The sacred scriptures are about loving God and caring for each other.
Like the Sadducees, we err when we remember what we should forget
and forget what we should remember.


 

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection,
came to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies,
having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up
offspring for his brother.

"Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he
had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother.
Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh.
Last of all the woman died. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose
wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her."

Jesus answered, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures
nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry
nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.

"Concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read
what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of
Abraham,
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not
the God of
the dead, but of the living." And when the multitudes
heard this,
they were astonished at His teaching.

                                                           Matthew 22:23-33 NKJV, condensed


                                       Life and Death 

Sadducees, Pharisees, scribes, high priests--all the elders of the faith
in Jerusalem were ganging up on Jesus. It was a high level meeting
of the minds. One common goal united them. They wanted to get
rid of this miracle-working teacher who undermined their authority
and attracted such huge crowds. The Sadducees did not believe in
the resurrection and with this question, mocked everyone else
who did. Jesus of Nazareth, have we got one for you!

It was an old law from ancient times. Probably not much practiced
anymore in the days of Jesus. But it suited the purposes of the
Sadducees perfectly. If a man died before fathering a child, his
blood line would die out and his name be lost forever from the
land of the living. But Moses offered a remedy. The man's brother
could marry his widow and raise up children in his name.

So the spokesman for the Sadducees began in all seriousness and
got right to the point. But as his tale continues, it evokes a smile.
There were seven brothers. One by one they died childless, leaving
the job of procreation to their next surviving brother. When all was
said and done, only one person remained, the widow of them all.
So, Teacher, in the resurrection, whose wife will she be, since they all had
married her!!!
There was a beam in the eyes of the questioners.
They were feeling very clever.

But not for long. Jesus told them they erred in their thinking. They
did not understand the command of Moses, neither what he said
nor what he meant. And they underestimated the power of God!
They were focusing on the noodle and missing the dinner.

In a day when it's fairly common for people to have several different
spouses throughout their lifetime, this may be a more relevant
question for us than it was for those Sadducees. We, too, may
question who will be married to whom in heaven? The answer Jesus
gave makes us stand up and take notice.

In the resurrection, people do not marry but will live like God's
angels in heaven! Whether this is good news or bad news depends
on the joys and grief you have experienced with your spouse.
Divorced, single, happily or unhappily married in this life?--that
won't matter in heaven. Our existence will no longer be defined in
such a limited and restricted way.

On the other shore, all relationships will be completely fulfilled
because we will be loved and cared for, not just by one special
person, but by everyone. There will be no need to figure out who
belongs to whom; we will all be united in love for our Maker,
Redeemer and Constant Companion. Better than anything that we
can now imagine, we will be enthralled by God.

But Jesus didn't end it there. It's not about marriage; it's about the
resurrection. Jesus continued on to answer the question they did
not ask. Yes, there is life after death. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--
they are alive. God is not the God of dead people, but of the living. The
resurrection was one of the favorite topics Jesus discussed with his
disciples, telling them many times that he would die and then rise
again. The Gospel makes little sense and is incomplete without the
resurrection.

The Sadducees' question was dead in the water because it harkened
back to an archaic tradition while ignoring the broad strokes of the
ever-living Covenant of God with his people. God's faithfulness
remained alive and so did the faith of father Abraham that was
passed on from one generation to the next. The heart of Jesus'
response is that our loving heavenly Father is the God of the living,
in this life and the next. When we think only in terms of this life, we
are thinking much too small and do not even begin to comprehend
God's limitless
capabilities.

This encounter between the Sadducees and Jesus moved from
quibbling with each other over specific doctrines, to standing on
holy ground in God's eternal presence. Upon hearing this exchange
the crowd was much impressed. But the hearts of the Sadducees
remained far removed from the living God.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: Questions!   Do you have a favorite one?   Is so, what is it? 
                      Or what question do you ask most often?

 

When people ask questions, is it always in order to learn something more?
            List some other motives for asking questions?
            Give some examples of questions asked for these other reasons.

 

The question from this text has a 'got you' tone.
            What are some other 'got you' questions people ask about the Bible?
            How do you react to queries such as, "Where did Cain get his wife"?

 

The Sadducees thought the concept of heaven was an extension of life
on earth and they could not conceive of something beyond what they
could envision.
            Are you like them?   Or is it easy for you to believe in what you
                    cannot see?
            They didn't believe in angels, either.   Do you?   Why or why not?
A common expression is that the Sadducees didn't believe in the
resurrection and that's why they were sad, you see.
            What difference would it make if there were no resurrection of
                    the dead?
            What would you like to say to someone who doesn't believe in life
                    after death?

 

When grieving, we often comfort each other with the hope that we
will be reunited with family and friends in heaven.
            How do we reconcile that idea with the words of Jesus in this text?
            Describe what you expect relationships to be like in heaven.
            What do you think it means to live like God's angels?

 

Are you OK with the thought that in heaven, our eyes will not be on
each other so much as they will be on Jesus?

 

Jesus quoted from Exodus 3:6, wherein the Lord told Moses that he is
the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Not was, but is.
            Does this assure you that the patriarchs, who died thousands
                        of years ago, are still alive in God?
            Is there anything else in the Old Testament that convinces you
                        to believe in eternal life?

 

Discuss some of the implications of believing in a living God for living people.

 

Is it true that everything Jesus taught, such as the beatitudes, makes
sense only in light of the resurrection?  Review some of the teachings of
Jesus to see if that statement is valid.

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