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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 2, 108
In our study of the Life of Christ, the antagonism between the Jewish religious leaders and Jesus is quickly coming to a climax. The Chief Priests and Elders sought to challenge Jesus’ authority and were rebuked by three parables that exposed them for being despicable. They were the false son who did not obey his father. Their piety was a facade for they did not actually obey God’s commandments. (See: Who Does the Father’s Will). They were the wicked vine-keepers, for they were like their fathers who had killed the prophets of old and they were now plotting to murder Jesus. (See: The Longsuffering Landlord & His Son). They were the guests who rejected the king’s invitation to the wedding of his son, for they had rejected the call of both John the Baptist and Jesus to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. They would be condemned and cast out. (See: Invitation to a Royal Feast)
Last week we examined the attempt of the Pharisees to publically discredit Jesus by sending their disciples along with the Herodians to pose a question they were sure would get Jesus in trouble with either the people or the Roman government. They asked Jesus His thoughts about if it was “lawful to pay the poll-Tax to Caesar?” If Jesus said, “yes,” the people would reject Him for they despised the poll-tax. If Jesus said, “no,” the Herodians would accuse Him of insurrection against Rome. They had carefully laid out their trap, but you cannot trap God. Jesus’ answer not only astounded them, but clarified for all of us the relationship we have with human government and God.
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” (See: Obligations to Caesar; Obligations to God). This command, like so many of Jesus’ commands, is not always easy to carry out, but we are to strive to be obedient to it. We render to Caesar, human government, what belongs to it which according to Romans 13 includes submission, civil honor and taxes. Christians should be the best citizens in any country in which they live. Christians should be loyal in obeying the laws and the greatest asset to their native land. Why? Simply because governmental authority arises from God, and since God sets up human governments for the restraint of evil and promotion of good, then it is only fitting that the people pay for the benefits received and follow the laws set up. The power of God is seen in that He can even use wicked people and systems of government for His own purposes. The power of God is also seen in His removal of rulers and governments that do not fulfill His stated purpose for them or seek to usurp Him. That fact is demonstrated throughout history.
The second part of Jesus’ command is to render to God what is God’s. This is much more than just worship and religious rituals. This means a Christian’s allegiance is first and foremost to God in everything. That controls and sets the limit on rendering to Caesar. While Christians should be the best citizens, our true citizenship is in heaven which means that when there is a conflict with the demands of government and the commands of God, we obey God. Christians must not submit to laws that either direct us to do evil or prohibit us from walking in righteousness. Our attitude in this must be one of deference to God, not defiance of government, and we must be ready and willing to suffer whatever may come in order to promote godliness within the nation in which we live.
How does this work out in practice in a nation such as the United States? First, we pay our taxes without grumbling. Second, we obey the laws that have been set forth that are in accordance with our Constitution. Third, we give proper respect to those who hold positions of governmental authority. This includes praying for the work, wisdom, and welfare of Christians in such offices, and the souls and salvation of the non-Christians asking God to use them as He did Cyrus in the past to accomplish His will. Fourth, because we are a nation of law in which the government is vested in the people through duly elected representatives to uphold the law, we seek to promote laws that reflect Godliness and repeal laws that do not. We are to boldly speak out for righteousness and even rebuke those in authority as needed, but always speaking the truth in a respectful manner. If we descend into name calling and vilification of others, then we are not following God’s commands and so are no better than the unrighteous. We fulfill our obligations to Caesar giving government what belongs to it, but even more important, we fulfill our obligations to God first and foremost in everything.
Jesus’ response was a double edged sword that condemned both the Herodians and the Pharisees for the Herodians did not render to God what belongs to Him, and the Pharisees did not render what was proper to either God or government. The Herodians and the disciples of the Pharisees had come trying to trap Jesus, but they fell into their own trap. Turn to Luke 20:27 where we meet the next group to challenge Jesus.
27 Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), 28 and they questioned Him . . .
In order to understand the question they will pose and what they were trying accomplish with it, you must first have an understanding of who the Sadducees were and what they believed.
There were many religious sects in Israel at that time. The Sadducees are the smallest in number, but in many ways the most powerful. They were the aristocrats of the society and were the ones largely in control of the Temple and its operation. The high priest and the chief priests were almost invariably Sadducees. The Roman government gave them a certain amount of freedom in the operation of the Temple which allowed them to gain great wealth from the lucrative Temple concessions. These were the merchants and money-changers that Jesus had driven out the Temple the day before. Rome also gave them a certain amount of power including having their own Temple guard. For these reasons they were pro-Rome which gave an additional reason for them to be despised by the other sects.
Theologically, the Sadducees were almost the opposite of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the culturally conservative faction and the Sadducees were the culturally liberal one. The Pharisees held strongly to external customs and practices and were legalistic to the core, so much so, that for all practical purposes they held their rabbinical traditions to be more authoritative than Scripture. The Sadducees rejected the rabbinical writings and customs and held only to the Scriptures but with such an emphasis on the five books of Moses, the Pentateuch, that they nearly excluded the rest of the Scriptures. They interpreted the Bible with a great literalism with the result that in some areas they were even more rigid than the Pharisees. They held to the Levitical purity code and prided themselves as being the preservers of the true faith. At the same time they, like the Pharisees, would freely interpret or ignore what was in the Scriptures whenever it suited their purpose.
There are many groups today that approach the Bible in similar ways. There are those that claim to follow the Bible, but they do so only in so far as they can twist it to mean what they want. They will either ignore or freely interpret passages to justify what they desire to do rather than striving to truly understand the Scriptures and changing to match it. Whether it is tradition that hides the meaning of the Scriptures or intellectual gymnastics to twist the meaning to what is desired, the outcome is a false understanding of God, what He has done, and what He requires of man.
Let me quickly note here that neither I nor this church claim to understand everything in the Bible. We fully recognize that we are limited in our knowledge and ability to overcome all issues of language, history and culture that are barriers to a proper and accurate understanding of the Scriptures. However, we do claim to make diligent effort to do so using the historical, grammatical method of interpretation because our desire is to know and follow the wisdom of God instead of the musings of men. We are uncompromising on doctrine that is clear in the Scriptures, humble about doctrines that are not, and always strive to be gracious.
Among the great theological differences between the Sadducees and the Pharisees was their disagreement in their understanding of the supernatural realm. Despite the many Old Testament references, the Sadducees did not believe in the existence of angels or a spirit or, as pointed out in our text today, the resurrection from the dead. (One commentator pointed out that their denial of these important supernatural things was why they were so “sad you see”). The subject of the resurrection was a matter of great debate between the Sadducees and the Pharisees with the former liking to poke fun at the latter for believing something they could not see and that Moses said very little about. Usually the Pharisees would try to demonstrate the resurrection using the few obscure texts there were in the Pentateuch. Numbers 18:28 implies it when it refers to giving “the Lord’s offering to Aaron the priest” even though Aaron had already died. Another passage was Deuteronomy 32:39 in which the Lord says, “See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded, and it is I who heal; and there is no one that can deliver out of my hand.” Of course the emphasis of that passages is on the Lord’s sovereignty over life and not necessarily a reference to the resurrection.
The Sadducees and Pharisees were usually antagonistic to each other, but in this instance they had a common goal. They both wanted to destroy Jesus. The Sadducees had pretty much ignored Jesus in the past, but when Jesus chased the merchants and money changers out of the Temple, that had a direct effect on a major source of their income. They were now paying attention to Jesus and they wanted to destroy Him. This is background for understanding this text. The Sadducees have come to Jesus to pose a question with the hope that it will humiliate Him over an issue in which they have humiliated Pharisees in the past.
They begin by pointing out a specific command in the Mosaic law. Luke 20:28 records, “and they questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother.”
They are referring to what is written in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 concerning what is called a “Levirate marriage” in which a widow marries the dead husband’s brother when there were not any male children. The firstborn son in this marriage would then be named after the dead brother “so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.” This was viewed as a righteous practice that existed before the Mosaic Law. Genesis 38 records a case where two brothers were punished for their refusal to fulfill this obligation for their dead brother, and in the book of Ruth, a version of this in marrying the nearest kinsman for the same purpose is presented as very positive since that is exactly what Boaz did for Ruth.
Based on this law of levirate marriage , the Sadducees developed a scenario by which they sought to attack the doctrine of the resurrection. Since it is more probable that they would want to use something already proven to work, it is my guess that they have used this before to humiliate the Pharisees. Since Jesus also taught that there would be a resurrection (Luke 14:14; John 5:29; 11:24-25), they will present the dilemma to Jesus in an effort to humiliate Him, and also show their superiority to the Pharisees.
“29 Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; 30 and the second 31 and the third married her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. 32 “Finally the woman died also. 33 “In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”.”
It would have been sufficient to use just two brothers in the story to make their point, but the repetition is given to highlight what they believe is an absurdity, that there is life after death in the resurrection. In all probability the story is fictional for the simple reason that the brothers toward the end of the line would have noticed that the common factor in the death of their brothers was marriage to this woman. Fear alone would have caused them to find someone else to marry first and in a hurry or even flee the country to avoid her.
You can imagine these Sadducees finishing this story and then with a smirk on their faces posing their question to Jesus, 33 “In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had married her” (Luke 20:33). They thought this dilemma proved the doctrine of resurrection was ludicrous and therefore would certainly humiliate Jesus.
Many others throughout history and in the present think that they can somehow prove themselves to be superior to God. They develop some dilemma that they think proves that God is either not who He claims to be or that He does not even exist. Such people are being as foolish as the Sadducees were here. Man’s pride prods him to think He can somehow out smart God, but that is impossible. All they ever do is prove their own ignorance and blindness to the truth that is right in front of them. Jesus brings this out in His reproof.
Matthew and Mark both record that Jesus reproves them before giving then an explanation. Matthew states the rebuke directly while Mark gives it in the form of a rhetorical question. “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?”
What a shock to these men who were gloating about the dilemma they had just presented. They expected their question to perplex or befuddle Jesus causing Him to pause or even stumble for a response. Jesus does not even hesitate before calmly telling them directly that they are mistaken. They are deceived by their own theology, and the reason was simple. They neither understand the Scriptures nor the power of God. They had boasted of their superior ability to interpret the Scriptures, but now are told in no uncertain terms they are mislead and do not comprehend the teachings of the Scriptures. They do not know what they are talking about because their theology has led them astray from the truth about God. They view God as weak and bound by the same physics that binds men. They do not know the power of God because they have refused to believe both the teaching and miracles Jesus has done in public. There is no doubt they have seen Jesus heal people and cast out demons for He did so in Jerusalem and in the Temple under their very noses. There is also no doubt they heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Yet, they still held to a belief that denied the supernatural.
Jesus begins His correction of their ignorance with an explanation of the power of God as seen in the nature of the resurrection.
Matthew and Luke give a more condensed version of this. Luke 20:34-36 records Jesus stating, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; 36 for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”
The Sadducees (and the Pharisees for that matter) had erred because they had assumed that life after the resurrection would be the same as it was currently including marriage. That false belief is still commonly held. We need to understand that while there will be many things that will be similar to what they are now, there is much more that will be different because God is going to change us! Do not limit the power of God in changing either us or the world to come.
In direct response this story by the Sadducees, Jesus specifically points out that marriage will not be part of life after the resurrection. Depending on what you have experienced in marriage, that may cause you either sadness or joy. Personally, I find this a difficult teaching to rejoice in simply because I struggle to imagine being in heaven without also having my current relationship with Diane continue. Marriage is one of the great blessings that God has given to man in this current life. Remember that it was God that declared that it was not good for Adam to be alone. By God’s design Adam had a need for a partner that was complimentary to him. Someone that was like him and yet also different. Adam named all the animals, but there was nothing corresponding to him among them. God then put Adam to sleep and took one of his ribs and fashioned Eve out of it. She would be that needed compliment and the two of them would meet each others needs for intimacy. God also commanded them to be fruitful, multiply and fill the Earth.
In heaven there will be no need for reproduction because there is no death there and no new life born there as there is on Earth. There will also not be the need for the exclusive intimate relationships we have on earth. Marriage is a great blessing here, and again, I have a hard time imagining life without it, but I do not want to limit the power of God in changing me and all of you into people who will have perfect relationships with everyone else including God Himself. We will be, as Jesus says here, like the Angels. Note carefully that Jesus does not say we will be Angels, but He uses a simile saying we will be like Angels in this area of existence. In saying this, Jesus also contradicts the Sadducees denial of the existence of Angels. We will still be people, but people who are similar to Angels in having a spiritual body, and being immortal, glorified, eternal and no longer given in marriage.
1 Corinthians 15:39-44 gives us a sense of the radical nature of the dramatic change that will take place in the resurrection. Paul states, “. . . all flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”
The Sadducees did not understand the power of God who will make a radical transformation in our nature in the resurrection. Be very careful and avoid the trap into which the Sadducees had fallen. Do not to limit God’s power. He is not like us. He not bound in the box of the time – space continuum which He created and in which we now exist. The future will be very different from the present. I may greatly enjoy my marriage here, but I also look forward to being in heaven with Diane where, though we will not be married, we will have changed natures which will allow us to have a better, deeper relationship than we could ever have here on this present earth.
The Sadducees failed to understand the resurrection and the power of God because they failed to understand the Scriptures. Jesus now explains the Scriptures to them. Mark 12:26-27 gives the most detail about this teaching. 26 “But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken.”
The Sadducees had used Moses as their authority, so Jesus goes to what Moses recorded that God Himself had said. This particular phrase that Jesus quotes here, or some form of it, appears several places in the writings of Moses. But Luke’s greater detail in referring to the burning bush puts this particular quote in Exodus 3:6.
Jesus whole argument is based on the tense of the verb used. It speaks of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the present tense though they had been dead for hundreds of years by the time this was said to Moses at Horeb. Yet, God was still their God as much as when they were walking around on the earth. In fact, in a sense, they may have been even more alive since they were now with God and their intimacy with Him was even more than it had been before they went to the grave.
When you add to this argument the Hebrew concept of man which sees him as a whole and does not make a dichotomy between soul and body as Greek thought does, Jesus’ argument becomes even stronger. If God is still presently the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He is, then they are still alive and are with Him in some other realm.
Matthew 22:33 informs us, “When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.” Jesus did what no one else had ever done. He had proven the resurrection from the writings of Moses.
Luke 20:39-40 records the response of the Sadducees. “Some of the scribes answered and said, ‘Teacher, You have spoken well.’ For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything. They heard an answer to a question they thought to be unanswerable. They recognized Jesus had spoken well, but it is a compliment that acknowledges their opponent has made a well crafted argument, not a concession to the point of the argument. They were certainly humbled for the moment because they lacked courage to make a counter argument or bring up a new line of debate. However, they were still not humble enough to admit their error, accept the correction and begin to ask Jesus to learn from Him. They would continue to argue against the resurrection in the decades to come (Acts 23). They had failed to humiliate Jesus and succeeded in embarrassing themselves, but they were not going to give up in their efforts to destroy Him. They had been offered hope, but they rejected it, and would continue to plot against Jesus.
My prayer for you is that you would understand this great hope. Jesus presented to them the answer to man’s greatest dilemma. What will happen after I die? There is no “happy hunting ground,” reincarnation is a detestable lie and a direct contradiction to resurrection, and it all does not end in the grave. Jesus’ answer was not speculation, a wish, or the philosophical pronouncements of man, but the clear statement of the facts. There is life after death; there will be a resurrection, and that resurrection is not a continuation of this life, but something very different lived on a higher plane of existence. Jesus said in Luke 20:35, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead . . .are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. For the true Christian, this will include an intimate relationship with our Creator.
You do not become worthy or attain to that age by your own power, your own goodness, or your own righteousness. It only comes as a gift of grace from God to those who come believing in the person and work of Jesus Christ and humbly asking for His forgiveness. God is pleased to justify you through the redemption which is in Jesus and reckon your faith as righteousness.
For those here today that know and love the Lord Jesus Christ and are trusting Him alone for salvation, the resurrection and heaven are wonderful promises. We have confident assurance that what Jesus spoke to the Sadducees is true and will take place in our own lives in the future resurrection and its intimate relationship with our Creator. We have much for which to rejoice about and give praise to the Lord.
If you are here today and Jesus is not your Lord and Savior, then be warned. If you do not repent and come by faith to Christ, you will be resurrected, but as Matthew 24 states it, it will be to eternal damnation. The good news is that you can come to Jesus today for salvation. Talk with myself, any of our church leaders, but don’t leave today without having peace with God and rejoicing in the fact that our God is the God of the living. The resurrection is true.
The attempt to trap Jesus with the question about the poll-tax _____________
Government comes from ____so we render to it what belongs to it: submission, civil honor & taxes (Romans 13)
To God belongs our first and foremost _________________in everything
We uphold law and seek to enact law reflecting _________________and remove those that do not
The Herodians did not render to God and the _______________did not render properly to Caesar or God
An aristocratic Jewish religious sect who controlled the ______________and its operation
They were culturally ____________, rejected rabbinical tradition, and claimed to follow Moses
Many who claim to follow the Bible _____________its meaning to match their own desires
The Sadducees denied the _______________including the existence of angels, spirits or the resurrection
The Sadducees and Pharisees were ______________to each other but shared the goal of destroying Jesus
Based on Levirate marriage, the Sadducee developed a scenario be to a dilemma to belief in _____________
The _____________brothers in the fictional story was to highlight what they believed was an absurdity
In pride, people ______________ think they can prove themselves to be superior to God
Their question is not perplexing to Jesus, and He directly ____________them for their mistaken beliefs
________________ by their theology, they did not understand either God or the Scriptures, or believe Jesus
They wrongly ______________life after the resurrection would be like current life on this earth
Marriage is a great _____________ in this life, but it will not be part of life after the resurrection
_________the resurrection, there will be no need for reproduction or such an exclusive intimate relationship
In ________to angles, we will be spiritual beings, immortal, glorified, eternal & no longer given in marriage
1 Corinthians 15:39-44 – we will be ______________ changed
Do not _________ God, He is the creator and not limited by the time-space continuum box we are in
Jesus refers to ______________ about God declaring His identity to Moses
Jesus’ argument is based solely on the verb _________ being present, “I Am,” not past, “I was.”
God is still the God of those who have physically died for they are still _________ in another realm
The people were astonished that Jesus proved the resurrection from the writings of __________
The __________acknowledge Jesus argument was good but lacked the courage to challenge Him further
They failed to humiliate Jesus while being humbled themselves, but not enough to ________& follow Jesus
Jesus gave the answer to man’s ____________ dilemma – what will happen after I die?
There is life after death, there will a resurrection, but it will be a ___________existence that the present one
Attaining the blessing of the resurrection only comes by God’s __________through faith in Jesus Christ
True Christians can be _________of the resurrection and an eternal future of intimate relationship with God
Those without Christ will be resurrected to eternal damnation – __________is the day to repent and be saved
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “resurrection” is used. 2) Discuss with your parents what the resurrection is and why it is true.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Setting the context: How did Jesus rebuke the Chief priests and elders? How did He rebuke the Herodians and the disciples of the Pharisees? What is to be rendered to Caesar? What is to be rendered to God? Who were the Sadducees? What did they believe about supernatural things? What was the basis of their beliefs? How are people still like them today? How did the Sadducees contrast with the Pharisees? How would the Pharisees seek to counter the arguments of the Sadducees against the resurrection? The Sadducees refer to Deuteronomy 25:5-10. What is a levirate marriage and what was its purpose? Why did they think their story about a woman married in succession to seven brothers who died would be a dilemma for Jesus? Why do men think they can be smarter than God? Why will they always fail? Jesus rebukes them stating they were mistaken (deceived / mislead). Why were they mistaken? What was their false assumption about the resurrection? What is the nature of the resurrection? How will life then compare with life in the present? How is marriage in the present time a blessing from God? What are its purposes? Why will there not be marriage after the resurrection? In what way will be like the angels? How does the resurrection demonstrate the power of God? Jesus referred to Exodus 3:6. How does He use what is stated there by God to prove that life continues after physical death? Why didn’t the Sadducees understand the Scriptures? How do people in our own times make the same mistakes in misunderstanding the Scriptures? How did the people respond to Jesus’ answer? How did the scribes respond? Did they believe Jesus after this encounter? Explain your reasons for why or why not? What is your own hope of resurrection? How can a person know if they will be resurrected to blessings or damnation? If you do not know that heaven will be your resurrection home, what do you need to do to become certain?
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