(A) Introduction. Read: Luke20v27to40

Who were the Sadducees? This is not an easy question to answer. Some scholars believe they were named after their distant ancestor - the high priest Zadok who anointed Solomon. Others say the Sadducees were named after another Zadoc who became high priest when the Hasmonean kings ruled an independent Israel from the time of Judas Maccabaeus in 165 BC to the ascension of Herod the Great to the throne in 37 BC. Even in the time of Herod, the puppet of the Romans, the Hasmoneans didn't entirely loose their influence because Herod married the Hasmonean princess, Mariamne. It is thought the Sadducees were related to the Hasmoneans and were something like priest kings. A few, without much faith in historians, claim that because this priestly caste didn't believe in the resurrection they were sad u see!!

The Sadducees were a priestly faction who were very conservative in their outlook. They were the AV men of their generation! The Sadducees stuck to Scripture written in the old Hebrew script rather than versions in the aramaic alphabet. Their beliefs were based on a literal reading of the first five books of the Old Testament - the written Torah. They rejected the commentaries, rulings and interpretations that formed the oral Torah which the Pharisees valued so hightly. So the Sadducees would take literally Exodus21v23: But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth ...... . The Pharisees, on the other hand, ruled that a monetary value could be put on an eye and a person who loses an eye should receive financial compensation - as happens today.

The Sadducees didn't believe in the resurrection, winged angels or spirits because they found no reference to such in the Pentateuch. They believed in man's free will unlike the Pharisees who held that everything was preordained by God.

The Sadducees controlled the Temple and were rich. They collaborated with the Romans and exercised political power as leaders of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council. In this they were more like a political party than a religious sect.

It is representatives of this privileged, ultra-conservative but pragmatic group that came to Jesus with a question about the resurrection.

(B) A sinister motive.

The Sadducees asked a question about a woman who in obedience to the law of Moses married in quick succession seven brothers who died one after the other! They said: "Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the 7 were married to her?" Lk20v33.

It is very unlikely that this question was asked to receive enlightenment. Rather it was asked to demonstrate that Jesus' belief in the resurrection was not Scriptural. They wanted to demonstrate that Jesus was unsound to justify their decision to reject his ministry. The priestly elite hoped by showing that Jesus' belief in the resurrection was plainly ridiculous to make clear the impossibility of 'going along with him.'

A lot of this goes on today in church circles! Michael Burns the pastor of Fox Valley Church of Christ writes on his church website about doctrinal snipers. These are people who email him questions on doctrine in the hope that his answer will fall short of their superior understanding and show him up as inadequate and not deserving of their support. It is akin to what happened to me when I was a young Christian. Ultra conservative believers sounded me out! They wanted to discover if I was of their opinion and sound - or even better, of a different opinion and unsound. If I could be show to be 'unscriptural' these super spiritual critics would have the delicious pleasure of writing me off. I was, of course, found to be unsound!

Paul had trouble with this kind of Christian in Corinth. There were some in that wayward church who considered themselves superior in understanding to the little apostle! Paul is scathing about them. They were babes in Christ - the very opposite to what they thought they were. See exposition on 1Cor4v6to21.

The tragedy is that some of those who are so proud at being right are just like the Sadducees - ignorant and hopelessly wrong.

(C) A sorry misuse.

The Sadducees misused Scripture. They tried to use Dt25v5to10 to prove Jesus was wrong about the resurrection. According to this passage when a married man died childless his brother was to take the widow and raise up a son to carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. Dt25v6.

The arch conservatives imagined a scenario where this happened 6 times meaning a woman had seven different brothers for husbands one after the other. In the Sadducees' opinion this made belief in resurrection ridiculous because it produced an insoluble problem: whose wife would the woman be?

It is very ironical that the Sadducees used a scripture that illustrates God's commitment to continuity to support and bolster a belief in the starkest of discontinuities: death and annihilation. (See exposition on Ruth4)

The sad truth is that Scripture can be used to support almost any belief or practice. Armenians and Calvinists have been trading proof texts for years to justify their doctrinal positions. When Henry the eighth wanted to divorce Katharine his wife he quoted Lev18v16: Do not have sexual relations with your brother's wife; that would dishonour your brother." Katharine was the widow of Henry's older brother. The king conveniently ignored the passage in Deut25!

A church in the U.S.A. wanted to provide a service for young married couples. So they conducted a survey and discovered that one of the issues this target group would like help with was potty training. Before organising some seminars on this subject the church elders thought it would be nice to have Biblical justification for their initiative. After searching the Scriptures they came up with: Train a child in the way he should go. Prov22v6.

My father gave me some good advice when he baptised me many years ago. It was the same advice that Paul gave to Timothy: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2Tim2v15. The Sadducees and many since have not correctly handled the word of truth. Incorrectly handled it becomes an instrument of Satan.

(D) A stupid mistake.

The Sadducees made the big mistake of thinking a resurrection body would be the same as the old body. A resurrected man would have the same appetites, vulnerability to pain and propensity to sin. This is obvious from their question: "Whose wife will she be?"

The priestly caste may have thought another life much the same as the first was hardly worth having. It would be like living your life all over again - something not everyone wished to do.

Jesus told the Sadducees: "Are you not in error because you do not know .... the power of God. Mk12v24. The priests were wrong about the resurrection body. It would be different from the old body. Jesus highlighted three changes:

(1) No marriage.

There will be no more exclusive relationships after the resurrection. There will be no partiality. We will all be one in Christ - in our love for him and our love for one another. No one will be rejected, unloved or lonely in the New Kingdom.

(2) No death.

Marriage will be unnecessary because after the resurrection there is no more death: "But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die." Lk20v35and36. Reproduction will not be needed to perpetuate the human race because no one dies and needs replacing.

Jesus teaches by implication that one of the main purposes of sex and marriage is procreation and the perpetuation of the human race. This is why gay sex and same sex relationships fall short of God's intention and can never be morally equivalent to traditional marriage. Politicians can take a relaxed view of homosexuality just so long as it remains very much a minority inclination!

Jesus said that those who take part in the resurrection would be like angels insofar as they do not die and do not reproduce. We will NOT be angels. The resurrected will be recognisably human but different, just as Jesus was - the firstfruits of them that sleep. (See exposition on 1Cor15v35to58.)

(3) God's children.

At the resurrection the redeemed will become fully children of God. Jesus told the Sadducees: "They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. Lk20v36. The old family ties, the ties of blood, will no longer be important. Here on earth they can be too important - a barrier to inclusive love. Many years ago when the church I attended at Brockley had a sizeable congregation people used to stand around after the services in family groups. My mother, the pastor's wife, felt very much excluded for several years.

When we become Christians we are born into God's family. John describes it like this in his gospel: Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children not born of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. Jn1v12and13. Yet although this is true, family ties remain strong in this life and compete with the 'tie that binds or hearts in Christian love.' At the resurrection the transformation of our relationships will be completed. We shall owe our new life to him who died for us and to him who raises us. However much we might be pleased to see one another nothing will compare to our joy in seeing Jesus - The lamb is all the glory of Immanuel's land.

There will be no family groups, no friendship groups - no cliques, factions or parties - we shall be perfectly united in love for God and devotion to Jesus in the New Kingdom.

(E) Significance missed.

Jesus said to the Sadducees: "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures." Lk20v24.

Jesus knew that the Sadducees only accepted the authority of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. So to accommodate them he quotes from Exodus, God's words to Moses from the burning bush: "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." Ex3v6. Jesus quoted this passage from Exodus because the Sadducees claimed that there was nothing in the Pentateuch about life after death and thus about resurrection.

The difficulty facing us is this: how does the quotation from Exodus demonstrate, in the opinion of Jesus, that the dead rise?

I will examine the two conclusions Jesus derives from Ex3v6:

(1) "For to him all are alive." v38.

God didn't say to Moses: "I was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." This wouldn't sound right at all! Some commentators argue that because God used the present tense and said: "I am the God of Abraham ... ." Abraham must have been still alive. It is true that we often use the past tense for a discontinued relationship. I might say: "I was Richard's teacher." or "I was Mary's tutor." This would signify that I was once but am no longer Richard's teacher and Mary's tutor.

However, we sometimes use the present tense of someone who has died. If I am out preaching at a Grace Baptist church in Suffolk someone might say that he can remember Pastor Reed of Brockley. I would respond by saying, "I am Pastor Reed's son." I would never say, "I was Pastor Reed's son." even though he has been dead many years.

I can only think I use the present tense to describe my relationship with my father because that relationship is so important to me. My father will always live in me - my memories of him, my admiration of him and above all the devotion to Jesus we have in common.

God called himself the God of Abraham because Abraham remained important to him. Abraham was alive to God. He had a perfect record of Abraham's life - an exact memory of every incident. God could - and still can - replay every thought, word and deed of the great patriarch.

Abraham and, indeed, none of us can ever be lost so long as God retains a complete record of our lives. "For to him all are alive."

"He is not the God of the dead, but of the living." v18.

I still have not really explained why God's words: "I am the God of Abraham .... ." hold out hope of the resurrection. We can be alive to God without him being alive to us. Some believe in soul sleep - alive to God but not consciously aware of anything. Others believe that the human spirit can exist consciously in some non-bodily form. Some Christians and many pagans hold this view.

One of the reasons I always say, "I am the son of Pastor Reed." is because I am committed to him. In a very limited way I keep his memory alive. I reminisce about him and mention him in my sermons. I bring him to life so far as I am able.

When God said to Moses, "I am the God of Abraham." he was reaffirming his commitment to the patriarch. God was going to keep his promises to the men of faith and lead the Israelites out of bondage to the Promised Land.

God's love for us and commitment to us is such that it is inevitable he will bring us back to life to enjoy him forever. If we really live to God he must want to live to us. I want to live to my father again but haven't the power to fulfil such a desire. But God has the power and he will use it bring men and women of faith back to life. We are not alive to him as disembodied spirits! We live to him as bodily beings. That is how he will restore us to conscious life - with resurrection bodies - and it is with such that we shall ultimately enter the Promised Land.

Jesus was very, very clear about the resurrection. He said to the Sadducees who had no belief in life after death: "You are badly mistaken." Mt12v27. Some still are. (See my exposition on life after death.)

ANY COMMENTS FOR JOHN REED: E-mail jfmreed@talktalk.net