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Summary: The God you worship is your God forever.

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Introduction

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.

Text

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.


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