And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”
Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”—Mark 12:18-27
I love the way Jesus begins his answer not by answering but by asking. “Is this not the reason you are wrong… ?” That’s what theologians call “bringing out the boom sauce.” Essentially, what he is saying is that you can know the Bible and not know the Bible.
He then answers more directly, and he makes a rather complex point, but I think what he’s saying is this: When God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were long dead. Yet God said he was their God. This means they still existed in some sense. They were “alive” in some sense.
Jesus is using the Sadducees’ own source text to show them that the signs of resurrection are everywhere in it.
See, in their question the Sadducees are showing all their work. They’ve come up with a predicament that’s logical. They think it’s a stumper. But they’ve forgotten the central equation: Christ is better than the law and the law cannot account for the eternal kind of life (Romans 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3; Galatians 3:1-6; Hebrews 7).
They’ve got all the old covenant data, but they don’t know how to read it. Christ’s work – his life, death, and resurrection – inserts new variables into all of our equations. The Pharisees and Sadducees kept forgetting to account for Jesus! They are trying to solve these riddles with the simple math of the law when Jesus is doing the advanced calculus of the gospel. He’s got the higher math. He is the higher math.
And we cannot afford to leave the resurrection out of our spiritual arithmetic, or else all our calculations will be off.
This is a great picture of the gospel of grace being better than the law. The law condemns. It cannot give life. So when Christ comes to fulfill the law, he’s saying, “Anyone who trusts me and loves me, has reached the end of the law’s condemnation. You are no longer dead, but alive!”
Now the devil will come with his finely articulated arguments. He has his facts straight:
“Don’t you know, Jesus,” he will say, “this Jared Wilson is a flat-out sinner. He wakes up sinning, Jesus. When he was a kid, he lied a lot to make himself look better to others. Even when caught in lies, he’d stick to his guns. And he still does this. He’s a born liar! And you know, Jesus, how he’s thought about women. He’s a lustful pervert. And you know he cares so much about how people think of him. He worships his self-image. He is stubborn and defensive. And, Jesus, should we even mention October 18, 2006?* So Jesus, let me ask you this: When he dies, should this Jared guy go to some kind of purgatory to get straightened out? Or should he just go straight to hell?”
But my Jesus will look at my accuser and say, “Isn’t this why you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? Because Jared is in me by faith, and because there is no condemnation for those who are in me, he is an heir of eternal life. I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and the God of Jared. I’m not the God of the dead but the living.”
The devil and all his unwitting spokespeople love the logic of our condemnation. And they might have some Bible verses—heck, they may have some Bible degrees—but they don’t know the Bible. Christ Jesus our Savior accounts for our life.
* I have no idea what happened on that date, by the way; I just picked it out of thin air because I’m sure I was a huge sinner on that day.