8th June 2023
Read (Matthew 22v23-33)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
The Sadducees were constant opponents of Christ but we tend to overlook them in favour of the Pharisees. The two groups were not friends and it was only their hatred of Jesus that brought them together. Whilst the Pharisees held the "oral law" (historic teaching of various Rabbis) in high regard, the Sadducees did not. Additionally the Sadducees differed from the Pharisees in that they did not believe in the resurrection of the body and perhaps even thought that the human soul ceased to exist at death.
It is unsurprising then that the Sadducees came to Jesus with a question about the resurrection. They presented to Christ a scenario where a woman was married to a man who died before they had any children. According to the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 25v5-6) if brothers lived together and one of them died childless, it was his surviving brother's duty to marry his brother's widow. This was to ensure that the dead brother's name would live on as any child from the new marriage would be considered the dead brother's heir. Commentators suggest that this practice wasn't really observed by Christ's day but it formed the basis of the Sadducee's question.
They presented a story whereby one of seven brothers died before he had an heir. The second brother married the dead man's wife but the second brother then died. The third brother then married the first brother's wife but the third brother died as well. This process continued all the way down to the seventh brother. It seems like an incredibly unlikely state of affairs but the Sadducees used it to propose a question "In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? (v28) What were the Sadducees playing at? As we have already stated, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and so they thought that their scenario showed the resurrection to be a nonsense. Each of the seven brothers had a right to call the woman their own wife and so if the resurrection was a fact then it would result in endless unsolvable conundrums such as this.
I'm sure that the Sadducees thought that they had finally put Christ in His place and yet once again Jesus proved to be more than their equal. He replied by explaining that the Sadducees did not understand Scripture nor did they understand the power of God (v29). The resurrection certainly causes us to scratch our heads - what will we look like when raised from the dead? Will we based raised naked? What age will we appear to be? I've heard all of these questions and many more but the truth is that we are not told the ins and outs of the resurrection. However we can confidently say that the Lord will raise us bodily on the last day, we will stand again upon this earth and it will be done by the extraordinary power of God.
Furthermore the complex question about the seven brothers and the one wife was irrelevant - why? Because the Sadducees incorrectly assumed that the resurrected life would be exactly like this life. Jesus said that in the resurrection there will be no more need for marriage, instead the faithful will live like the angels who currently have no concern about marriage. Does this mean that you won't know your wife in heaven? No. You won't suddenly forget your loved ones and you will love your husband or wife in a deeper way than you do now but in heaven marriage as we currently know it will be no more.
So the Sadducees had misunderstood Scripture and the resurrected life but tragically they had also misunderstood God Himself. Jesus reminded them of Exodus 3v6 which records God saying to Moses “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” What has this verse got to do with the resurrection? In Moses' day, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all long dead and yet God still declared Himself to be their God. These men had not died and disappeared eternally, instead they had entered heaven by faith in the Christ who was to come. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (v32). The Lord's teaching astounded the crowds and once again Christ's opponents had failed to humiliate Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, we rarely meditate upon the reality of the resurrection but we should certainly take more time to do exactly that. When the Christian dies their soul is made perfect and it goes to be with the Lord - this is our intermediate state. However when Jesus returns His people will be raised physically to everlasting life. Our souls will be reunited with perfect bodies and we will dwell with Jesus in the new heavens and earth - this is our final state. Questions about the resurrection may trouble us but we should always hold tightly to its certainty. As Job once said "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!" (Job 19v25-27)
Q67 Which is the sixth commandment? The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.