Just as we have Democrats and Republicans who don’t like each other very much, and liberals and conservatives who don’t get along well either in politics or in matters of faith, there were the two sides of Jewish leadership. The Pharisees (teachers of the Law) and the Sadducees had differing views on a number of topics, with the Pharisees being the more conservative party. The Sadducees were more of an elite group, and among the items they rejected was any sort of afterlife or resurrection. And that made them sad, you see? (Sorry, couldn’t resist … no extra charge.)
Again, looking to trip Jesus in his words, they come up with a wild scenario. It involves what was known as Levirate marriage – that if a married man died childless, a younger brother would gain the wife to generate offspring in the name of the deceased.
Their convoluted story involved not just one man dying, but a whole line of successive brothers as well … therefore leading to the question as to whom she was married in the resurrection (which they didn’t believe in).
Jesus answers by saying, “That has to be the most stupid and ridiculous question I’ve ever been asked!” No, he did not say that, but he could have correctly done so. Rather, he points out that marriage does not exist in the resurrection, being unnecessary for procreation in a realm of eternal beings such as the angels.
Beyond that, Jesus affirms the resurrection. He points to the words of Moses in Exodus 3:6, Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. These patriarchs had been dead for several hundred years at this point, so speaking of them in this manner proves that they lived on beyond this world.
Seeing the smack-down that the Sadducees got, some of the teachers of the Law could not help but have a moment of pleasure with this sight – not that they really liked Jesus. And Jesus was just not cooperating with any of their plans to get rid of him easily.
Though obviously still a very young man, I’ve lived more than long enough to have had one lifetime’s worth of stupid theological debates on stupid questions – especially, as in this story, from people who do not believe in the most basic truths. The gospel is not complicated. Nor was the obvious reality that Jesus was the promised one who was sent from God.
Luke 20:27 – Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ [Exodus 3:6] 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.