Chapter 22:23-33 (ESV) - The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
Question to consider: What does Matthew say about the Sadducees that make you think they weren’t asking a sincere question?
The Sadducees were from among the temple priests and lived in and around Jerusalem. They held to the Torah and lifted up Moses as their representative and didn’t hold to the Psalms and Prophets. They rejected any notion of the Messiah and believed that if someone kept the Law, they were rewarded with blessings in this life. So they sought the positions of power within the city and made sure that nothing upset the Roman authorities.
Of course, it is good to point out that at least the office of the priesthood was established by God in scripture. The Pharisees established their own authority based on traditions that they proclaimed came from God but were in fact inspired by the evil one. I think this sense of legitimacy gave the Sadducees a smug sense of pride that I tend to read into today’s text because I don’t think they actually believed that Jesus was the Messiah, a prophet, or even someone worthy to be teaching the Jews.
If you read my study of this account in Luke 20:27-40, I noted that their story seems to be based on one in the apocryphal book of Tobit. Even in choosing a story that was known among the Pharisees but not a part of their recognized canon of scripture, there seems to be a sense that they were mocking the very notion of resurrection.
If there is one thing that will shut the mouth of a smug intellectual, it is the revelation of their ignorance. Not only did Jesus prove that they were wrong about what happens when we die, but He did so from one of the most basic scriptures from their own narrow canon. God’s declaration about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was made to Moses from the burning bush. Their ignorance was about as foolish as that of someone who professes that they only believe the words in scripture directly said by Jesus and then being taught that by His own words, Jesus affirmed the truth of the entire Old Testament canon.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for giving us the diverse works of scripture which reveal Your Son to us. Help us to delight in Your ways and desire to do the things that draw us closer to You in Jesus’ name. Amen.