Luke 20:27-40: “Silencing the Religious Liberals”
“Then some of the Sadducees, who deny there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying: ‘Teacher, Moses wrote that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one took a wife, and then died without children, and the second took her as well, and he died childless. Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also, and they left no children, and they died. Last of all, the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.’
“Jesus answered and said, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection of the dead, neither marry nor are they given in marriage, nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the LORD ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ For He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him.’ Then some of the scribes answered and said, ‘Teacher, you have spoken very well.’ But after that they dared not question Him anymore” (Luke 20:27-40, NKJV).
The Lord Jesus has been busy in what will be His final week of public ministry that has now culminated in daily times of teaching the people who are there for the celebration of the first of the Jewish feast periods known as Passover, which was held on the first month of the Hebrew calendar, known as Abib (April in the Julian (Western) calendar), specifically on or near the 14th day of the month. This was a feast decreed by the LORD to commemorate the exodus from Egypt. The event is mentioned in Exodus 12:8, 17; 13:6; 23:15; 34:18, 25 as well as in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, Joshua, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Ezekiel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and Hebrews.
It would be worth our while to briefly examine each of the prescribed feasts of Israel, as they have been celebrated for thousands of years as a people and nation. After the celebration of Passover on 14 Abib, the next scheduled feast is that of Pentecost (weeks), which is held at the end of the wheat harvest on or around the 6th of the third month, Sivan (June), to celebrate and honor the giving of the Law to Moses by God (Exodus 23:16, 34:22; Leviticus 23:16; Numbers 28:26; Deut. 16:10, 16; 2 Chron.8:13; Acts 2:1; 1 Cor.16:8).
The third feast is known as Trumpets, which is held on the 1st of the seventh month, called Ethanim (October) and is referred to in Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1, and Nehemiah 8:2. The next feast also occurs in this month, from the 15th to the 22nd, and is known as the Feast of Booths, which is a time of thanksgiving for the harvest. The people build and live in booths as a representation of their ancestor’s time in the wilderness (Exodus 23:16, 34:22; Lev.23:34, 39; Numbers 29:12; Deut. 16:13).
A feast not listed in the Law but celebrated as a time of victory over oppression was that of the Feast of Lights, or Hannukah, which commemorates the war of the Maccabees in 165 B.C., which drove out the wicked Greek despot Antiochus Epiphanes IV for his desecration of the Temple and the forbidding of all Jewish practices on pain of death. The Maccabean revolt gave the Jews a brief period of independence from the Greeks, and the story centers around the menorah giving off light for eight days with only a day’s worth of oil, a sign from God of His favor over the people. Hanukkah is observed for eight days starting on the 25th of the ninth month called Chisleu (1 Maccabees (Apocrypha) and John 10:22).
Another feast, known as Purim (Esther 3:7; 9:17, 22, 26), celebrated the Jew’s deliverance from the wicked advisor to the Persian Emperor, Haman. He had devised a plot to have the Jews in the empire killed but was thwarted by Queen Esther, who was Jewish, along with her relative Mordecai, and Haman was executed by the Emperor as a result.
The Passover event is symbolized by a year-old lamb, or kid (goat), selected on the tenth day of the month and slaughtered on the fourteenth day, and then eaten whole, with nothing left over on the following morning (Ex. 34:25). Passover is also known as the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex. 23:15; Deut.16:16) because only unleavened bread was eaten for the seven days following Passover (Ex.12:15-20, 13:6-8; Deut.16:3-8). This bread symbolized the urgency of being ready to leave Egypt and no time to put leaven in the dough to make it rise. In the New Testament period, the people would come to Jerusalem annually to observe this feast, pay their respects to God while worshipping in the Temple, and bringing a lamb for sacrifice.
Jesus and His disciples ate a Passover meal together on the night before His death. With His declaration that the wine and bread in the Passover feast would be a symbol of His body and blood as He fulfilled the ultimate act of sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, the New Testament identifies Jesus with the Passover for all time (Luke 22:7, 19-20; 1 Cor.5:7).
Jesus knew perfectly well that He was to be the final Passover sacrifice. Once He had taken the sins of humanity upon Himself and paid our penalty, He uttered the words “It is finished” and died (John 19:30). Those words meant that nothing else was needed or neglected as far as our total forgiveness and cleansing from sin was concerned. No works, rituals, pilgrimages, or prayers to saints or images, or anything extra from our fallen minds, and certainly no more need to place an animal on the altar to bear our sins for a brief time and be killed afterwards.
The Temple system was no longer needed after the resurrection of Jesus. The Jews could have stopped all of the rituals and ceremonies, dropped their dead apostate religious works, and understood that it was Jesus Who was the fulfillment of all they had learned and expected in the person and mission of the Promised Messiah. Unfortunately, it was not to be, as His own countrymen were either turning against Him or had already rejected Him.
This deliberate act on the part of many was the beginning of the judgment that Jesus would speak of in His discourse on the Mount of Olives shortly after He left the Temple for the last time. Within a generation, the nation of Israel and the Temple would be destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., with an estimated one million Jews executed, placed into slavery, or scattered across the empire.
In previous writings, mention was made of the officials who were most prominent within the Temple’s operations and security, and the religious duties performed and supervised by both the Pharisees and their rivals, the Sadducees. The gospels present numerous encounters and exchanges between Jesus and the Pharisees, whom He continually rebuked for their hypocritical lives and religious snobbery towards the people, not to mention their fastidious devotion to traditions and rules over the truth of Scripture.
The Pharisees (a name derived from the Hebrew phrase “the separated ones”) had come into existence during what is known as either “the four hundred silent years” or “the Intertestamental Period” where, after the prophet Malachi spoke of the coming Messiah and His forerunner, the era of the Old Testament ended, and there was no more word from God until the day Zacharias encountered the angel Gabriel in the Temple, described in Luke 1.
The Pharisees had taken it upon themselves to be the guardians of the Scriptures and to teach them to the people who were coming back from exile in Babylon, and their descendants who had resettled in the region of Judea, first governed by the Persians, and then the Greeks (app. 586-163 B.C.). This movement had started well, but over time it had morphed into a haven for traditions, rabbinical interpretations of both Scripture and the previous comments made by teachers, and keepers of the numerous regulations they had put into place above Scriptural authority – turning Judaism from a dynamic faith to a nearly unbearable system that was nothing more than a form of bondage and growing apostate formality.
Still, they claim to have believed that the Scriptures (law, writings, and the prophets) were inspired of God, and they never wavered from that foundation. They also taught that people have souls and would be resurrected from the dead and judged by God for either life or eternal death in the gloomy underworld. They also taught the existence of angelic beings and demons. They were also not as powerful and influential as their rivals, the Sadducees. They were in the minority of Jewish religious and social life, and the Roman authorities did not give them much attention.
The Sadducees would be defined today as “liberal” in their use of the Scriptures and that they were more tolerant of the Roman rule over Judea, which put them in a favorable light.
The High Priest of Judea was no longer a direct descendant of Aaron, but a lackey of Rome who saw the office as a means of power and control. Caiaphas and his father-in-law Annas, who were in office during the ministry of Jesus, were both Sadducees. This group believed that the only legitimate Scriptures were the five books of Moses and the other writings had little if any authority over the nation. They denied the teaching of a resurrection and an afterlife and did not believe in the existence of supernatural beings such as angels and demons. Any service to God would be rewarded or judged in this life. One wonders why anyone would want to be in this group. Still, they had sway and appealed to those who were less inclined to adhere to the “extras” supported by the Pharisees.
One of their favorite ways of irritating the Pharisees in terms of belief in a resurrection was to present riddles and dilemmas that seemingly contradicted this view. One Sadducee decided to play this game with the Lord Jesus as He was in the Temple teaching, just a few days before His encounter with the cross. The Sadducee presented a question about seven brothers who in turn had married a woman that produced no heirs for any of them and had all died. The question was figuring out whose wife she was since they had all married her. This Sadducee figured He could wrap Jesus in the same knot as the Pharisees. He figured wrong, and Jesus turned the tables on Him by using the very books of Scripture they honored to prove the point.
Jesus taught that marriage as we know it is not a part of the afterlife. There will be no need for procreation, which has been throughout history one of the foundations for marriage here. The relationship that a husband and wife enjoyed on Earth will be far greater in heaven, as will all relationships between brethren and the LORD. We will be equal with the angels as they do not procreate, and this teaching affirms the fact of a resurrection sometime in the future. The Lord Jesus quoted from the book of Exodus where the LORD declared before Moses that He IS the God of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, signifying that these men were still alive in the afterlife and thus would be resurrected as well.
Now it was the Sadducee who was caught in a dilemma. If he denied what Jesus had just presented, he would have been saying that the Torah was wrong, and that went against his core belief. There was no way he could accuse God of error, which would have been blasphemy. After this encounter, no one dared to present any more questions to Jesus, which was a smart move on their part.
Our Lord Jesus Christ can never be fooled or caught off guard in any situation or encounter we might want to twist His words or person into something of ridicule or denial. Jesus has shown not just His Divine authority over the minds and souls of His creation but made those around Him think about what they held as solid conviction and examine it through the Word. Jesus is Lord of All, both here and in the world to come. Bow before Him and give yourself to His saving grace and mercy. Now is as good a time as any, wouldn’t you think?