Let's continue our study of Matthew 22:23-33, but before we look specifically at the text we need to talk in general. Mankind always has had thoughts about resurrection, it's just built in the heart of man in every culture, with few exceptions, that there must be a life after life. For example, in the tomb of Pharaoh Kiops sealed over five thousand years ago was discovered a solar boat, which he had built so he could sail through the heavens in his next life.
In the ancient Greek religion often a coin was placed inside the mouth of the corpse so that he could pay his fare across the mystic river of death into the land of immortal life. Some American Indians used to bury a pony and a bow and an arrow with a warrior so that he would be able to ride and hunt in the happy hunting ground. In Greenland Eskimo children, when they died, were buried along with a dog so that they wouldn't have to find their way through the cold wasteland without a guide.
Now Jews were no different. It was part of Jewish thinking that there was life after life. If we study the Jewish writings around the time of Christ we find this affirmed. For example, in this non-biblical book called Second Maccabees, we get an insight into Jewish history, their attitudes, philosophy and beliefs, and we have quite an interesting section about the idea of resurrection.
It describes a man named Rassis, an elder in Israel, who is greatly upset about being under the bondage and domination of the Greeks, and so he decides to kill himself. In front of a crowd, he takes his sword and proceeds to disembowel himself and then he tears out his intestines. And Second Maccabees says, "So he died, calling on him who is lord of life and spirit to restore them to him again." His belief was that there would be another physical life restored after this one was lost. And by taking his life he was hoping to get life in a better situation.
There is another book called the book of Baruch. It says in the 50th chapter, "The earth then shall assuredly restore the dead, which it now receives in order to preserve them. It shall make no change in their form but as it has received so shall it preserve them. And as it is delivered to them so shall it raise them. For then it will be necessary to show to the living that the dead have come to life again and that those who have departed have returned again." In other words, some Jews believed that you would die and come back to life in the same form in which you die.
The Pharisees believed that whatever relationships, whatever situation, whatever marital condition, whatever physical defects, whatever scars, whatever clothes you had on when you died, that's exactly what you would be like when you came in the next life. And the reason that they believed that was so was that when the resurrection happens the ones who were living would know it was a resurrection. If you came back in a different form they wouldn't know you had been resurrected. They wouldn't know it was you.
And then Baruch goes on to say eventually those people who were resurrected would then be transformed into the same splendor that angels have who would be made equal to the stars, they would be changed into every form they desire from beauty into loveliness, from light into glory. But first you had to come back and stay awhile the way you were.
In Psalm 16, one of the most familiar and often used text by the Jews, it says in verse 9-11, "Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices, my flesh also will rest in hope, for You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life." In other words, there is hope that there would be no corruption ultimately, no ultimate death, but life after life.
Psalm 49:15 says, "But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol or the grave, for He shall receive me." Psalm 139:8 has the same idea. Hosea 6:1-2, talks about after two days on the third day He will revive us, make us alive. Daniel 12:2 is perhaps the most direct statement of all, "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
But the Bible didn't spell out how it was going to be, and so there was a lot of debate whether or not you would have your old clothes or your new clothes, and there was a lot of discussion about the form, but we can see from the writing of Baruch, that they believed we would come back in the same form you left to make the point that we had been resurrected and later on we would be transformed.
Now as we look at Matthew 22, most Jews believed strongly in resurrection except one group. Verse 23 says, "The same day came to Jesus, the Sadducees, who say that there is no resurrection." Now they were at odds with all of Jewish culture and theology. In Acts 23:8, they are introduced this way: "For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees confess both." So they were an unusual group in Judaism.
Now there were four major sects in Judaism: Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots and Essenes. Essenes were sort of hermits down in the desert who spent all their time copying scrolls and most likely copied the Dead Sea Scrolls, which we have found. Then there were the Zealots who were political activists, who were very nationalistic, who were giving trouble to Rome. And then there were the Pharisees who were the religionists. And then there were the Sadducees who were the aristocratic ruling class in Judaism.
In fact, the chief priests, the high priest and the noblest of the priests were Sadducees. The majority of the members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body in Israel were also Sadducees. So they had great power, influence and they also were wealthy because they also owned the temple concessions, the money changing, the buying and selling of all sorts of sacrificial things that went on there under their power. And politically they were pro Rome, so they were not a popular group.
Now religiously they were fundamentalists, they were more narrow minded and crueler than the Pharisees. The Pharisees, says Josephus, were more lenient in the application of the law because they wanted to get around the law so they invented all kinds of ways to circumvent the law. They refused everything but the Old Testament. They prided themselves on preserving the pure faith. They were very fastidious when it came to levitical purity and following the levitical order.
Now the key doctrine was that they denied the resurrection. Well if they believed in the Old Testament and many passages there speak of resurrection, how could they deny the resurrection? Because they gave primacy and authority only to the five books of Moses. They said all the rest of Scripture just as commentary on the books of Moses, and since resurrection is not taught there, therefore we do not believe in resurrection.
So therefore, you can live anyway you want here and now, right? They believed that the body and soul went out of existence at death, no penalties and no rewards, no future, nothing, just non-existence. Therefore, they filled up their life with anything and everything they could. Because they were somewhat limited by literal interpretation of the Scripture, they used their religion just to gain profit.
So the Sadducees disagreed violently on resurrection and they disagreed on their attitude toward Rome, and the Pharisees tended to be the lower class and they the higher class, so there was social animosity and political animosity and theological animosity, but there was one thing they agreed on and that is that they must get rid of Jesus Christ. So let's look at our text and see the approach of the Sadducees.
It is Wednesday two days before our Lord was crucified. Jesus has been teaching in the temple and He is stopped by these religious leaders who ask Him a series of questions to get Him in trouble with Rome so He would lose His life but He evaded that so marvelously and indicted them instead. Now the Sadducees come and their intent is to discredit Him with the Jews. And so the attempt here is to discredit Him as a teacher.
And the reason they have instantly become involved is because Jesus has just disrupted their business. One day before, on Tuesday, He had cleansed the temple, thrown out the moneychangers, thrown out the buyers and sellers of all the goods there, and now He is invading their territory. As the people hailed Him as the Son of David, the Messiah, they see now that this man can cause a revolution. He is starting something that only the Romans can stop and they can see themselves trapped.
So the Sadducees and Pharisees got together and they said, "What do we do for this man does many miracles. If we let Him alone the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." So the Sadducees got in on the death plot with the Pharisees because they also rejected Jesus' teaching. The people were turning away from them and listening to Jesus and He was talking resurrection just as the apostles after Him did. In fact, Josephus says it was the Sadducees who murdered James, the brother of our Lord.
Let's look at verse 24, “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.” Now that was what was known as the levirate law, a historic Jewish law taken from Deuteronomy 25:5-6. If a man marries a woman and he has no male child, and he dies that man's family name is not passed on. So an unmarried brother is to marry her to raise up a child and that firstborn son will be considered the child of the dead husband.
Now let us look at verses 25-28, “Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. 26 Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. 27 Last of all the woman died also. 28 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.” So in the resurrection this lady is going to come back and be everybody's wife and you have polygamy in the eternal resurrection life. What a crazy thought.
They know Jesus believes in resurrection. In John 11:25-26, He said by the grave of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” They knew His teachings and so they figured, we got Him. He is not going to have an answer for this and all the people are going to know that we are smarter than He is.
Verse 29, “Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Had you known the Scriptures you would have known that God promises resurrection. If you knew the power of God you would know that He wouldn't recreate people with the same problems here. And so Jesus directly moves into those two dimensions. First on the power of God in verse 30, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven."
We are never going to be angels, but we are just like angels, eternal beings who do not marry and do not procreate. And so the Lord is saying, look we are going to be different in the resurrection, there will be no marrying. We have to realize that the best of this life cannot even begin to touch what is in eternal life to come. Nobody will be closer to anybody else because we will all be perfectly close to each other and all perfectly intimate with the living God Himself.
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul says God has made all different kind of bodies, right? There are bodies of birds and of animals and there are heavenly bodies, terrestrial bodies and celestial bodies. God is the master of so much plurality and variety in the creating of bodies that He is going to create something new and different for us too. God is not limited and we will see that demonstrated in the resurrection also.
And then Jesus says you are not only ignorant of the power of God, but you are also ignorant of Scripture. Verse 31, “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God?" And Jesus quotes Exodus 3:6 in verse 32, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Is that supposed to be a statement about resurrection? It is indeed a statement and the argument here is of the verb tense. He doesn't say I was the God of Abraham, I was the God of Isaac and I was the God of Jacob.
You see in Exodus 3:6, Abraham was dead, Isaac was dead, and Jacob was dead already. And Jesus’ point then, at the end of the verse is, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. So if God says I am the God of these people they must be alive. God is not worshipped by corpses. He is not the God of people who don't exist. I am the God who continues to have an intimate relationship of life and worship with these who are ‘dead’, which means they still must be alive.
The unchanging, eternal, covenant keeping God who made His promises to His chosen will bring them to fulfillment and they are alive to rise again to enter the fulfillment of the covenant given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They are alive to inherit all that was ever promised to them. Jesus did what all the masterminds of the Pharisees had never been able to do. He came up with a verse right out of the Pentateuch. He was not the fool but He made them look like fools.
Now finally the astonishment in verse 33, “And when the multitude heard this they were astonished by his teaching." In Luke 20:39 it says, "Some of the scribes, not Sadducees, said, 'Teacher You said well." It blew their minds. Amazing, marvelous, this Jesus Christ, hailed as king, hailed as Savior, hailed as Messiah, confronted by hate filled religious leaders who wanted Him discredited and dead. He is unaffected by their assaults. And He only manifests greater glory, produces greater wonder and continues to confound His enemies.
Oh it should be exciting to us to see Christ come up with things that no one else could ever come up with, answer questions that can never be answered by others. Why? Because this is the infinite mind of God, this is proof positive that this is God in human flesh. And so we see majestic and deity revealed here and that is marvelous to see. We know in whom we have believed, and He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. We see His deity in His profound wisdom.
Second thing, we see His commitment to Scripture. Oh how He loved the Word, oh how He knew the Word, just exactly the right one for the right situation. Bless God that He put His confidence in the Word, because if Jesus leaned on the Word that is a great confidence builder for us to lean on the Word too, isn't it?
And thirdly we see His affirmation of the resurrection. Whenever we might be prone to doubt the resurrection we are reminded that Jesus Himself never doubted it for a moment, and affirms here that those who are dead are still alive because God is the God of the living. And so we can be encouraged with another view of Jesus as God, with another view of His dependence on Scripture, with another view of the hope of everlasting life. Instead of them discrediting Him, He discredited them and exposed Himself in all His majesty one more time. Let us pray.