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Most people today, even many Christians, find it popular to deny the practical value of doctrine and truth. They find truth divisive and unproductive and would prefer to water down everyone’s convictions so that we can relate to one another around some type of minimalistic belief system. Jesus chose to attack doctrinal error because He understood the practical consequences of failing to apply God’s truth.

He took this occasion to advocate for the doctrine of the resurrection and to expose the faulty thinking of His antagonists = the Sadducees:

– Rationalists dismiss any intervention of God by way of supernatural power

– The assumption that the future age will look like this present age in all respects is patently false

– The false confidence that entrance into the kingdom is based on ethnicity must be challenged

– The sufficiency and consistency of Scripture can be used effectively to refute heresy

– The wisdom of man is silenced in the presence of the majestic and all-encompassing wisdom of God

Bruce Hurt: This is the third group of religious leaders (those that made up the priestly party) who sought to trip Jesus with a trick question. First the “the chief priests (some of which were quite likely Sadducees) and the scribes with the elders” (Lk 20:1-8) Following the prophetic parable spoken against the Jewish religious leaders (Lk 20:9-19), we (Lk 20:20-26) we see the Herodians attempt to trip Jesus over a question of paying the poll tax to Rome. Now, we see the third attempt to trap Jesus, but this time it was the Sadducees. . .

Absurd is defined in English dictionaries as contrary to reason or propriety; obviously and flatly opposed to manifest truth; inconsistent with the plain dictates of common sense; logically contradictory; nonsensical; ridiculous; silly. Inconsistent with reason, inviting ridicule; manifestly false, ludicrous.

Mark’s version of this interaction identifies the two key errors of the Sadducees:

“Are you not in error because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God”

(Mark 12:24)


A. (:27) Examination by the Heretical Sadducees

“Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection),”

Donald Miller: The Sadducees, who were the priestly aristocracy, held only the Law – that is, the Five Books of Moses – to be authoritative. . . Moses had said nothing about the resurrection; therefore, to the Sadducees, it could not be true. If Jesus held to it along with the Pharisees, they could accuse him of conflict with Moses, the authoritative teacher of the Law, and of conflict with divine revelation. Furthermore, the Pharisaic belief in the resurrection could be reduced to absurdity by an example.

Morris: They are often said to have acknowledged as sacred scripture only the Pentateuch, but no evidence is cited for this and it seems highly improbable.

Stevenson: The Sadducees were the poster child for modern rationalists – A rationalist is someone who emphasizes observable facts and excludes metaphysical speculation about origins or ultimate causes. It is the reliance on one’s own reason as the basis for establishment of religious truth. We all know rationalists or have heard of them (Plato, Socrates, Descartes, Spinoza, etc). Rationalism is the view that “regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge” or “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification.”

B. (:28) Expository Scriptural Instruction – Quoting from Moses

“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 take the wife and raise up offspring to his brother.’”

They start off with a reasonable and fairly easy to understand scriptural case study; but then they expand that situation many times over into a very convoluted hypothetical case study

Deffinbaugh: The question of the one bride and the seven brothers is not a search for the truth. The Sadducees do not expect, indeed, do not want, an answer. They hope to stump Jesus, and thus to demonstrate how “foolish” ideas of a resurrection from the dead are. The purpose of this question is not to “get Jesus into trouble,” but to further the dogma of this group. If Jesus, the most noted and unstumpable teacher alive, could be stumped by their question, then He would become (reluctantly) an endorsement for their view. . .

The main thing which Luke wants us to be aware of is that the Sadducees, who are pressing Jesus for an answer concerning the resurrection do not really believe in it themselves. The hypocrisy of the Sadducees is thus apparent and undeniable. They were asking Jesus about something they didn’t believe. Indeed, they were seeking to establish their premise that belief in a resurrection from the dead is both unbiblical and impractical.

C. (:29-33) Extrapolated Extreme Case Study – Trying to Prove the Absurdity of the Doctrine of the Resurrection

1. (:29-32) The Hypothetical Situation

“Now there were seven brothers;

and the first took a wife, and died childless;

and the second and the third took her;

and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children.

Finally the woman died also.”

Lenski: The logic presented in this case is intended to be a reduction ad absurdum for the defenders of the resurrection. This is done by means of a supposed dilemma, either horn of which offers an impossible, untenable, really ludicrous situation.

2. (:33) The Gotcha Question

“In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be?

For all seven had her as wife.”


A. (:34-36) The Significance of the Resurrection as it Relates to Marriage in the Future Age

1. (:34) Marriage Regulations Apply to This Age

“And Jesus said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage,’”

2. (:35) Marriage Regulations Do Not Apply to the Future Age

“but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age

and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage;”

Donald Miller: Jesus insists, however, that the resurrection world is not merely a perfecting of this world. It is another world different from this – God’s world, which is beyond our understanding (vss. 34-36).

Lenski: No replenishment is necessary in heaven. As the number of the angels was complete and fixed form the time of creation onward, so will that of the blessed in the resurrection and from that day onward be.

3. (:36) Transformation Via Resurrection

“for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels,

and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

Geldenhuys: The reason why the life of the resurrection will not merely be a continuation of ordinary human life, and why there will be no such thing as marriage in it, is that all the redeemed who share in the life of the resurrection will be immortal (thereby the necessity for the marriage relationship disappears inter alia because it is then no longer necessary to maintain the race by begetting offspring). And the reason for their immortality is that at the resurrection the redeemed are invested with glorified, heavenly bodies and will thus, as children of God have a real share in His divine nature.

Deffinbaugh: Jesus’ words should have provided the Sadducees with much fuel for thought. What were some of the other ways in which “that age” will differ from “this age”? How is it that only some Israelites will enter into that age, to take part in it (by inference), and what is it that causes one to be worthy of it? Jesus did not give the answers to these questions, but He did challenge His audience to think about them. All of the answers would be very clear, after His crucifixion and resurrection. For the time being, they only knew that those who enter into the kingdom are referred to as “children”—“children of God” and “children of the resurrection.” Resurrection, then, is the gateway to the new age. Surely those who reject it will not enter into the kingdom.

B. (:37-38) The Reality of the Resurrection as it Relates to Present Accountability

1. (:37) Proof From the OT

“But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

Lawrence Richards: This is a fascinating passage for any who are uncertain about the integrity and full authority of Scripture. It’s popular with some scholars to assume that the books attributed to Moses are a much later fiction: the name of a mythical Jewish hero, Moses, was attached in the 600 B.C’s to give the editors’ invention credibility. With scissors and paste many modern scholars romp through the Old Testament, cut up the Pentateuch and Prophets, and assign this verse to one supposed set of authors, and that to another. How different from the way Jesus viewed the Scriptures. According to Christ, it was Moses who spoke what is recorded in Exodus, and even a seemingly minor thing like the tense of a verb is authoritative. Do the dead really live again? They live now! The God of the Old Testament is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, long after their biological deaths. On this issue of Scripture, I suspect it’s wiser to trust Jesus’ pronouncement than to trust the theories of the self-proclaimed wise men of our day. When we do so, we rejoice in the confidence that we too will live forever with Abraham’s and our God.

2. (:38) Practical Application

“Now He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.”

Donald Miller: a strong affirmation of the resurrection of the dead, based on the very Scriptures which they had used to deny it – the writings of Moses, and not from some obscure, insignificant passage, but from the very fountainhead of God’s revelation to Moses at the burning bush (vss. 37-38; Exod. 3:1-6).

Morris: Our certainty of resurrection rests not on some speculative doctrine of the immortality of the soul, but on the fact of God’s eternal love.

J. C. Ryle: Let us anchor our own souls firmly on this great foundation truth, “that we shall all rise again.” Whatever ancient or modern Sadducees may say, let us believe firmly that we are not made like the beasts that perish, and that there shall be “a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” (Acts 24:15.) The recollection of this truth will cheer us in the day of trial, and comfort us in the hour of death. We shall feel that though earthly prosperity fail us, there is a life to come where there is no change. We shall feel that though worms destroy our body, yet in the flesh we shall see God. (Job 19:26.) We shall not lie always in the grave. Our God is “not a God of the dead, but of the living.”

Geldenhuys: If these patriarchs were not immortal, God would never call Himself their God (such a thing would be unworthy of Him), for He is not a God of the dead, but of the living. His covenant relationship with these patriarchs is everlasting and also personal. From this it follows that after their death they are still living and will one day share in the life of the resurrection. Real life (in the Biblical sense) is life in soul and in body alike; therefore immortality (in the Biblical sense) includes resurrection (the union of the soul with the glorified, “spiritual” body). The most important reason why the faithful continue to live after their corporeal death and will one day arise in perfection is that the chief object of human existence is to live for God and to His honour – and how could this object be attained if the faithful die for ever after a brief span of human life?

Lenski: that would make God “God of dead men” – an impossible thought. That would mean that death was not conquered; that death, which was holding its prey, was stronger than God; that redemption had failed and had left death still triumphant. But no the resurrection proves that God is “God of living men.” Death has suffered its deathblow. Redemption has not failed.


A. (:39) Empty Praise

“And some of the scribes answered and said, ‘Teacher, You have spoken well.’”

B. (:40) End of Questioning

“For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything.”

Bock: On the topics of ministry, politics, and theology, Jesus has prevailed. There is nothing else they wish to raise before him publicly. Each encounter has left Jesus in the position of knowledge and authority. Rather than continue to confront him, they must withdraw. Jesus is too much in control of himself and his theology, so they do not dare to ask any more questions. The effect of these encounters is clear: who can guide the people in God’s way, the Jewish leadership or Jesus? The wise teacher has confounded the leaders with his answers and has shown himself knowledgeable