Sunday September 13, 2009 | Greg Boyd
Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?"
Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."
Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Jesus was frustrating to most people who asked him theological questions. When the Sadducees challenged him, Jesus set them straight on the resurrection, the role of women, and gave a few hints about heaven, none of which they wanted to hear.
Jesus was frustrating to most people who asked him theological questions. Rather than answer the specific question being asked in a straight forward manner, Jesus usually redirected the conversation toward something more important. As we have seen, when the Pharisee’s asked about paying taxes or not, Jesus redirected people to reflect on what it means to give to each what is owed, to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
This time, it is the Sadducees who have a challenge for Jesus. They posed their question in the form of a puzzle. The details of the puzzle tell us much about the interests of the Sadducees. This group of Jewish teachers did not believe in the resurrection or the reality of angels.
Here’s what was going on with their puzzle: They didn’t believe in the resurrection, but they did believe that passing on the family names of Jewish men was extremely important. This is a very different way of thinking about “eternal life” than what is usually understood by that phrase today. The essential element is that the man’s name must be passed down to his son and so on. So, the role of a woman in this scheme is that of wife and child-bearer, not just any child, but specifically a son. So, they wanted to get Jesus to stumble over the question of to whom someone would be married “in heaven” (which they didn’t really believe in) if they had multiple spouses while on earth.
Jesus answered that there will be no marriage in heaven but those who are in heaven will be like angels. He referred to those in heaven as “children of the resurrection”. In this response Jesus makes it clear that relationships in heaven will work very differently than they do here on earth. He went on to refer to Moses’ (because it was Moses the Sadducees were quoting about marriage laws) understanding of God as being the God of those who are alive here on earth now, but also the God of all who have died but are alive in heaven.
In saying these things, Jesus confronted the views of the Sadducees in several ways and showed that their question was wrong-headed and based on the assumption that heaven (if it existed) would be just like earth only permanent. Among the assumptions confronted are: family lines are what is ultimately important, this is clearly denied since there will be no recognition of this in heaven. The idea of there being no resurrection was confronted by quoting Moses, who had authority for the Sadducees. The restrictive understanding of the role of women as son-bearers social pawns was confronted.
Greg went on to show how we all often fall into the same sort of assumptions about heaven than the Sadducees did. We wonder or even worry about who will be there, our family? Friends? Pets? What will we look like? What age? What condition? Then he pointed us to some important passages to help us get away from these sorts of questions. Read through all of the key scriptures before continuing on to the questions below.