This morning we are in Mark 12:18-27. Let’s dive in.
And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection.
What do we know about the Sadducees?
Along with the Pharisees, they shared power in Jewish society. The Sadducees controlled the priesthood.
The doctrine of the Sadducees was distinctive in that they only accepted the first 5 books, or the Pentateuch as authoritative Scripture. They did not believe in spirits or angels. They did not believe in a bodily resurrection.
The Sadducees have come to follow up the test laid out for Jesus by the Pharisees and the Herodians. It is the 2nd of 3 attacks planned by the Sanhedrin.
The first was an attempt to trap Jesus between a rock and a hard place with a question about taxes. He easily outmaneuvered them. Now the Sadducees come in with a follow up blow.
I want to make a point here about the strategy of attack at work. The enemies of Jesus come at him with waves of attack. Just as the great enemy Satan came to Jesus with 3 waves of temptation.
We have an enemy who prowls endlessly, laying out traps and seeking to devour the children of God. We do not need to fear these attacks, but we need to be alert so that we are not caught off guard.
We must be self-controlled and alert. (1 Peter 5:8)
We must be aware of the enemies schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11)
We must resist the enemy. (James 4:7)
We must stand fast and know that the God of grace is with us. (1 Peter 5:10)
And they asked him a question . . .
The Sadducees begin the attack with a question related to a divine law given in the book of Deuteronomy. In chapter 25, Moses lays out what we now call the law of Levirate Marriage.
It’s a law of compassion, intended to preserve the dignity and the heritage of men who died without an heir and the widows who survived them.
The law brought out the best in the people of Israel in the case of Boaz, the man of honor who stepped in to fulfil the law in the case of Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi. In this case the law gave us one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible.
The law also brought out the worst in humanity. In the case of the family of Judah, whose son Er died, leaving behind a widow named Tamar. Judah and his sons mistreated and used Tamar, leaving behind the kind of story that make you feel that you need to take a shower after reading it.
The Sadducees follow the tradition of Judah’s family in abusing the law for their own selfish gain. They paint a picture of a widow who has lost 7 husbands with no heir. (They may have taken the details from a story in the Book of Tobit about a woman who lost 7 husbands who were each strangled in their sleep on the wedding night by a demon.)
The strategy of the Sadducees is a logical argument we call reductio ad absurdum. The idea is to take a belief, follow it’s implications and show that they are so absurd that the belief cannot be true.
“If the resurrection is true, this woman and her 7 husbands will all live again. Can a woman be married to 7 men at the same time? How absurd! The resurrection is a foolish and unrealistic doctrine.”
How will Jesus respond?
Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?”
You are wrong!
The Sadducees were wrong because they did not know the Scriptures.
They cut and edited the Scriptures according to their preferences. And in doing so, they no longer had the Scriptures. They had a tool useful for preserving their own tradition and power.
You cannot change the Scriptures, editing out the portions you find objectionable, without losing the Scriptures as a whole.
The Sadducees should have known that the reality of the Resurrection was written throughout God’s Word.
Job 19:26 – And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;
Psalm 16:10 – For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.
Isaiah 26:19 – But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise— let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy— your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.
Daniel 12:2 – But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise— let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy— your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.
But they did not accept Job or the Psalms or the Prophets as authoritative.
Even in what they did accept, the Resurrection was there.
Jesus takes them to the book of Exodus.
And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
God is not the God of the dead.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – these saints are alive!
They “enjoyed a special covenant relationship with God that was so dynamic, so profound, that it demanded a continued living relationship with God after death.” -R. Kent Hughes
The Sadducees missed the depth and power of God’s covenant promise to their people. They missed the magnitude of God’s plans for his children.
This life is just the beginning. Marriage is a momentary experience that will be surpassed by experiences beyond our comprehension.
For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven
Does this teaching of Jesus diminish the significance of marriage?
Not in the least!
In the teaching of Jesus, marriage is a temporary experience with eternal consequences.
The Bible gives us 3 clear purposes of marriage.
- Companionship (Genesis 2:18)
- Godly offspring (Malachi 2:15)
- Living experience and sign of the gospel (Ephesians 5)
All of these purposes have eternal significance.
But at the resurrection, they will be fulfilled. The companionship, the fruit of godly offspring and the beautiful image of Christ and his church in marriage will be fulfilled in the perfect communion of God’s eternal kingdom.
Some of us experience the best marriage has to offer, some have charmed relationships and can’t imagine life without our spouse. Some of us can’t imagine heaven without marriage.
In verse 30, Jesus tells us we will be like the angels in heaven. What does that mean? How will we be like the angels? We don’t know much about that, but here’s one thing we can say. In Matthew 18:10, Jesus tells us that angels “in heaven [they] always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
In heaven, the glorious realities will replace the symbol. You and I will always see the face of God. We will never again experience loneliness. We will never again face death. We will never again deal with the failings of a sinful nature. We will exist in perfect communion with God.
Some of us may experience the death of a spouse. Matthew 22 teaches us that there is life after marriage. The end of your marriage is not the end of your life.
It also has something to say to singles. If you are single, you are currently experiencing something of your heavenly condition. You are not incomplete.
Some of us experience more of the trials of marriage. The Bible is a realistic book. According to the Proverbs, some people will experience a marriage relationship that is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof in a rain storm. We will feel like it would be better to live on the corner of our roofs than in the house with our spouses.
Sometimes marriage feels unbearable and we will be tempted to jump ship and take an easy way out. Matthew 22 calls out to us – this too shall pass. Your marriage is a work God has called you to finish. And it is a momentary one. The temporary continuation of your marriage is not the end of your life.
What about sex?
Jesus speaks of marriage, but does not mention sex. If there is no marriage, does that mean no sex? Can eternal life without sex be that good?
Let me share with you something from C.S. Lewis about that question.
“I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure, should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time.
On receiving the answer ‘No,’ he might regard [the] absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
The Sadducees sought to trap Jesus. Like everyone else, they failed completely.
Jesus always wins.
He always accomplishes his purposes – in his way and on his timeframe.
He was never caught off guard.
He was never worn down.
He was never stumped.
According to his own will, he laid down his life and was crucified for the sins of the world.
On the third day he was resurrected.
Some day soon he will come again and call the dead to life.
Are you ready for that day?
Come to Jesus and find meaning that will outlast death. Find a love that can never die. Join a team that will never lose.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown