The Sadducees were a group of religious devotees who, according to the Jewish historian Josephus, were particularly identified with the upper elite, a sort of royal aristocratic religious party. They were distinct from the Pharisees in holding that there was no resurrection of the dead—and also in only accepting the historicity and inspiration of the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch.
When they come to Jesus with their question, they show a penchant for the ridiculous with their story of the seven brothers who each in turn die and marry the same wife one after the other. At the resurrection whose wife will she be? Their question is not actually to find an answer to the literal surface question about who she should be married to at the resurrection, but to expose the ridiculousness of the resurrection belief held by the Pharisees at the time—as well as, of course, by Jesus himself.
Jesus’ reply is first that they misunderstand the nature of the resurrection. There will no marrying in heaven. This does not mean that our spouse, if we have one, will be unknown to us in heaven, or that our relationship with them now will bear no good fruit in heaven. Human marriage is a temporary institution because marriage itself speaks of the marriage of the Christ with his bride the church. In heaven, there will no more death and therefore no marriage because now we have entered the eternal marriage of heaven itself—the marriage of which the other marriage is only a foreshadow.
Second, Jesus replies that they have misunderstood the Bible. He quotes from Moses—the part of the Bible that they recognized as authoritative—to prove that he did indeed teach the resurrection. In Exodus 3:15—because God is described as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—it means that Abraham and Isaac and Jacob are alive, for God is not the God of the dead.
In the parallel passage in Mark 12:24, Jesus adds a further reason which is implicit in Luke: they know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. So much of theological error comes down to ignorance of one or other or (in the Sadducees’ case) both. We, instead, are to know both God’s power and the Scriptures.
Do you believe that God can do anything he wants? Do you limit God to a human-level capability?
Do you know the Scriptures? Do you search them and study them?
The Scriptures without knowing the power of God can lead to dry legalism.
The power of God without the Scriptures can lead to frothy fanaticism.
Only the Scriptures and the power of God give us the balance to truly believe and know God and his Word!
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