Grace Bible Church Expository Sermon Notes

The Sadducees and the Resurrection

cf. Matt. 22:23-34 The Lord’s Day 7/6/97 AM

Following Jesus’ three parables of judgment for the Jewish leaderships rejection of the Kingdom, a counter-offensive is launched to trap the Lord in His words and discredit Him by three controversial questions. The first question was political in nature and asked by the Herodians; the second question, as we discover in this lesson, was theological in nature and asked by the Sadducees; and the third question was ethical in nature and asked by the Pharisees. Once we notice: the Sadducees Question; the Lord’s Answer; and the Multitudes Response.

The Sadducees Entrapping Question

Matthew 22:23-28 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.

The disciples of the Pharisees, along with the Herodians had been decisively answered and their political question shown to be what it was, i.e., a deceptive trap but easily answered. Now the Sadducees advance with a question but this time a theological one. Matthew adds an editorial comment about their distinctive beliefs because the whole question revolves around that fact that the Sadducees reject the doctrine of bodily resurrection. Building their theology on the Five Books of Moses, the Sadducees basically rejected the oral traditions and looked upon the rest of the OT as simply commentary but of secondary concern. This is why they rejected the resurrection of the dead, believing that Moses taught nothing about the doctrine. This was also why they came in conflict with the Pharisees who built their theology from the Torah, the Prophets and Psalms and the oral traditions. The Apostle Paul later used this tension between the two groups as a tool to escape persecution from the Jewish Sanhedrin. Actually the Sadducees theological question was taken from a teaching of Moses.

If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of an husband's brother unto her. And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name be not put out of Israel. (cf. Deut. 25:5-6)

What was originally a gracious provision by God to protect a man’s name and secure land rights, is quoted by the Sadducees to pose their deceptive theological question to the Lord. Their question involved the impossibility of the resurrection based on the confusion it would create from this commandment of Moses. No doubt they thought they had asked Jesus an impossible question. Notice the Lord didn’t take time to think about it or scratch His head in puzzlement but gave an immediate two part answer.

The Lord’s Profound Answer

Matthew 22:29-30 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

In this answer Jesus points out the Sadducees erred on two theological points which He takes up in reverse order. First, Jesus said that they erred not knowing the power of God, because in the resurrection all relationships are changed and each of us are radically transformed. cf. 1 Cor. 15:44; Phil. 3:21; 1 John 3:1-2. Obviously our capacity for intimacy will be radically changed: instead of self-centered we will be other centered; instead of carnal we will be spiritual; instead of proud selfishness we will display humble love for others; instead of envy, jealousy, hatred we will rejoice in others gifts, never be threatened by a competitor for someone’s affections and have an deep holy affection for everyone. The capacity to love between all believers will be far greater than any earthly intimacy between a husband and wife, similar to angels of God in heaven. As MacArthur points out…

Nor will there be any exclusive relationships in heaven, because everyone will be perfectly and intimately related to everyone else, including to the living God Himself.

Notice also, in the Lord’s answer He slipped in the issue of angels, which the Sadducees rejected! cf. Acts 23:8. But Jesus didn’t stop with the Sadducees error about the power of God for they also needed adjustment in their thinking about the Scriptures. Jesus continued…

Matthew 22:31-32 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (KJV)

Notice the Lord quotes from the Torah, which the Sadducees accepted as the basis for their theology. Jesus didn’t need to bring evidence from the rest of the OT Prophetic Books and Psalms, neither did He get caught in the side controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, i.e., concerning which books of the OT were authoritative. Moses himself had recorded God’s statement, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." Jesus then pointed out that on the basis of the present tense, in some sense Abraham, Isaac and Jacob still exist. These three patriarchs didn’t simply die and cease from existing but continue to own God as their Lord, suggesting a continuing volition. This profound answer by Jesus knocked the Sadducees off their pins and Matthew adds an editorial comment about…

The Crowds Astonished Reaction

Matthew 22:33-34 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine. But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.

The crowds who were listening to Jesus’ teaching in the Temple were struck dumb with amazement (Greek, ekeplasonto). It was a profound answer not only because the Lord’s fall into the trap of disagreement on the question of the extent of the authoritative Scripture but because Jesus used the Torah itself, turning the argument on a Hebrew tense of a verb, to offer to the Sadducees an unanswerable dilemma from their limited theological perspective.

The specific reaction of the Sadducees was that they were put to silence, i.e., they were literally muzzled. Like someone putting a gag into a man’s mouth, these Sadducees stood speechless, until they shuffled off humiliated. Round Two was over and one more round to go in this short counter-offensive of the Jewish leadership and the score remained: Jesus Christ, the Omniscient Lord 2 and the Jewish religious leaders 0. This illustrates the vanity of trying to debate with the omniscience Lord in the Person of Jesus Christ. Try as one may, he/she will always co!e out on the short end, as the Lord draws from the inexhaustible resources of knowledge, wisdom, insight and discernment. The Sadducees attempted what some attempt today, the arguing of theology with the Lord Himself.

Main Idea: God isn’t in the business of arguing theology. He will not be stumped by your honest questions but also He will not cater to your insincere one’s either. Hold onto your vain ideas all you want but they will eventually lead you into a Christless eternity, as they did the Sadducees. They clung to their money, retained their ignorance of Scripture and denied the power of God.

Exploring the Bigger Picture

When exploring the Biblical doctrine of the Resurrection or Immortality, the NT believer begins with 1 Corinthians 15 which is Paul’s treatment of the subject. The Corinthians believed that Jesus rose from the dead (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4) but had difficulty believing in the bodily resurrection of the saints. For a full development of the NT doctrine see: Matt. 22:23-32 Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-37; Matt. 24:31; Matt. 25:1-13; Matt. 27:52,53; Luke 14:14; Luke 20:35-38 Matt. 22:30-32; Mark 12:25-27; John 5:21,25,28,29; John 6:39,40,44,54; John 11:23-25; John 14:19; Acts 2:26-31; Acts 4:1,2; Acts 17:18,32; Acts 23:6,8; Acts 24:14,15; Acts 26:6-8; Rom. 4:16-21; Rom. 8:10,11,19,21-23; 1 Cor. 6:14; 1 Cor. 15:12-32,35-57; 2 Cor. 4:14; 2 Cor. 5:1-5; Phil. 3:10,11,21; 1 Thess. 4:14,16; 2 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 2:18; Heb. 6:2; Heb. 11:19,35; Rev. 1:18; Rev. 20:4-6,13.

What Should We Do About this Passage?

- Application Recommendations -

Our flesh naturally attempts the ultimate act of foolishness, i.e., to argue theology or morality with the Lord who is infinite in wisdom, knowledge and discernment.

Questioning the Lord is difficult without it leading to sin. We may not understand but living by faith means we trust in God regardless of our limited perspective on an issue. Study Habbakuk 1:1-2:4 to identify with this temptation.

A characteristic of a genuine believer is that "the just shall live by faith." Are you resentful to the Lord for something in your life which He has not explained to you?

A characteristic of the redeemed in heaven will be our capacity for expanded intimacy, without any of the carnal hindrances that make that impossible now.

As husband and wife, while using your sanctified imagination, explore with one another the wonders of what that increased capacity will be like.

The next time your child tries to explain how greatly they love you, take the opportunity to teach them that one day, they will love all believers in heaven with an even greater love.

The hope or expectancy of the resurrection is a major doctrine of the Bible both OT and NT. The Lord wants us to have the assurance that at death we don’t simply cease to exist.

When sharing the Gospel this week, make sure to explain that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a guarantee to our own resurrection and eternal existence.

Our commitment to God now, like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s, determines our relationship to God following death. Could the Lord now say to you: "I am the God of _____"?