Personalise the words of Ephesians 1:18–21 as you prepare to meet with God through his Word.
Marriage at the resurrection
23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24 ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27 Finally, the woman died. 28 Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?’
29 Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what God said to you, 32 “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.’
33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.
We don’t often think of Jesus agreeing with the Pharisees, but he did agree with them about the reality of the resurrection. The Sadducees, however, did not. The farcical scenario they present to Jesus here (vs 25–28) is intended to use the law of Moses to make a mockery of his belief in the resurrection. Imagine their reaction then, when Jesus states that their question makes a mockery of their knowledge both of the Scriptures and of the power of God (v 29)!
In regard to the power of God, the Sadducees fail to appreciate that at the resurrection God will transform and renew all things – including human beings – making marriage unnecessary in the new creation (v 30). With regard to the Scriptures, they have failed to see that God’s introduction of himself to Moses at the burning bush – where he speaks of the dead patriarchs as though they were living – presupposes the reality of resurrection (vs 31,32).
Again, the wisdom of God is at work in Jesus, to counter and correct. The pattern of his response to the Sadducees suggests a pattern for our own experience of God. The greater our familiarity with Scripture, the greater our familiarity with the God who is revealed therein. The greater our familiarity with God, the greater our awareness of his power.
Thank God for your past experience of his resurrection power. Ask him to act in those situations where you long to see that at work in the present.
Deeper Bible study
‘God … of the living’ (v 32), we thank you for marriage and for singleness. More importantly, we thank you for the gift of the resurrection and eternal life.
In Jesus’ day, as in today’s denominations, the various groups of Israel’s leaders were deeply divided. However, they could come together when threatened. Sadducees were mostly powerful priests who recognised the authority of the Pentateuch and rejected a range of ideas, including the resurrection. Their question uses the law of levirate marriage, whereby a brother marries his brother’s wife when he dies to preserve the family line.1 Their ludicrous hypothetical situation tests whether Jesus upholds the levirate law and explores his view of resurrection.
Jesus’ answer challenges their poor biblical interpretation and rejection of God’s miraculous power. He affirms that the resurrection is implied in God’s revelation in the burning bush of himself as the God of the patriarchs2 and as the God ‘of the living’ (v 32, italics added). He then says something I find difficult: raised believers will not marry or be married but will be like angels. This may be good news for those whose marriages have been or are less than ideal, but I am grieved! I simply can’t imagine life without being married to Emma. Jesus, I love my wife and want to be with her for ever!
Scholars explain this along the lines of Nolland, who says, ‘The production of offspring to carry on the family line certainly becomes irrelevant with resurrection to deathless existence’.3 While this is true, four things comfort me more. First, believers in difficult marriages are released. Second, the single will no longer feel inadequate. Third, I will always be best friends with Emma, who loves the Lord like I do. Fourth, without our sinful propensities we will have best friends galore whom we can get to know for ever. Thank God for the resurrection!
Read Revelation 21. What new marriage is envisaged? Imagine this existence. Pray ‘your kingdom come’.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Genesis 34–36; Matthew 13
Pray for Scripture Union
Praise God for giving Toby and the Polzeath Family Mission team new opportunities this year to share faith with many more children and young people that don’t go to church. (This week's prayers relate to this article.)