MARCH 6, 2016
MAIN TEXT: MARK 12:18-27
And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘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. You are quite wrong.”
Have you ever thought about what happens after we die? You breathe your final breath and then...what happens? It is a strange thing to think about, but I think, if we are honest, we all think of this reality from time to time. We attend a funeral of someone we love and we wonder where they are and what they are doing. Their body is going to be laid into a grave, but surely some part of them exists still.
We can develop some pretty unusual (and unbiblical) views of what takes place after someone dies. Much of this is due to the fact that when we experience loss in this way, our minds search for comfort. We like to think about our loved ones watching over us. We like to view them as floating in an ethereal world, perhaps with a harp, halo and wings. We like to perhaps imagine that they are in a better place. These yearnings are probably more natural than we realize, but what can we really know about life after death? In our passage today, Jesus is cornered with this question.
As we progress through the Gospel of Mark we descend on this period of time, where Jesus had entered into Jerusalem and is causing quite a commotion. He has declared that the religious system of the Jews is full of empty promises, like a fig tree with beautiful leaves but no fruit. A pretty exterior, but nothing of substance (Mark 11:12-14, 20-25). He enters the Temple and curses this place and what it has become (Mark 11:15-19). He declares that the religious authorities of that day are inept and weak (Mark 11:27-33). Jesus shares a parable that shows that God is destroying this deadly religious system and establishing a new ‘building’ (Mark 12:1-12). The heat is turned up and more religious leaders come to trap Jesus, but he answers their deceptive questions with precision and clarity (Mark 12:13-17).
In our passage today, we see another group of religious leaders, the Sadducees, come to him to propose an unanswerable question to him–and Jesus not only answers them, but declares to them their lack of understanding even the very Scriptures they claim to understand.
God’s Power Is Able
The Sadducees came to Jesus to try to trick him into saying something foolish or contradictory, so that his followers would break fellowship with him. They lay out an elaborate story of a woman who is married to seven different brothers and finds herself in the life after death. Their silver bullet to Jesus is to ask him to which husband will she be united unto in the life after death?
First, this may seem strange that this woman would be married so many times and all her husbands were brothers none-the-less. Actually, this was a portion of the law given to the Israelites to protect the name of the original man/brother (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). This was a part of the law of which the Israelites would have been very familiar. However, the hyperbolic nature of this story was an effort by the Sadducees to show how ridiculous the resurrection concept would be–for how could this woman be united to any one of them?
Jesus counters them by telling them that they are wrong, but wrong about what? He says that they are wrong because they do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. He deals with their question and states that when they rise from the dead, marriage will not be as it is now. Our marriage now points us to a much greater reality than simply the love and affection we share with another human. It points us to the great marriage that will exist one day when heaven and earth are no longer separated but unified. In that day, we will discover the full meaning of our union with other humans. We see in part now, but then we will see clearly (1 Corinthians 13:12).
God has the power to transform us behind the veil of this present reality, even though it is difficult to imagine going from this much brokenness to such a glorious existence. The Sadducees were committed to a power, but not the power of God. They were committed to their own, self-serving power. They were committed to their establishment. They did not know the power of God.
God’s Word Is Sure
Jesus goes on and clarifies for them about the dead being raised. He references a passage in the Old Testament that they would have held dear. He quotes Exodus 3:6, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God did not tell Moses in this encounter that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but rather that “I am the God”. The Sadducees were mistaken to think that there was no resurrection because they didn’t know the Scriptures. They didn’t realize how large God’s promises really are and how wide God’s justice would travel. They limited his promises and justice by determining that whatever takes place on this side of death is the extent of his promises and justice. Jesus says they are mistaken.
M. Eugene Boring says:
The resurrection is central to God’s plan of redemption. The Sadducees got this wrong and they missed the entire point. Do we believe that God’s Word is sure? Do we trust that God’s promises endure through and after death? It is not easy to answer the question of what happens when we die, but we can be sure that God’s promises and justice will go with us even through death.
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 12:18-27
Why do you think belief in life after death is the majority opinion? How do Christians defend this opinion with facts and evidence?
When Jesus debated the Sadducees, He used evidence from one of the five books of Moses. Why? How should His example affect the way we debate Jews? Should it determine how we debate atheists?
Jesus’ argument hinges on the tense of a verb. What does this say about the accuracy of the Bible? What does it teach us about the importance of studying the Word closely?