Summary: Jesus answers the question of the Sadducee's about His resurrection.
“What Happens After We Die?”
The question of “What happens after we die?” is a question that relevant to everyone. The question becomes intensely significant when faced with the death of a loved one or when we are facing the stark reality of our own death.
“There are basically two groups of people in the world. The first group is made up of those who believe this life is all there is. We live, we die, and that is all there is. Most major religions have some notion of life beyond the grave. Jesus taught that there will be a time of judgment and reward followed by eternal life commensurate with the results of that judgment.” [Bruce Goettsche. “What Happens After We Die? – Lk 20:27-40. www.unionchurch.com/archive/031311.htm]
As Jesus taught in the Temple one group after another came and took Him to task. First, there are those who came to question His authority to cleanse the Temple and to continue to teach daily there (vv. 1-2). He defeated them with a counter question, “First, you tell me, Was the baptism of John from God or from men.” (v. 4). When they refused to answer this question, neither did He answer them. Next came those with a deadly political question, “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not” (v. 22). He defeated them by asking for a coin and after receiving a denarius bearing the image of Caesar said, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what belongs to God” (v. 25). Now in verse twenty-seven we are introduced to one last group, the Sadducee's, who decided they would have to show the others how to put Jesus in his place.
First, The Question. (20:27-33)
“Then some of the Sadducee's, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him (28) saying: ‘Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother should take a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. (29) Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children. (30) And the second took here as wife, and he died child-less. (31) Then the third took here, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. (32) Last of all the woman died also. (33) Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.”
Luke helps us to understand who the Sadducee's were by saying, they are those “who deny that there is a resurrection” (v. 27). Furthermore Acts 23:8, states that the Sadducee's did not believe in angels or spirits either. In fact they were mainly a political group, although they had control of the High priestly office. They seemed to feel that only the first five books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch) were binding on the Jewish people. At the heart of the trick question was the custom of “Levirate marriage,” according to this custom if a man’s married brother died without leaving an heir, he must marry the widow for the explicit purpose of producing a son to carry on the family name (Deut. 25:5-6).
But as we look at the question they brought to Jesus we should note that in their question, of one bride and seven brothers, there was no real search for the truth. The Sadducee's not only did not expect an answer, they did want one. They were asking Jesus about something in which they did not believe. In fact, they hope to stump Jesus and thus demonstrate how foolish the whole idea of resurrection from the dead is, that it is indeed unbiblical and impractical.
The problem presented in the form of a question is of course at its core a sham, however, the issue that is raises is not; “Is there an afterlife? Will people really be raised from the dead?” Is the idea of life after death just Christian escapism? Why don’t Christians just face the truth that this life is all there is? Have you ever heard those kinds of objections raised by the skeptics of our age? The Sadducee's were just first century skeptics who did not believe in life after death.
They said that life ended at death. There is little doubt that the Sadducee's just considered themselves hard core realists, who had to combat this nonsense about the resurrection. But perhaps at least part of the answer is that the Sadducee's were so comfortable in their day-to-day lives that they were not concerned with the after life. This is true of most Americans today as well; we are so comfortable in our day-to-day lives that we tend to forget that our ultimate hope is in Heaven. When is the last time you even thought about where you are going to spend eternity?