Religious & Wrong, Mark 12:18-27

The Bible presents a powerful, Almighty God! 

It is a profound thought that a person can be both religious and wrong.  Even more profound is that a whole group of leaders, a whole group of people can be religious and wrong.  But if we learn anything from the Bible its that people can be devoted to religion and be so wrong about the God of that religion.


First, Who are these guys asking the question?  Who are the Sadducees?  They are a group of social elites coming from the Jewish priesthood.  The 70-Member governing committee, called the Sanhedrin, was made up mostly of Sadducees.  All the high priests of the Sanhedrin were Sadducees.  They were aristocrats – highly educated and in high social positions.  They were arrogant, like the Pharisees, but in a different way.  Whereas the Pharisees saw themselves as better than everyone else based on their religious commitment, the Sadducees felt superior based on class.  The Pharisees, you could say, felt an earned superiority, but the Sadducees’ was inherited.

What did the Sadducees believe?  What distinguished them from other groups like the Pharisees?  They were anti-supernaturalists.  They rejected the idea that any invisible reality existed beyond the physical universe other than God.  This means they didn’t believe there were angels and demons, a heaven or hell, or even the existence of the human soul beyond death.  That “annihilation” belief puts them in the same camp as Jehovah’s Witnesses and 7th Day Adventists today.  They also rejected a future judgment by God where punishment and reward would be dispensed, and they denied the idea of a future resurrection of the human race (Acts 23:8).  These positions put them squarely at odds with the Pharisees, along with the fact that the Sadducees rejected the traditions of the elders.  For the Sadducees the Law of Moses was it – if Moses didn’t write it, then it is to be rejected.  (Of course, how can you disbelieve in angels then if Moses said a cherub guarded Eden after evicting Adam and Eve?)

Second, whats this question all about?  The question relates to the Levirate Law.  The question asked relates to what is called the “levirate” law.  Levirate is a latin word meaning “husband’s brother”.  What does that mean?  Its a term referring to an OT law Moses gave in Deuteronomy 25:6-10.  Moses said that if a man died and left no children, then his brother was obligated to marry the widow of his deceased brother and father children for him.  Why would God require that?  To honor the deceased brother and give him an heir and continue his name.

So the question is an interesting one in itself.  If a woman goes through 7 brothers and they all die who will she be married to when the resurrection happens?  Now, is anyone else thinking “black widow” here?  The 2nd brother had nothing to worry about, the 3rd may have nervously joked about “being next”.  But the 4th brother rightly would have had serious reservations about marrying this woman.  Brother or no brother, marrying her was suicide.  

It’s one of those questions that reflects some theological fencing between different groups like the Pharisees and Sadducees.  The Pharisees believe she was legitimately married to all 7 and the Sadducees believe she was only legitimately married to the last brother.  Jesus may have been able to “settle” the matter – that is, if they were sincerely concerned about that in the first place. 

Finally, this question is a trick question.  They don’t believe in a resurrection.  This is a hypothetical scenario meant to show the idea of a resurrection was foolish.  As Walter Wessel says, “this likely may have been a well-known joke among Sadducees used for poking fun at Pharisees for believing in the resurrection.”  (EBC, 735).  In other words, you can see them winking at each other and smiling smugly, giving each other high fives.  For them, this convoluted situation of a woman married to 7 brothers somehow disproves a resurrection?  What could Jesus say?  That the woman was going to be married to all of them in the next life?  Maybe the last brother.  Maybe the first brother.  Maybe she should try marrying into a different family!  For the Sadducees they felt they had a zinger that finally pinned Jesus down.  

Maybe Jesus shouldn’t even answer.  Maybe this is one of those moments He said where it’s just “throwing pearls to pigs”.  Maybe Proverbs 23:9 should guide Jesus here:  “Do not speak to a fool for he will scorn the wisdom of your words” or Proverbs 9:7 “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult”.  But He goes ahead anyway and its awesome.


Let’s look at three parts of Jesus’ response

First, He corrects them on Marriage.  He says in verse 25 “….”  It’s one of those “rip the rug out from underneath you” moments.  The whole question is based on the assumption that marriage is going to continue in the next life.  Jesus says its not.  It will be eternal singleness!  That loud noise you hear is their trap question crashing to the ground.  So Jesus could have ended it there and said, “Anything else?  No?  Okay, see you boys at the resurrection.”  But He doesn’t.  He goes on.  Before we look at what else He says I want to bring up two sidenotes.  

First sidenote:  an application:  Base your beliefs on all the facts, not some of the facts.  I’m talking about all the facts in the Bible and your beliefs about the Bible, and, I’m talking about life in general.  These Sadducees denied the resurrection.   Did they ever stop and consider if marriage extended into the next life?  Did they ever stop and consider the Scriptural teaching that a widow was free to remarry, and maybe the reason was because the marriage union ended with death? (Rom. 7:2-3).  People often want their pet teachings to be true so badly that they are unwilling to consider all the facts.  They are unwilling to put all the information on the table because it would screw up their pet beliefs – which often are based on a portion of the facts.  

Second sidenote: I’m offering a reason for why we won’t be married after this life.  In this life, we procreate, in the next life we won’t.  The population of redeemed humanity that will enjoy Gods presence forever will not increase or decrease.  There will be no death, nor, will there be any birth.  It is in this life that we are to “be fruitful and multiply”, and God guaranteed that would happen by installing a sex drive in all creatures.  Furthermore, this “multiplying” God commanded is to happen in Marriage.  Therefore, I believe that in our new resurrected bodies we will not marry, because we will not need to have children, and therefore we won’t have sex drives.  I also think that without those drives a lot of insecurities we have will be gone too.  I mean, who would we be trying to impress and for what?!  

Second, He corrects them on the Resurrection.  He flatly asserts, “When the dead rise” in verse 25, which is essentially to say, “It will happen”.  Then He says in verse 26 and 27a, “…..”  What is so tactical here is Jesus points them to Moses, the one they say they follow exclusively.  And He shows them how they aren’t even paying attention to Moses!  Moses taught a resurrection!  

When God came to Moses the first time in the book of Exodus, He came in the now famous way of a burning bush.  When God spoke to Moses He identified Himself to Moses by saying, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Ex. 3:6).  When God identified Himself to Moses this way, it was not simply to say “Hey, I’m the same God of your ancient ancestors who are dead and long-gone”.  God was saying something about those 3 patriarchs, something Jesus is bringing out:  that they were alive.  God is not the God of the dead, but, the living!  They are alive and He is their God.  They were not on earth, but, they continued to exist in another way after this life and God was their God even at the very moment of speaking to Moses.  

Jesus was also insinuating that Moses considered Abraham, Jacob and Isaac to be alive in the afterlife when God identified Himself in this way.  If Moses considered them to be alive, and God said they were alive, then why do the Sadducees think there is not afterlife?  They certainly weren’t following the teachings of Moses like they boasted.

Jesus was not only exposing their ignorance of Scripture, but, their ignorance of God’s power too.  They had a view of God that was far too weak for God.  It did Him no justice to think of Him being so small.  

The Bible presents a powerful, Almighty God!  A God who can do “far more than anything we could imagine or ask” (Eph. 3:20).  A God whose right arm is mighty!  A God with whom all things are possible!  The power that will cause the End Time Resurrection has already been on display.  Jesus raised Lazarus (Jn 12); He raised the little girl (Mk 5); He raised the man in Nain (Lk 7);  When John the Baptist in doubt sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was or was not the Christ, Jesus said, “Go back and tell John what you see and hear:  the blind see, the deaf hear, lepers are healed, the crippled walk and the dead are raised!”  Resurrections were happening regularly in Jesus’ ministry.  It finally happened with His own resurrection.  “By His power” 1 Corinthians 6:14 says, “God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us too.”  

The Corinthians were buying into some of the Sadducean errors and some were thinking that the resurrection wasn’t going to happen.  Turn to 1 Corinthians 15:12 with me…. Lets read through v22

  • The power that raised him from the dead….
  • The resurrection is our hope!  

Third, He embarrasses them.  Highlighting their embarrassing ignorance He says “

Its the establishment leaders!  Blind leading the blind.  Wolves in sheeps clothing.  Worthless shepherds.  Do you know how dangerous it is to be ignorant of God?  Turn to Jeremiah with me

  • Ignorance God leads to sin (4:22)
  • Ignorance comes from false handling of God’s Word (8:8)
  • Ignorance leads to resisting truth (6:10)
  • Ignorance leads to loving lies (7:8)
  • Ignorance leads to fake worship of God (7:9-11)
  • Ignorance leads to the inability to feel shame (8:12)
  • Ignorance comforts and leads to a false assurance (6:13-15; 14:13 says “Ah Sovereign LORD, the prophets keep telling them they will not see the sword or suffer famine and that you will give them peace!”

This ignorance happens right inside the house of God.  The history of the prophets is the history of Israel’s apostasy and sin, did you know that?  God gave the Law to Israel for them to obey, and then all the rest of the OT is the saga of Israel not following the Law and God sending prophets to them to turn them back to the Law – to God.  It was happening right down to Jesus’ day.  The very establishment leaders were unbelieving and evil and their rejection of Jesus was proof of their rejection of God.  They had God’s religion but they did not have God.  

Inside the Church today it is happening.  Listen to 2 Timothy 3:1-5 describe the last days.  These people act like Satan while pretending to worship God.  They also “have a form of godliness” but “deny its power”.  

Willful ignorance will destroy someone.   We must be anchored.  This summer we were staying at a lakehouse.  A couple houses over there was a large floating trampoline in the water.  While the day went on we were fishing and swimming around our dock and we kept noticing that big floating trampoline drifting further and further from shore.  Pretty soon it was in the middle of the lake, and, finally it had drifted all the way to the other side where it was caught on someone’s dock.  That thing needed an anchor.  Christians need to be anchored.  Are you anchored?  

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