Discussion about Resurrection 18 Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees - religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: 19 "Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother's name. 20 Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children. 21 So the second brother married the widow, but he also died without children. Then the third brother married her. 22 This continued with all seven of them, and still there were no children. Last of all, the woman also died. 23 So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her."
24 Jesus replied, "Your mistake is that you don't know the Scriptures, and you don't know the power of God. 25 For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven.
26 "But now, as to whether the dead will be raised - haven't you ever read about this in the writings of Moses, in the story of the burning bush? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said to Moses, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' 27 So he is the God of the living, not the dead. You have made a serious error."
A group of Sadducees poses a hypothetical question to Jesus in an effort to disprove the resurrection. They are correct in their understanding of the Mosaic law requiring a man to marry his widowed sister-in-law in order to provide his deceased brother with an heir. But they are committing a grave error in trying to use this law to prove that the resurrection does not make sense. Jesus responds by teaching them about the general nature of the resurrection, as well as the fact that death is not the end of our existence.
Sadducees (Mark 12:18)
Not very much is known about the Sadducees. "Our information about them is meager and derived exclusively from hostile sources. Clearly they consisted mainly of the most influential priestly and aristocratic families ... [and] they are presented essentially as the preservers of ancient priestly traditions."1272 This group "included most of the priests; the office of high priest was regularly held by a Sadducee."1273 Like most wealthy and "connected" people, the Sadducees exercised an influence disproportionate to their size, controlling "the official political structures of Judaism at this time."1274 They accepted as authoritative only the writings of Moses - the Pentateuch, or first five books of the Bible. And since, they believed, the resurrection was not taught in those books, it could not be true. ("They denied the truths of the resurrection, future judgment, and the existence of angels and spirits.1275) In light of their renowned animosity toward the Pharisees, they must have thought they had found "a way to trip Jesus and at the same time to maintain their skeptic views against the orthodox Pharisees."1276 (Historical note: "Many of the Sadducean leaders were murdered by the Zealots during the revolt against Rome [A.D. 66-70], as real or suspected collaborators; the destruction of the Temple [A.D. 70] deprived their survivors of their position of religious significance. They disappeared, and the Pharisees saw to it that they left no traces behind them."1277)
Marry the widow (Mark 12:19)
"Apparently one of the favorite sports of the Sadducees was to make fun of their opponents by showing how their beliefs led to ridiculous conclusions."1278 ("We may suppose that they had tried this proof [regarding levirate marriage and the resurrection] in controversy with many a Pharisee and had made a laughingstock of every opponent. Jesus was to be the next victim."1279) Thus they approach Jesus with a "free rendering of the Mosaic regulation concerning levirate (from Latin, levir, 'husband's brother') marriage (cf. Deuteronomy 25:5-10). If a husband died without leaving a male heir his (unmarried) brother (or, if none, his nearest male relative) was to marry his widow. The first son of that union was given the name of the dead brother and was considered his child. This was to prevent extinction of a family line and thereby kept the family inheritance intact."1280 As another source brings out: "Levirate marriage was an ancient solution to the problem of the widowed and childless woman. In great antiquity a woman had two places: her father's house as an unmarried virgin, or her husband's house, in which she would bear him children. A childless widow had no secure place in ancient society. Through levirate marriage she had the opportunity to bear children in the name of her deceased husband."1281 ("The story of Ruth and Boaz, recorded in the Book of Ruth, is a good example of the levirate form of marriage."1282).
The resurrection (Mark 12:23)
Since the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, it was obvious they were ridiculing the very idea.1283"The underlying premise is that the doctrine of resurrection is inconsistent with the teaching of Torah, especially so when someone like Jesus adopts a strict, monogamous position that rules out divorce."1284 For his part, Jesus affirmed the reality of a future resurrection, and taught that the life associated with it will be characterized by serving and fellowshipping with God.1285 People will relate to each and to God in a very different way, as there will be no death and thus no need for marriage and offspring.1286 "The entire arrangement of sex, marriage, reproduction, and childbirth, and any laws pertaining to these is valid for the earthly life only and not for the life to come."1287
The Scriptures ... the power of God (Mark 12:24)
Based as it was on the very words of God1288 as recorded in the Pentateuch (Exodus 3:6), the Sadducees had no choice but to accept Jesus' teaching regarding the afterlife. "God implied that the patriarchs were still alive and that He had a continuing relationship with them as their covenant-keeping God, even though they had died long before. This demonstrates, Jesus concluded, that He is not the God of the dead, in the Sadducean understanding of death as extinction, but of the living. He is still the patriarchs' God which would not be true had they ceased to exist at death, that is, if death ends it all. And His covenant faithfulness implicitly guarantees their bodily resurrection. ... Both bodily resurrection and life after death depend on the faithfulness of 'the God of the living.'"1289 Jesus not only made his point, but he did so in such a way as to affirm that the Bible is totally trustworthy - right down to the verb tense of the words used. In choosing this particular line of reasoning, Jesus made several assumptions that help to affirm the truth and accuracy of God's inspired, authoritative Word, the Bible. Jesus assumed:
God's appearance to Moses was a genuine, historical event.
God reveals himself in propositional statements.
Doctrine must be historically accurate in order to be true.
Every passage of Scripture, including some that on the surface may seem unlikely to prove a point, is totally trustworthy.1290
The Truthful Barometer
A young farmer in North Dakota brought home a fancy barometer for which he paid $24.65. In the following days he watched it avidly as it predicted the weather. On one of the walls of his home it hung in an honored place. But the day came when for three days it predicted "storm" while the sky was turquoise and clear. So he took it off the wall and back to town where he demanded his money back.
Returning home, he and his wife became alarmed when they saw evidence of a storm ten miles out. When they turned in their yard, their home had blown away. The furniture was up in the apple trees, and the bathtub three blocks away in a pasture.
But the grandmother had believed the barometer, and when a dark cloud appeared she took the two small children and went to the shelter in the old storm cellar, long unused, and they were saved.1291 We live in a world that openly questions, and even mocks, the very idea that the Bible is God's inspired, authoritative Word. As a consequence, many people deny the existence of absolute moral truth, live immoral lives, and see God as a crutch for the weak-minded.1292 The truth is that the Bible is our only sure and reliable barometer. We may not understand everything about it, but if we are willing to give it the honored place it both deserves and demands, God will use it to guide us and keep us safe through life's storms.
As for the skeptics and critics, one source wisely advises: "Where active unbelief is strong, Christians need to concentrate strong intellect, persuasive witness, and steady prayer. Remember to pray for professors, educators, student workers, and missionaries who present Christ in atmospheres of aggressive and hostile unbelief."1293
??? Like the Sadducees of Jesus' day, many people of our own day are less than sincere in their questioning of God's Word and/or God's people. How should we handle such people? One source offers some excellent counsel.
As Christians, we will face unfair theological questions from religious leaders who do not believe in Christ as Lord or in his Word as divine. We also will face unfair questions from unbelievers who have no knowledge. To stand our ground, we must discern the thoughts and feelings that lie beneath their questions.
Do their own consciences suffer, so they are reacting against Christianity as the source of their conviction?
Do they resent the assurance of faith that Christians hold?
Have they been severely hurt or disappointed by so-called religious people?
Do they wish to proudly flaunt their own freedom and power of intellect?
Are they reacting on partial knowledge, misconceptions of God, or poor interpretations of Scripture?
Have they confused the love and compassion of Jesus Christ with the sometimes improper actions of professing Christians?
Many who attack the Bible have never truly studied it or considered Christ's claims. Turn the discussion to the love of Christ.1294