The question about rising from death. 20:27-38


The Sadducees saw the whole person as mortal and so did not believe in a "resurrection, neither angel nor spirit." In our passage for study, Jesus begins by exposing the irrelevance of the Sadducees' position. The resurrection-life is not an extension of the good life of this age; it is of another dimension where there are no sexual relationships. Jesus then, by inference, proves the resurrection using scriptures recognized by the Sadducees. If Moses calls God the God of Abraham after Abraham's death, Abraham must inevitably rise from the dead so that God's relationship with him can be actualized. If that is so for Abraham, then it can be so for us.

The passage

v27-33. The Sadducees had a number of tricky arguments which they used against those who believed in the resurrection of the dead. One such example promotes the question: will the resurrected require ritual cleansing since they are in contact with a dead body, namely, their own? The Pharisees were constantly frustrated by these arguments. In our passage for study we see the Sadducees trying out one of their tricky arguments on Jesus.

v34-35. Jesus first exposes the limited understanding that the Sadducees (and also the Pharisees) have of life in heaven. People in this age find meaning and fulfillment in marriage and procreation. In heaven, those who share in the resurrection of the dead find meaning and fulfillment in fellowship with Christ. So, there is no marriage in heaven. Jesus also implies that the Sadducees denial of the resurrection undermines the whole notion of divine reward - "those who are considered worthy" share in the resurrection and gain a place in the age to come.

v36. When Jesus says that resurrected believers are "like the angels", he probably means that like the angels they "can no longer die", cf. Heb.2:14-18. By making this point, Jesus further exposes the flaw in the Sadducees' argument. The issue that Moses is dealing with, regarding a man's responsibility of marrying his deceased brother's wife, Deuteronomy 25:5-10, concerns the survival of a person's family here on earth. Those who "share in the resurrection" have God as their Father and they will survive forever. In simple terms, the situation Moses is addressing does not apply in heaven.

v37. Jesus now moves to the centre of his argument by quoting from Exodus chapter 3. The books of Moses (the Law, the Pentateuch) serve as the highest authority for the Sadducees. Using this recognized source, Jesus promotes a tricky argument in return: if God is the God of the patriarchs then obviously the "dead rise", for he is not God of the patriarch's remains, but the God of living persons.



v38. So, God is the God of the living. Jesus is not suggesting that Abraham is living in heaven now. If that were the case, Abraham would not be in need of a resurrection in order to have God as his God. Such a view would undermine Jesus' argument for a future resurrection of the righteous dead, which is the point he is making to the Sadducees. Jesus is not answering Plato's question, "if a man dies is he still alive?", but Job's question, "if a man dies shall he live again?" The implication of Jesus' argument is that at the present moment, all deceased believers share Christ's resurrection life (they are "hid in Christ"). On the day of resurrection the dead in Christ will rise individually, they will rise along with all those believers who are alive at Christ's coming.

And all the stuff will be no more

The games we play, all the territorial, nesting, procreative games, is the stuff of humanity. It's what makes the world go round. We humans are driven by the urge to mate and rare our young. Defining our territory and creating our nest, controls and shapes our life. It shapes corporate life, shaping the way we market and sell products. In the end, it is the basic motivator of life.

The problem is, our desire to know another, to share the progeny of that union, is corrupted; it doesn't work properly. Relationships break down; marriages disintegrate and friendships don't seem to last. Circumstances change, people change, and of course, as time moves on, we start to see the flaws in each other's character.

So, how do we survive? How do we get through life when the begetting business doesn't seem to work properly. Jesus gives us a clue in our passage for study. "The people of this age", says Jesus, "marry and are given in marriage". Such is life. It's the way it is. Yet, those who share the glory of the day of resurrection, will discover a change in focus. It is no longer two becoming one, it is now one with God - "they are God's children". In simple terms, in heaven it is just Jesus and me, and Jesus and you. So, somehow it will all be right between us.

We survive the limitations of our personal relationships, not by limiting them, never reaching out, demanding...... but rather allowing the eternal end of things to take a more central place in our lives. "What a friend we have in Jesus" helps us when we are "cumbered with a load of care".


Discuss how the sensual-self motivates our decisions and actions, and how we might transcend that motivation through a growing friendship with Christ.

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