this narrative into disproving the resurrection. The story they tell describes the practice of Levirate marriage, where a childless woman marries her deceased husband’s brother so that the men of that line may have offspring. This practice is based on patriarchal and patrilineal assumptions, and treats the woman as property, a vessel for procreation. The Sadducees’ question, too, dehumanises the woman in the story and is concerned with her ownership rather than her agency.
Jesus’ response takes an unexpected turn; rather than discerning whose property the woman is, he affirms the notion of resurrection while removing marriage from the equation. He describes people who do not marry as “like angels”, referring to a common myth shared by the Synoptic gospels. Feminist theologian Barbara E. Reid explains, “In some versions of this myth, the two genders assigned to fleshly humans, male and female, also fall away for those who live within the spiritual realm… In this immortal angelic state, there is neither need nor desire for procreation.”
Jesus concludes his argument with a statement that not only is God the God of the living, but because of resurrection God considers even the dead to be alive. Perhaps in death and resurrection, free from the patriarchal confines of Levirate marriage, the woman from the story might enjoy greater agency.
The author of Isaiah speaks to a post-exile Israel here, one that has faced God’s judgement and been offered God’s hope. This passage is a promise that all things will be made new; Israel’s mistakes will be forgotten and replaced with delight. Creation is depicted here as an ongoing process that God actively participates in, and the purpose at its heart is joy. The people of Israel will be “offspring blessed by the Lord,” a blessing to be passed down between generations.
Importantly, this idyllic vision promises that the Israelites “shall not labour in vain” only to have their houses and agriculture stolen from them, as they were during the Babylonian exile. Images of joy and fertility recur throughout this passage, culminating in a command not to “hurt or destroy.” God’s promises hinge on the people of Israel’s willingness to honour their covenant with God instead of turning to their previous destructive ways.
The Christ Hymn, as verses 15–20 are commonly called, is the focal point of the letter to the Colossians. This passage affirms the importance of Christ, over worldly powers such as the Roman Empire and instead of local patron deity Zeus. When describing how “all things” where created in Christ, the author explicitly names “thrones or dominions or rulers or powers” among them. While the writer’s agenda may not have been intentionally anti-imperial, these verses are “at remarkable odds with Roman imperial ideology, even as it mimics facets of that same imperial ideology” in the language it uses for Christ, according to theologian Arthur M. Wright Jr.
This hymn also bears striking parallels to the opening of John’s Gospel, in the way it describes Jesus as a spiritual force present long before the incarnation in human form. Jesus in this passage is “the image of the invisible God” and intimately involved in the creation of “things visible and invisible”, affirming Jesus’ mystic divinity. His humanness, however, is also vitally important, allowing the “fullness of God” to be expressed and enabling reconciliation between God and God’s people.
We bring November to a close with a dream of peace. Isaiah offers Israel God’s vision of the role it can play in unifying the nations with God’s teachings. As the Israelites sure up arms and alliances to defend themselves from growing military powers like Assyria and Babylon, Isaiah reminds them that to “walk in the light of the Lord” is to pursue peace.
Instead of winning wars in God’s name, Isaiah describes a world where “all the nations shall stream” to Israel to learn the wisdom of the God of Jacob. This vision disarms religion as a force for division and destruction, instead framing it as an offering to Israel’s neighbours and the wider world. By describing a physical pilgrimage, Isaiah affirms how inextricable the faith of the Israelites is from their land, but that geography need not be an excluding factor.
God takes on the role of judge for all nations in this vision, arbitrating peaceably where difference causes conflict. Weapons of war become tools for gardening, exchanging the ways of violence for growth and unity.
Gabi Cadenhead is a mission worker for Christian Students Uniting at the University of Sydney.