Mark 12: 18 – 27 Marriage at the resurrection

Mark 12: 18 – 27 Marriage at the resurrection

Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. ‘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. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. At the resurrection, whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?’

Jesus replied, ‘Are you not in error because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 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”? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!’

*       *       *

Jesus has been challenged by the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders, and by the Pharisees and Herodians. Now it is time for another powerful group, the Sadducees, to question him.

As Mark says, the Sadducees didn’t believe in a resurrection of the dead; apparently they didn’t believe in angels either. They were an upper-class group who largely controlled temple worship. They confined religion strictly to the five books of Moses, and didn’t take account of the oral tradition of such as the Pharisees.

You may think their question is strange. Why are a group who don’t believe in the resurrection asking a detailed question regarding a situation whose outcome only shows up in the resurrection? In fact, what they are doing is using a well-established logical/rhetorical argument known as ‘Reductio ad Absurdum’.

Wikipedia defines this as a ‘form of argument that attempts to establish a claim by showing that the opposite scenario would lead to absurdity or contradiction.’

Here, the questioners have constructed a situation that seems to show that it is absurd to think there is a resurrection. The woman has been married to all seven men; whose wife is she after the resurrection?

Jesus has no patience with their question (and we’ll return to this point in a moment).

Jesus replied, ‘Are you not in error because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God?’

These are harsh words to the men who were responsible for temple worship. Jesus plainly thinks that the question is nonsensical. Nevertheless, he gives them a clear and straight-forward answer. The premise of their question is wrong.

Jesus said, ‘When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.’

There is no marriage after resurrection, says Jesus, therefore the situation cannot arise. As the situation cannot arise, there is no absurdity, and their argument fails.

Jesus then goes on to give a positive, scriptural reference to resurrection.

‘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”? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.’

The only authority the Sadducees respect is the written word of the Books of Moses, which are also the first five books of our Christian Old Testament. So Jesus quotes from one of them to demonstrate that Moses himself gave them the argument for the reality of resurrection. (The quotation is from Exodus 3: 6)

It is interesting to look more closely at the story told by the Sadducees.

‘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. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. At the resurrection, whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?’

This was indeed what Moses had said (Deuteronomy 25: 5 – 10). It was called levirate marriage. It had nothing to do with love and was principally intended to ensure the continuation of the family blood-line, and the orderly inheritance of land and property.

The whole motivation behind the Sadducees question had nothing to do with a sincere interest in God’s will. It was all to do with property!

Which brings us back to the harshness of Jesus’ reply. He has no patience with the question because the bad faith of the Sadducees has left very little room for him to open their eyes to the truth.

And now I come to the bit of this teaching that I find difficult.

‘When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.’

I’ve been married for 46 years. My wife and I love each other dearly. Her human love for me has taught me how to love others. The words ‘When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage’ send a shiver through me. Daphne and I have been a partnership in the best sense of the word, loving, supporting, discovering new things, challenging old ways of behaving, growing as people. I don’t want that to stop.

But just as marriage is about trust, so is faith. I must trust God. He has my best interests at heart. He has Daphne’s best interests at heart. If it is best for us to stay together after death, that is what will happen. The only way he will part us is if he wishes both of us to have something even better.

Prayer

Heavenly Father

You are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and you are my God, too. I’m sorry for when my faith falls short; I’m sorry for when I let worldly things have priority over the spiritual. Please help me to be open to your teaching, and obedient to your will.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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