18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 “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. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
People today find it easier to know all the answers than to believe in mysteries like the resurrection.
24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”
There is a song that the kids are singing at summer camps and school chapels. It’s been around for a few years now and it’s very catchy. It’s called “I just wanna be a sheep”. A line of the song says something like, “I don’t wanna be a Sadducee, cause they’re so sad you see!” This is fun, if somewhat obvious word play, but why did the writers of the song decide that Sadducees were so sad? Well it seems to me, the Sadducees were ruled by hopelessness, confusion and cynicism.
This is one of the main confrontations that Jesus has with the Sadducees in the Gospels. In fact this is the only instance in the book of Mark, where the Sadducees are specifically mentioned. And how does the author introduce them? “Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.” They say there is no resurrection. While the Sadducees seemed to be powerful, rich and secure there was nothing to look forward to after death. Most cultures in the world and even non-believers hope for something more than this life. It is the hope for something better, hope for a reunion with loved ones, hope for a second chance.
Yet the Sadducees, as sophisticated and secular as they are, have removed and rationalised away the resurrection. For them, it is a fairy tale—a belief to prop up the weak intellect of the common man.
The Sadducees have grounded their faith in confusion. Faith is, by its nature, simple. It explains how things in the world relate to each other, how God relates to everything, and covers for the parts that we don’t yet understand. In understanding and explaining everything away, the Sadducees had turned God into a good idea. He was a philosophy more than a living, active force. The Sadducees had done away with the need for faith but in doing so they had anchored their worldview in themselves and what they knew—an unsteady anchor indeed. Their goal then was to sew confusion. If you could confuse your opponent, you would seem more right! So, the Sadducees come to Jesus with a very complicated question about something they don’t even believe.
Like the most cynical trolls on the internet, the Sadducees were willing to argue about a topic they didn’t even believe in. Not only does Jesus have to provide an answer that makes sense but He has to somehow prove the resurrection at the same time. It seems to me that cynicism is a protection mechanism developed to defend and shield our deepest feelings, to keep us from being hurt or vulnerable. At the root of this need is fear. People today find it easier to know all the answers than to believe in mysteries like the resurrection. The Bible must be explained, as metaphor or myth but never as miracle.
Jesus cuts through it all with His answer. In other encounters and tests, Jesus uses logic and turns traditional notions on their head to bring a new understanding. Here He is brutal and swift, calling the lie by name. He brings hope to the hopeless, claiming that His God is God of the living, not the dead. We can have hope. While we may not understand the status of marriage in heaven, Jesus is clear that there is a resurrection. Jesus Himself conquered the grave and paved the way for us.
Jesus brings truth, the opposite of confusion. How can we be certain about something? By knowing the truth of the matter. Jesus shows us how we can know. He accuses the Sadducees of not knowing the scriptures. If we know the scriptures, then we can avoid being as mistaken as the Sadducees. He also claims He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). By knowing Jesus we can cut through the confusion and find truth for our lives. But it is not enough to just know the scriptures.
Jesus also encourages us trust in God. “Don’t you know about God’s power?” he asks. God made the heavens and Earth, He is the source of life and if He has the power to create, then why not the power to resurrect. But there are things that scripture doesn’t make clear for us. There are things we struggle to believe. This gap in our knowledge and experience can be covered by faith. Faith is built upon trust. Do we trust that Jesus is who He claims to be? Do we trust His plan of Salvation or do we have an exit strategy. For me, some mysteries are unexplainable. I choose simply to say, my God has the power to do everything. I haven’t seen Him so I have to trust.
I would rather have hope, truth and trust than hopelessness, confusion and cynicism. If I build my faith through knowledge of the Scriptures and watch God’s power at work in the world, then I can follow the Good Shepherd in good faith. As the song says, I don’t want to be sad you see, “I just wanna be a sheep ba baba baaa.”