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Luke 20:27-40 – Sadducees and the Resurrection

The Sadducees were the Jewish leaders who controlled what happened at the temple. Unique among the Jews they did not believe in a future resurrection. Their ‘Bible’ was only the books of the Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy).

The Sadducees attempted to mock Jesus’ ability as a teacher by proposing an apparently ridiculous situation. The Law of Moses taught that if a man died without leaving children then the man’s brother must marry her so she can have children who by adoption will be counted as the children of the man who died. The Sadducees proposed the very unlikely scenario of seven brothers all marrying a single woman. They then ask: “In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”

Jesus answers with two responses. First, according to Jesus marriage belongs to this life, this age only. Marriage is a shadow of the union between God and his people. When the reality is consummated the shadow no longer will have a purpose. In this age marriage results in having children which prolongs one’s ‘presence’ in the world after one has died – but in the age to come there is no death. People experience eternal life as the angels do now and so there is no need to propagate and thus no marriage.

Secondly, Jesus quotes from the only part of the Bible that the Sadducees recognize – the books of Moses. He quotes from the passage where God reveals himself in the burning bush to Moses and calls himself “the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” – clearly this indicates that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are living for he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.

The doctrines of marriage and resurrection are crucial for both the now and the not-yet. Once again, Jesus has demonstrated his wisdom and knowledge as a teacher of the things of God.