Jesus was rarely challenged by the Sadducees, who controlled leadership among the Jewish people. They were very worldly and did not believe in life after death, nor did they believe in spirits and angels. Instead, most often Jesus was criticized by the Pharisees, a minority sect that opposed the Sadducees and believed in the resurrection of the dead and acknowledged the existence of spirits and angels. Why? Well, one reason is that the Sadducees cared very little about considerations that concerned whether or not a person could obtain eternal life.
So why were the Sadducees questioning Jesus about these issues in today’s gospel? It’s probably not for the reason you think.
Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection,
came to Jesus and put this question to him, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
‘If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.’
Now there were seven brothers.
The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants.
So the second brother married her and died, leaving no descendants,
and the third likewise.
And the seven left no descendants.
Last of all the woman also died.
At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus said to them, “Are you not misled
because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?
When they rise from the dead,
they neither marry nor are given in marriage,
but they are like the angels in heaven.
As for the dead being raised,
have you not read in the Book of Moses,
in the passage about the bush, how God told him,
I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob?
He is not God of the dead but of the living.
You are greatly misled.”
The Sadducees were not asking Jesus this marriage question because they wanted to know whose wife she would be in the afterlife. Instead, they asked the question in an attempt to cause Jesus to ridicule the Pharisees’ beliefs regarding the afterlife. Jesus, however, would have nothing of it. He scolded the Sadducees for their ignorance of the law, and in doing so showed that their rejection of the afterlife was reputed by the scriptures.
The message for us in this passage is that we should not let ourselves be led away from the truth of Jesus by clever arguments. Don’t be fooled. Jesus is not understood by cunning speech. He is known through love and mercy that leads to eternal life.
Trust him in simplicity!