Jesus’ Final Week in Jerusalem
Sunday: Triumphal Entry (11:1-11).
Lesson from Fig Tree (11:20-26).
Jesus’ Authority Questioned (11:27-33).
Parable of Wicked Vinedressers (12:1-12).
On Taxes (12:13-17).
On Resurrection (12:18-27).
It’s time that the Sadducees enter onto the scene!
While in the minority among the people, they were primarily among the elites (Acts 4:1-2; 5:17).
Given the beliefs of this sect, it makes sense that only the upper echelons would hold these views.
Mark and Luke only mention them once, and it’s concerning this same event.
Matthew mentions them several times as in league with the Pharisees.
Acts provides us with a little more information, however.
One of their key defining beliefs is really a lack of belief in a resurrection of the dead which is on display here.
Another belief is they did not believe in angels or spirits (Acts 23:8).
If there are no angels or spirits and if there is no resurrection, the only rewards or consequences you have are here on this earth—well, you can see why this would appeal to the elites and not to the common person.
Josephus also indicates that they only believed in the works of Moses as Scripture—this is important concerning Jesus’ response to their question.
Another “Gotcha” Question.
They are really trying to find something in which to stump Jesus.
They see how handily Jesus answered the “gotcha” question from the Pharisees and Herodians, so they take a crack at it.
They are just as interested in debunking Jesus as the Pharisees are, after all.
This appears to be a stock hypothetical scenario that they often posed to the Pharisees and others who believed in the resurrection that they think proves their position.
It is based on the concept of the levirate marriage, named for the Latin word for “husband’s brother,” having nothing to do with the Levites (Deut. 25:5-6).
The purpose of this law was to preserve the name of the man who died in Israel—Ruth participated in this custom when she married Boaz, a relative of her late husband Mahlon (Ruth 4).
In logic, this argument is called reductio ad absurdum—or reducing a point to its most absurd or ridiculous conclusion.
Do you have to go up to seven husbands for this poor woman, or are two sufficient to make your point? Two is a quandary, seven is ridiculous.
An example we might face is, “Since God is omnipotent, can He make a rock so big that He Himself cannot lift it?”
Such arguments are actually a good way in order to get them to really think about their position, but it only works if you have the facts on your side.
Jesus would have likely responded to this “gotcha” question the same way He did with the one from the Sadducees.
An ignorant question.
Jesus starts off His response by saying they are mistaken and ends by saying they are greatly mistaken.
You see, they don’t realize who they are talking to: the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).
They are the elites and no doubt think they are so smart having thought their way out of a basic teaching of Scripture that is treated as absolute fact by both Jesus and Martha in their discussion in John 11 after her brother Lazarus died.
This is no doubt how atheists feel when they pose the “gotcha” question I asked earlier—I think the word is “smug.”
But really, it’s such an ignorant question: omnipotence doesn’t mean you can do anything. It means you can do anything that is logically consistent with your character. While God is omnipotent, He cannot lie for instance (Mark 10:27; Tit. 1:2). So no, He cannot create a rock so big He cannot lift it. More to the point, why would He even try? It’s not like we can really place such physical limitatio1ns on a spiritual being in the first place.
Jesus answers in a way that completely undercuts the Sadducees’ position, saying they don’t know the Scriptures or God’s power.
Like the angels.
This corresponds to Jesus’ charge that the Sadducees don’t know God’s power.
First off, I want you to think about something for a moment.
In our marriage vows, what phrase do we say that speaks as to the duration of the marriage? “Till death do us part,” right?
So once a married person has died, the widow(er) is now single—the marriage has ended.
Second, we have to ask ourselves what the purpose of marriage is, and is that needed in heaven?
Recall, that after God created man, He said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Gen. 2:18).
So, God created woman and the institution of marriage.
Do you reckon that we’ll ever be lonely in heaven? That we’ll ever need a helper to get through eternal life? No, God will be our companion, and there will be no sorrow or struggle there. But we will find ultimate rest.
Other questions and speculations arise with this passage that is beyond the scope of this class: Does this mean that we won’t recognize our loved ones? Does this mean we won’t want to be with our families?
To those questions I will simply say I don’t know. All I know is that things will be so different for us there that we can’t even fathom what it would be like.
But one thing I do know—we will be with our Lord. And I can’t think of anything better.
One more thing to note here: what Jesus is describing is the proper domain of angels. It does not mean they cannot leave their proper domain, but they are certainly punished for it (Jude 6-7; 2 Pet. 2:4).
“I am the God …”
Jesus then goes to the works of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, to prove His next point—that they don’t know the Scriptures.
Recall, the Sadducees only accepted these books as from God.
We can go to all manner of other passages to show that the dead have not ceased to exist, especially 1 Sam. 28 that talks of Samuel’s spirit arising to speak with King Saul.
But instead, Jesus goes to a phrase that is oft-quoted in Scripture, and not only that, but where God introduces Himself to Moses: “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exo. 3:6).
*They didn’t have a book/chapter/verse way of citing Scriptures, but they could at least tell you the book and you would know what event they were talking about.
*Jesus refers to the “burning bush passage,” letting His hearers know exactly where this is.
By the time Moses came to the burning bush, these three patriarchs were long dead (Gen. 25:8; 35:29; 49:33).
So the present tense is important here. God did not say, “I was the God of your fathers,” but “I am the God of your fathers.”
*You might note that the word “am” is in italics, suggesting it wasn’t there in the original. That’s because Hebrew doesn’t really use a word to express a present tense state-of-being verb like “is” or “am.” So it can be inferred that when past or future tenses aren’t used, the present tense is indicated. The LXX translation does reflect this.
This is an indication that this patriarchs are still alive in some sense. Obviously their bodies are dead, but their souls live on.
Abraham himself speaks in Jesus’ telling of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19ff.
As a result, we see God is a God of the living, not the dead. These patriarchs, and by extension all mankind, have not ceased to exist.
They live on in some fashion. Anyone who has seen Jesus raise someone from the dead can attest to that, since their souls were reunited with their bodies—Lazarus being the latest (and most public) example.
You see, they were asking a question about the resurrection to the Resurrection and the Life Himself!
Next we’ll see what appears to be a softball (but still vital) question from a scribe.