A Series of Errors: A Rejection of Resurrection and the Root of the Problem - Mark 12:18-27
Our belief in a future resurrection of the dead is a central and vital part of our faith. It’s a belief that we affirm and one that cannot be left behind without completely changing the nature of what we believe (1 Cor. 15).
R.C. Sproul describes it this way:
The doctrine of the resurrection states that the souls of men live on after death, and that when God brings history to a close, He will raise the bodies of all human beings from the grave and reunite them to their souls, with the righteous then being welcomed to eternal life with God and the unrighteous being sent away into eternal torment.
While this is a central tenet of our faith, there have been those throughout history who have believed in God and yet rejected the doctrine of a future resurrection. One such group was the Sadducees, who were prominent in the time of Jesus. In Mark 12:18-27 Jesus is confronted by the Sadducees as they try to trap Him and give the crowds reason to turn against Him. In this conversation Jesus both proves the resurrection and points out the underlying errors that led the Sadducees to this most significant error.
The Questioners – Who are the Sadducees? (12:18a)
- The Sadducees were predominantly politically focused and motivated, but they were united around their doctrine. They believed that the Torah was the only inspired Scriptures. This belief led them to deny some doctrines that almost all other Jews accepted including the belief in angels and demons. They also denied a future resurrection of the dead.
The Question – Who is married to who? (12:18b-23)
- A scenario –Instead of coming right out and asking Jesus to defend the resurrection, the Sadducees come from another angle: They ask a question about the Law that they believe shows an inconsistency created by a belief in resurrection. The law that spurs the question is a provision given by God to protect widows who are left childless after their husband’s death.
- The surface-level question – After describing a situation in which a widow is married seven different times to seven brothers who each die, the Sadducees ask a question – seemingly about marriage. But the real question is about the validity of the resurrection of the dead.
The Response – The heart of their error (12:24)
- While Jesus will deal with the Sadducees question (about marriage and resurrection), first He points out what lies at the heart of their denial of the resurrection. Although they were highly educated men who touted their knowledge of the Scriptures, Jesus leveled a significant accusation: That they don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.
- Application: Jesus points out that the reason the Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection is that they don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God. These are the same deficiencies many struggle with today. We often err in belief and action because we don’t know the Scriptures or because we don’t trust or believe in the power of God (Consider the response of God to Job when Job began to doubt God’s plan and power – Job 38-39.)
Jesus Explains His Rebuke (12:25-27)
- After leveling His accusation regarding their error, Jesus offers two proofs to back up what He has said.
- Proof One – Marriage isn’t forever – As Jesus answers their question He points out both their lack of understanding and how they’ve underestimated the wisdom and power of God. In their question they assume that marriage will continue into eternity, but Jesus offers a correction: in eternity we are not married in the way we are in this life.
- A note– For many the thought that marriage to their spouse whom they love will not continue into eternity brings sadness and disappointment. However we must remember that God has promised that in eternity we won’t have any sorrows or tears and instead we will have fullness of joy and eternal pleasures. With this in mind, we should trust that God’s plan for our joy is greater than what we can craft or imagine ourselves.
- Proof Two – The Torah teaches the reality of everlasting life – In an effort to prove the Sadducees lack of understanding Jesus goes to the part of Scriptures that they accept as inspired (the Torah) and shows affirmation of eternal life. When God speaks to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3) He speaks of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the present tense – recognizing that though they are dead they live (Heb. 11:9-16).
- You are quite wrong – The Scripture are clear and God is able – on the last day all will be raised – some to everlasting life and others to everlasting torment (Matthew 25:31-46). To miss this truth is not only to be wrong, but according to Jesus, to be quite wrong.
Conclusion– This teaching from Jesus should serve both as a great hope and a great warning. The reality of resurrection is hope for all who believe in Jesus and a warning for all who would reject Him. In addition we should commit ourselves to not making the same errors as the Sadducees. We should strive to know and believe the Bible despite what we feel or want to be true. And we must never be guilty of underestimating or doubting the power of God.