Summary: The God you worship is your God forever.
We start round three in the debate matches between Jesus and his opponents. In the first round the religious authorities tried intimidation: Who do you think you are? The result: they slink away intimidated by the crowd. In the second round the shrewdest of the Pharisees and Herodians collaborated on a question sure to entrap Jesus. The result: they are left speechless and the crowd even more amazed at Jesus’ wisdom. Give the opponents credit; they come back for yet another round, this time with a strategy to make Jesus appear foolish. Too bad we cannot gamble; I think we all know who comes out winner.
18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.
This is Mark’s first and only reference to the Sadducees. Let’s review who they are. They do not receive much mention, but they are present and powerful. Indeed, they are the aristocracy of Jerusalem. Most of the chief priests are Sadducees; they make up the majority of the Sanhedrin, the governing body of the Jews. They are the political power in corroboration with the Romans.
They also are not popular. Actually, the Pharisees are the popular leaders. The Sadducees have to share power and yield to Pharisee traditions because the latter is the more respected and popular of the two groups. The Pharisees are more respected because of their zeal to keep the law; they are more popular because, believe it or not, they are more lenient. The Sadducees also have a reputation of being harsh and even crude with the population, as will be seen in their bullying ways with Jesus at his trial.
They certainly hate Jesus who represents a threat to their political stability because of the people hailing him as a king.
The biggest contrast between the Sadducees and the Pharisees involves religion. Whereas the Pharisees devote themselves to the oral traditions of the elders passed down over the centuries, the Sadducees reject them altogether. Only the Torah has divine authority. They disagree over the doctrine of the resurrection. The Pharisees believe in a final resurrection; the Sadducees not only reject such a belief, they deny the concept of life after death altogether. They also discount belief in angels and spirits, which, again, was a belief of the Pharisees. Most people, by the way, agreed with the Pharisees on all these issues.
So now, the Sadducees take the floor ready to shame Jesus with their impeccable logic and biblical knowledge. Jesus, by the way, also agrees with the Pharisees in their belief in the resurrection and angels. Indeed, his views had much in common with the Pharisees’ views. He is probably so harsh with them precisely because they had so much right. As he said, to whom much is given, much is expected.
Anyhow, the Sadducees choose the topic of the resurrection as the means to show Jesus up. You have to hand to them; they choose a topic to debate in front of a crowd that differed with them. They are not intimidated. But their sarcasm certainly comes out.
19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
Well, guess they showed Jesus! Obviously the idea of the resurrection is foolishness. If people would just think the matter through logically, they would see it makes no sense, particularly in light of the Torah (the five books of Moses). That is a smooth stroke, by the way, to bring in Moses. No one can dispute his writings as anything but the divine Word of God.
The reason for such a law about marrying the widow of a deceased brother, by the way, was to preserve a lineage for the brother. If brother Jacob died before his wife Miriam bore a child, brother Levi married Miriam. The first child born by Miriam would carry on the name and lineage of Jacob. In this case the widow bears no children; so who claims her for his wife in the resurrection?
I suppose the Sadducees finished with a smirk on their faces and expected Jesus to turn red in the face and become flustered. After all, what could he say? How could he respond?
In truth, he has no trouble responding, and he does so in a way that is a verbal smack in the face.