SynopsisAfter Jesus’ discussion with the emissaries of the Pharisees in the last passage, he is now approached by a group of Sadducees, a group that denies there’s a resurrection. They ask Jesus a question which, to me, sounds pretty trumped up, but they present it as if it’s a real situation that’s happened: There were seven brothers, one of whom married, but then he died before he’d had any children. According to Old Testament law, when this happens the man’s brother is supposed to marry the widow and any children they have would be counted as if they were children of the first man, so the next brother married her, but he also died before they had any kids. And so on, until the woman has married all seven of the brothers, none of whom produced any children, and then she herself died. So they want to know: at the resurrection, whose wife will the woman actually be? Their point is obviously to try to make the whole concept of resurrection sound silly, but Jesus is having none of it:
But 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.” (verses 29–30 (ESV))But Jesus continues on from there, and rebukes the Sadducees on their main, underlying belief of there being no resurrection:
“And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” (verses 31–32 (ESV))The crowd, which has been listening to all of this, is astonished at Jesus’ teaching.
ThoughtsThis passage takes place the same day as the previous passage, in which Jesus was questioned on paying taxes; he’s certainly having to have a lot of religious/political arguments this day! Not that it’s difficult for him; when you’re perfectly in tune with the Father, it’s easy to see your way through arguments to the heart of the matter. It should be easy for Christians, as well—never as easy as it was for Jesus, but if we’re in tune with the Father, we should have His wisdom, and be able to sift through non-essential matters to get to what’s really important. God’s wisdom isn’t really about being “smart,” it’s about seeing matters as God Himself would see them.
The ESV Study Bible notes give a bit more context about the Sadducees; they apparently only really cling to the books of the Old Testament written by Moses, not so much the later books written by the prophets, which is one reason that they don’t believe in resurrection. This is part of Jesus’ point in saying that they don’t know the Scriptures; they’re only reading the parts they want to read, and then discarding the rest. We have a tendency to do that as well, and it’s a danger we have to be careful of; if we do, we’ll make the same types of doctrinal mistakes that the Sadducees made!
The second part of Jesus’ condemnation of the Sadducees is that they don’t know the power of God. They’re trying to show that the whole idea of resurrection is silly, and they’re doing so by assuming that after the resurrection life will be pretty much the same as it is now. We’ll just sort of pick up and continue on where we left off. If they really knew the power of God, however, they might have assumed that He will resurrect us into a better situation than what we have now. (At least, those of us who belong to Him…)
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