Luke 20:27 – 40
Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”
Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him another question.
The Pharisees, even with their legal expert, were unable to trap Jesus; now they send in the Sadducees. The Pharisees and Sadducees are usually on opposite sides of any argument; it is surprising to find them working together in their attempt to get rid of Jesus! The Pharisees believed in resurrection; the Sadducees did not. The Sadducees believed only in the Books of Moses, and according to their reading, there was no mention of resurrection there. It was an idea that was seen in the prophets, but they thought the prophets to be “modern innovations”. Isn’t it interesting how some of the arguments we see in Christianity today are reflected all the way back in Jesus’ day? Because they did not believe in resurrection, they had a set of standardized arguments against it, and the argument they presented to Jesus was one of those. What happens if a woman is married multiple times (they give a situation in which it was legal for her to be so); whose wife is she in the resurrection. Note – it would have been much more frequent, even in their day, for a man to have had multiple wives, but they seem not to be troubled by that. The question is one of possession, not one of love. The wife was the man’s possession; to whom would she belong in the afterlife?
Don’t we wonder and speculate about what heaven is like? The book of Revelation has fantasy descriptions of the new creation – we read poetry and hymns, even today, about streets of gold and clouds and harps, not a heaven most of us would love! And so, each of us has our own images of heaven – but what we must remember is that it must begin in the now; we must be part of the kingdom now. As for the Sadducees, they do not really care about what heaven is like, for they do not believe in heaven. They ask a question that is ridiculous – about possession.
Jesus puts down their argument by saying they do not understand what the resurrection is about. People do not marry in the resurrection, he says, but are like angels. There is no possessing of another person in that life, for all are children of God. And then he attacks their lack of belief in an afterlife, by going back to the Scripture that they do revere, the books of Moses, saying that when God speaks to Moses from the burning bush he says, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” he speaks in the present tense. Although those men had died long ago, they live, for God is God not of the dead, but of the living.
The scribes and Pharisees are impressed, saying, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” And none of them dared to question him further! How do you argue with this man? They will have to grab him in secret, have a secret trial, condemn him. Jesus knows their plan – he confronts them anyway.