The Book of Luke, The Sadducee’s Turn at Bat, Part I - Lesson 214
Luke 20:27-39, Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him, 28Saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 29There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. 30And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. 31And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. 32Last of all the woman died also. 33Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife. 34And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: 35But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: (Aside: Some of the Sadducees said, “Great”, others were disappointed) 36Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. 37Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him. 39Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said. 40And after that they durst not ask him any question at all.
The setting of this passage is in Jerusalem and takes place after Jesus Christ had demonstrated in many ways that He is Israel’s Messiah.
He had entered into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey traveling over palm leaves spread in his path, displaying by this action the entrance of a king.
He had cleansed the temple of the merchants and those who would corrupt it’s purpose.
He had taken ownership of the temple and continued to teach there, which was viewed as a serious threat to the authority and positions of the Jewish leaders, who had already purposed to put Him to death.
They had challenged Jesus’ authority and were met by the parable of the vineyard and the vine-growers which identified Jesus as the Son of God, sent by the Father, and clearly revealed them as God’s enemies, who would not only be destroyed, but, God forbid they said, be replaced by Gentiles.
Not being able to arrest Christ because of the people, they devised a plan to have him arrested and put to death by Rome.
Last week we studied the first prong of this attack when they asked a question about taxes, expecting him to fall into a trap of treasonous speech, thereby using that against him.
But it was not to be, for when Christ spoke to this tax question we are told that they left utterly speechless, astounded by his words.
So it is into this setting that we see the entrance of a group called the Sadducees.
The Pharisees, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders had met their match and had been bested, and now the Sadducees, full of pride, step up to the plate thinking they will somehow succeed where these others failed.
There was a popular love song of the nineteen fifties that has this line: Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread.
Proverbs 27:12, A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.
This appears to fit the Sadducees for they rush into this void created by the silencing of the mouths of the chief priests and scribes and the elders.
The Sadducees were one of the two main religious groups in Israel, the other being the Pharisees.
The Sadducees were fewer in number, but they enjoyed greater political power.
They were from the wealthy class, they supplied the High Priestly rulers, and they collaborated with Rome, therefore they had more political power.
The Pharisees were known to accept the law and the prophets but the Sadducees refused to accept anything except the first five books of the Old Testament, the five books of Moses, known as the Law.
Because of this they shunned the oral tradition of the Pharisees which they saw as an addition to the books of Moses.
They therefore were known as believers in the written word, but the written word only as written by Moses.
But they were also known to compromise the law when it was in their financial interest or it supported their pride and ambition.
The Pharisees were militant and expressed their doctrines openly believing in the resurrection and also in the existence of angels.
The Sadducees were worldly, scheming, ruthless, ready to compromise to get along and they denied both the resurrection and the existence of angels.
In believing this they denied the soul’s immortality which meant they believed that the soul died along with the body.
There were great differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and it is amazing that they were able to cooperate at times, but one of those times concerned both group’s desire to rid Israel of Jesus Christ.
The old saying goes “Common enemies make for strange bedfellows!”
John the Baptist addressed both groups as a generation of vipers.
Jesus Christ saw no difference in either group as he lumped them under the category of hypocrites coming from a wicked and adulterous generation.
Jesus saw both groups as trying to obtain security by their own efforts.
The Sadducee’s salvation was based upon the accumulation of possessions in this life, while the Pharisees clung to a hope for a life in the next world, based upon striving with all their might to work their way into heaven.
The Sadducees would be very comfortable with the modern mantra that says: "you only go around once, so get all the gusto you can”
So it is no wonder that when Jesus Christ appeared on the scene, preaching the need for a sincere turning of the heart to God, believing only on God as the author of salvation, he was rejected by both groups.
The Pharisee’s hypocrisy was exposed and the Sadducees did not want their power structure to be disturbed.
In other words the status quo with Rome was quite satisfactory to the Sadducees and this man Jesus was disturbing their comfort.
Now this entrance of the Sadducees into the picture seems to be a desire on their part to prove and promote their pet doctrine.
They were no different than many “Johnny one note” groups today who come to your door, not preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, but preaching the gospel of their group.
The Sadducees “one note” was that there is no resurrection.
It was convenient for them not to believe in the resurrection for they did not want to face God for they were interested in an Epicurean life where pleasure and power were the mainstays.
By asking this question of the Lord they were interested in making themselves look good.
When Luke presents them to us in verse 27 he makes sure we know of this pet doctrine.
Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection;
So this is the premise for this question which follows a long description whereby we see the deaths of seven brothers who died childless.
My goodness what a story! Can you imagine the thoughts of the fourth brother as he contemplated marrying this woman?
Already three of his brothers had died
But for the sake of their pet doctrine they had most likely invented this scenario in order to prove their point.
It was certainly not a question posed because of a sincere desire for truth.
They did not expect an answer, hoping simply to stump Jesus and to demonstrate how foolish is the idea of a resurrection from the dead.
And to do this they were asking Jesus about something in which they didn’t even believe.
They were proposing a scenario which would not fit into a resurrection and by doing this establish their premise that belief in a resurrection from the dead is both unbiblical and impractical.
So they said: Master, Moses wrote unto us, If any man’s brother die, having a wife, and he die without children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. 29There were therefore seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and died without children. 30And the second took her to wife, and he died childless. 31And the third took her; and in like manner the seven also: and they left no children, and died. 32Last of all the woman died also. 33Therefore in the resurrection whose wife of them is she? for seven had her to wife.
This I imagine, was the question that the Sadducees asked often of those whom they were trying to convince of their pet doctrine.
The unbeliever will pose the question: Who did Cain marry? to try to justify his unbelief and to place doubt in the validity of God’s word.
The Sadducees, believing in the five books of Moses, introduce their question based upon what Moses wrote to them in:
Deuteronomy 25:5-6, 5If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband’s brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband’s brother unto her. 6And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel.
The purpose of this command was to assure that each family and tribe in Israel was perpetuated by the bearing of children.
When the oldest brother married, but died before having any children, the younger brother was to take the widow as his wife so that their first son would carry on the name and the household of the deceased brother.
This was a very practical law, given to guarantee future generations, for future generations were absolutely necessary if the Messiah were to be born of a woman from the tribe of Judah, of the line of David.
When you think about this question on this side of the cross it seems to be a ridiculous question and a ridiculous position.
The Sadducees were saying that since this woman had seven husbands there must not be a resurrection because if there were, the decision as to which of the seven would be her husband would be an impossible decision to make.
They saw the law of Moses for the perpetuation of a dead Israelite’s family line as the only immortality that there was.
They concluded that immortality was not gained by resurrection from the dead, but by the carrying on of an Israelite’s family line through his offspring.
They concluded that since a man’s younger brother had to assume the duties of his deceased brother, Moses must not believe that men would someday be raised from the dead.
Why would such provisions need to be made for the perpetuation of a man’s offspring if he were someday going to be raised from the dead and could again assume his position in the family?
But as is in the case of many false doctrines their premise was wrong and based upon thinking that all things will continue as they now are during the time after the resurrection.
They were attempting to wag the dog with it’s tail instead of letting the dog wag its tail.
They did not believe in the resurrection so therefore they proposed this absurd scenario to prove their point but Jesus Christ quickly shot down this scenario as not fitting into the kingdom.
Luke 20:34-36, And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: 35But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: 36Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
So here we see Jesus Christ’s view of “this world” and “that world”, that world being the kingdom, and both views are not the same.
The Sadducees thought of the kingdom in terms of the present, not in terms of the future.
The kingdom to them (especially since they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead) is now.
Consequently they believed in no future age.
It also follows that since the “kingdom” is thought of in terms of the present, it will not differ from the way things are now.
The entire argument of the Sadducees is predicated on a single premise: life in the kingdom of God will be just like it is now.
Based upon this, the present institution of marriage is assumed by the Sadducees to continue on in the kingdom.
Therefore, a woman who was married to seven brothers would be in a terrible predicament in heaven, for she would have to choose one of them with which to live.
Jesus’ quickly dashes their argument for He speaks of two worlds, “this world” and “that world,” which are very different from each other.
The kingdom of God will be very different from the way things are now, for those who were resurrected.
For those who are resurrected there will be no death, there will be no bearing of children, and there will be no marriage.
This detailed scenario of the seven brothers for one wife, proposed by the Sadducees, is shown to be ridiculous and not applicable to whether or not there will be a resurrection.
Resurrection will pose no problem for husbands and wives for marriage is for now, but not for heaven.
Marriage was instituted to perpetuate the race and when those who have new bodies, fit for the kingdom of God are in the kingdom, the race is perpetuated and therefore marriage is no longer necessary.
People in this age die, and therefore there was the need for God to spell out through Moses, provisions for preserving the family name.
Those resurrected for the kingdom age will not die, and therefore there is no need for such a perpetuation.
Men and woman in that future age will be “like angels,” which neither die nor reproduce.
Conditions in that future age will be greatly different and we see how foolish the Sadducees were to think that because present conditions cannot be continued after the resurrection that that proves there is no resurrection.
The Sadducees had so honored the law of Moses that they saw it with a permanence that it did not deserve.
The law of Moses was temporary and unable to be perfected in sinful men.
They looked to the law of Moses to perfect them, that is to bring them righteousness before God when that was never the intention of the law.
They discarded or gave little attention to God’s covenant with Abraham which would give them righteousness on the basis of faith as a gift by God’s grace.
This of course transcends the law.
Legalists despise grace for it does not show off what they can do, but instead shows what God must do for them, and therefore they always develop a system of salvation by their own merit or works.
Now another error of the Sadducees in their belief of no resurrection, was in the trust they had in the books of Moses thinking that Moses did not support a resurrection.
To thwart this assumption Jesus said this in:
Luke 20:37-38, Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.
So the Lord goes about proving that there will be life everlasting and therefore a resurrection as taught in the Pentateuch, which was the Word of God written by the hand of Moses.
There are many references to the resurrection taught in the Old Testament but Jesus did not use them, but used that in which the Sadducees trusted, the books of Moses.
Jesus showed how Moses believed in it, for Moses, at the burning bush, called God the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Now at this time of course these three had been dead for many years, but Jesus tells the Sadducees that God is not the God of the dead inferring that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were at that very time very much alive.
At the burning bush event, God identified Himself to Moses, and therefore to Israel, as the “I am,” the eternal God.
God referred to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not speaking of these patriarchs as dead men, but as those who are alive, immortal.
If God spoke of dead men as though they were alive, then this implied that these men would live again, they would rise from the dead.
This is that which the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews spoke, not only of these three patriarchs, but of all the Old Testament saints:
Hebrews 11:13-14, 3These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
Hebrews 11:17-19, By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.