By Weylan Deaver
One day Sadducees brought Jesus what they considered an unanswerable dilemma. They might have sprung their trap had they not been in error, and had they been dealing with someone other than Jesus. As it happened, they failed spectacularly and were, themselves, put to silence. It is recorded in Matthew 22:23-33 (also Mark 12, Luke 20).
One hallmark heresy of the Sadducees was denial of the resurrection. They asked Jesus a question stemming from their custom of a dead man’s brother marrying the widow of the deceased in order to raise children to carry on the name of the deceased. They describe a married couple without children. The husband dies and his brother marries the widow, but they have no children. That husband dies and a third brother marries the woman twice widowed. The scenario grows more far-fetched with the telling, with all seven brothers marrying the same woman, all seven dying, followed by the widow’s death. The question for Jesus is: “Whose wife is she in the resurrection?” It would seem the Sadducees have put Jesus in the position either of affirming an absurd marriage of seven husbands to one wife simultaneously on the other side of death, or that some marriage ties survive death while others do not. The other option is to deny the reality of resurrection, which is what the Sadducees did.
Interestingly, their hypothetical could have accomplished the same thing with only two dead husbands instead of seven. But, opposing the Lord, they knew neither where to start nor when to stop. Jesus stopped them in their tracks with his rebuke. He said the Sadducees were wrong. He said they did not know their Bible, and they did not know God’s power. He said marriage does not apply in the resurrection since people will be like angels (i.e. not married).
Then, Jesus took it further by falsifying the Sadducee’s denial of resurrection. When they read in Exodus 3:6 about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they should have understood God as God of the living—not the dead. And, since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had died long before God spoke those words to Moses, the Sadducees should have inferred that the spirits of the patriarchs were still alive, and, thus, had no trouble accepting the concept of resurrection from the dead. Consider several observations from this account.
First, Jesus was never silenced by intimidation. He boldly told the Sadducees, “you are wrong” (v. 29). Are we willing to say what needs saying, even in the face of spiritual enemies?
Second, we must know God’s pen and God’s power (v. 29). Ignorance of the Scriptures always puts one in error. People who claim to believe the Bible, but who don’t even understand the Bible, are modern day Sadducees.
Third, marriage is an earth-bound institution (v. 30). Like our mortal bodies, marriage does not survive the grave. The Sadducees mistakenly assumed that, if resurrection were real, things after it must be the same as things before it. They did not anticipate Jesus’ answer: In the resurrection, things are very different. And, that answer destroyed the Sadducees attempted dilemma.
Fourth, Jesus did not compromise God’s truth to fit human error (v. 30). He compared resurrected people to angels, knowing that Sadducees denied angels. Are we ever tempted to tread lightly with certain subjects because we know they are controversial, or might bring us criticism (for example, the Genesis creation account, biblical miracles, marriage-divorce, etc.)? Never let Satan’s fiction make you avoid God’s fact.
Fifth, Jesus had the highest view of Scripture (v. 31). He understood it was the means by which God spoke to the Sadducees, even though they were not born when the Old Testament was being written.
Sixth, the Sadducees ignorance was not for lack of information (v. 31), since God had spoken to them in the Scriptures. They had not reasoned rightly about what God wrote, which allowed them to get in serious error. Their ignorance was inexcusable.
Seventh, Jesus is the master logician (v. 32). The passage he quoted to the Sadducees was Exodus 3:6, where God is described as “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Those three patriarchs had been dead for centuries when God spoke those words to Moses from the burning bush. Implied is that those three patriarchs were not dead, but living. If the Sadducees had seen the implication taught in Exodus 3:6, they should have had no trouble with the concept of resurrection.
Eighth, it is possible to be amazed at something heard, without believing it (v. 33). Astonishment at the Lord’s teaching is a good first step, but no substitute for acceptance. God help us avoid the mistakes of the Sadducees.