18 Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and questioned him: 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife behind but no child, that man should take the wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers. The first married a woman, and dying, left no offspring. 21 The second also took her, and he died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 None of the seven left offspring. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be, since the seven had married her?” 24 Jesus spoke to them, “Isn’t this the reason why you’re mistaken: you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised—haven’t you read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God said to him: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? 27 He is not the God of the dead but of the living. You are badly mistaken.” — Mark 12:18-27
A Silly Question and Serious Response
by Craig Glenn
At this point in Jesus’ ministry He had attained significant notoriety. He had dazzled crowds with His miraculous healing powers and His understanding of the Scriptures. He had fed 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish. He had cast out demons, healed blind men, and spoken in powerful parables to convey deep theological truths. He also possessed wisdom and knowledge about the kingdom of God.
In the process, Jesus upended many Jewish traditions. This did not sit well with the religious elite of the day—the Pharisees and Sadducees. These groups did not and could not fully appreciate the ministry of Jesus, so they treated Him as a threat to their continued power and influence.
In the twelfth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, the second group, the Sadducees, approached Jesus with a seemingly benign theological query. Upon closer examination, however, it becomes clear that their specific aim was to “trap” Jesus by posing a ridiculous hypothetical. First, we are told that the Sadducees did not believe in the Resurrection—so what was their motive in asking Jesus about it?
Their query invoked an Old Testament law given by Moses in Deuteronomy 25:5. This law held that should a man perish without a male heir, his brother (or nearest unmarried relative) was to marry his widow. The purpose behind God’s law was to preserve the family name for continuity of the Israelite nation.
The Sadducees asked Jesus how this law would apply to a given hypothetical. The absurdity of their question was on full display, and Jesus immediately picked up on it. They supposed a woman’s husband died without offspring, and his six brothers successively took her in, each one dying before they could produce a male heir. Because the Sadducees did not believe in the Resurrection, they had no concept of how marriage would be treated in God's kingdom. They wondered, albeit insincerely, whose wife the woman would become after she died.
In response, Jesus pointed out that they had no clue what they were saying, because they didn't know the Scriptures or the power of God. God's chosen people, He explained, will join Him in heaven without labels or classification. Heaven will involve a new order of things, and marriage will not exist as it does now. Rather, Jesus declared, those who rise will be like the angels in heaven. Because the Sadducees also denied the existence of angels, they again failed to grasp what Jesus was saying.
Lastly, Jesus exposed the Sadducees’ shallow thinking by demonstrating that the Book of Moses does in fact contain evidence of the Resurrection. He referred to God’s “I am” statement to Moses at the burning bush to validate that He is a God of the living, not the dead. If those who have gone before us are still “alive” in Christ, we can be sure they will be raised to Christ in the Resurrection.
The Sadducees were so constrained in their thinking and blinded by their ignorance that they consciously chose not to seek out the wisdom and power of God in the Scriptures. In the end, they felt threatened by Jesus. They attempted to bring Him down to an inferior level so they could dismiss Him as an authority figure and protect the status quo.
The lesson here is that when we commit ourselves to Christ, there will be opposition. People who lack understanding of God’s Word and power will try to get in our way, trip us up, frustrate our purpose, exploit us for ignoble reasons, and endeavor to lessen our influence. Jesus gives us a template to use in our ministry. Paul reinforced this template when he wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- Have you ever been seriously questioned about a particular aspect of your faith?
- Did you point to the Scriptures to validate your beliefs?
- How can we better equip ourselves to ready for “every good work”?
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.