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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

Resurrection of the Dead

Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, Luke 20:27-40

Picture this, if you will. You have traveled back in time to the year 1845. You are speaking to the most eminent scientist of the day (whoever that might have been). He asks you, “So, then, what advancements in science will we see?” He might just be a little skeptical of your claim to be a time traveler. What would you tell this skeptic? How would you convince him of, for example,

·         The airplane – a device that flies without flapping wings.

·         The atomic bomb

·         Radio (it sends sounds through the air without being heard until they reach the receiver???)

(If this sounds easy to you, try reading a magazine like Popular Science from the 1930s and see if the predictions make a lot of sense to you.)

Jesus has the same problem with some questioners in this lesson. Look and learn!

The Sadducees

(Mat 22:23-33 NIV) 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 have children 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. (Mark 12:18-27 NIV)  Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. {19} "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 have children for his brother. {20} Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. {21} The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. {22} In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. {23} At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?" {24} Jesus replied, "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? {25} When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. {26} Now about the dead rising--have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? {27} He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!" (Luke 20:27-40 NIV)  Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. {28} "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 have children for his brother. {29} Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. {30} The second {31} and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. {32} Finally, the woman died too. {33} Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?" {34} Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. {35} 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, {36} and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. {37} But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' {38} He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." {39} Some of the teachers of the law responded, "Well said, teacher!" {40} And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

First, we must introduce ourselves to the Sadducees. This group, like so many of the “sophisticated” groups of our day, traced its name back to someone who was a genuine saint. In this case it was Zadok, a priest under David. Zadok never heard of them, of course; they date from the time of the Maccabees. They took only the Pentateuch as authoritative (the first five books of the Bible). Much influenced by Greek philosophy (recall that Palestine was a dominion of the Greek empire after the conquest by Alexander the Great), they were the “deists” or “religious liberals” of their day. They denied the existence of the resurrection and also angels. Like so many “advanced thinkers” they felt themselves the thinkers of the future, destined to supersede their backwards counterparts. They disappeared as a group after the sack of Jerusalem – but their spiritual descendants are still with us.

Their argument is a “test case.” If there is a resurrection, then, what about this test case? Jesus gives us an interesting response. Basing himself upon the titles of God, he proclaims the answer as obvious. From our position as Monday morning quarterbacks, after the Resurrection, we can see a bit more. We can now provide a little more detail.

The Details – few and tantalizing

The New Testament clearly teaches the physical resurrection of the dead at the last day. Those who are destined for salvation are raised to an immortal body life. The picture of us floating around like disembodied ghosts is not to be found in the New Testament. What, then, do we know about the body of the resurrection?

Very little.

·         We do know that it is referred to as a “spiritual body” and that it is different in some essential way from the physical body we have now.[1]

·         It is described as “glorious” (a word which has lost all meaning in the English language of late; think of it in Shakespearean terms); as “incorruptible” and powerful.[2]

·         We are also told[3] that it is like the body of Christ after his resurrection. That tells us a few more things:

·         Sometimes he was recognized instantly, but on at least one instance[4] he walked with his disciples for an extended period without them recognizing him.

·         He also seemed to be able to triumph over mere matter, walking through walls.[5]

·         But the body was in some sense material – Jesus enjoyed fish for breakfast with his disciples.[6] So there is definitely taught the doctrine that this body is tied to the spirit forever. We are humans; we have a body or we are not humans.

·         The body in question is immortal, for we are the children of God and we will be like him.[7]

The skeptic may be heard: “Hey, nothing like that has ever happened yet! What makes you think it will?” I submit to you two ideas:

·         First, it is the explicit claim of the Scripture by people who saw the risen Lord. See, for example, Romans 8:23.

·         Second, we are told that we have the Spirit of God as a seal of what is to come.[8] If you know the presence of the Holy Spirit, then you have the seal of guarantee.

Why then are we so skeptical? Christ answers that in two thoughts: we do not understand the Scriptures nor the power of God. These two thoughts we must now examine.

One doctrine, one fact

C. S. Lewis once remarked that Christianity could almost be reduced to one doctrine and one fact. The doctrine is redemption by grace; the fact, the resurrection. We may see those as parallels to what Christ is saying here: understand the Scriptures, know the power of God. To see what He is saying, we need to delve a bit into the Greek.

The word used here for “know” (“understand” in KJV and NNAS) is the Greek eido. It is translated variously as “see” or “know” or “understand.” Perhaps the closest English equivalent is “get it.” It is a difficult word to translate. For example, consider this passage:[9]

(Mark 9:1 NIV) And he said to them, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power."

The passage sounds in English like it is referring to the physical return of our Lord, as “seen” in Michelangelo's painting on the Sistine Chapel of our Lord’s return. But the word “see” is in fact this same Greek eido. So it could mean that you would perceive it, understand it, know it – or physically eyeball it. Evidently this word must be taken in context! So then, what is that context?

The power of God, of course. The word for power is dunamis, from which we get our English word, “dynamite.” Again, we must seek the context. When the New Testament talks about “the power of God,” what is the context?

The context is exclusively this: the power of God in the New Testament after the Resurrection is the Gospel.[10] The power of God is identified with

·         The message of the Cross.[11]

·         Christ crucified.[12]

·         We are buried in baptism, raised in faith by the power of God.[13]

·         Enabling us to suffer for the Gospel by the power of God.[14]

So then, we have two things to stand on. We must “see” or “know” or “understand” the Scriptures and likewise “see” or “know” or “understand” the power of God which is the message of the Cross, Christ crucified. Like a king’s court in the middle ages, we must have understanding of our clergy and power of our knights. But how do we do that?

Tests of Power and Understanding

How, then, do we “get” understanding? How do we “know” the power of God? Perhaps the question is too complicated this way. Look at it from the simplest point of view: how would anyone test the power of anything?

·         One way is by resistance. If you try, like Superman, to stop a speeding train you will quickly feel its power as it runs over you. So it is with the Christian; standing in God’s way, refusing to let him have his way in your life, risks being run over – and learning the power of God.

·         A more gentle way is by observation. We see a crane lifting a heavy load, we conclude it is a powerful crane. Do you observe the power of God in the lives of other Christians? Do you take pains to let them know what the power of God has done in your life?

Understanding (also known as wisdom) is a bit more difficult to test for. But we have a few simple tests given to us in the Scripture.

·         First, if you have it, you want more![15] Do you seek understanding of the Scripture, or is reading the Bible a burden?

·         Another way is that you accept discipline.[16] Sometimes in the form of words of wisdom, sometimes lessons or preaching, sometimes in your own meditation, are you willing to change based on what God reveals?

·         There is another test: it is the fruit of wisdom and understanding.[17]

So then, what does the teacher wish the student to do?

·         Seek for understanding of the Scriptures. Read the Bible; study those who write about it; turn their wisdom into your own. One author speaks to you, another to me, but always the message is God’s.

·         Bear the fruit of wisdom: (James 3:17 NIV) But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

·         In your personal life, do not be afraid to testify to the Resurrection of Christ and what it has done for you. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel.[18]

·         Understand that you will suffer for that – but that God will give you power to endure, the power of the Resurrection itself.[19]


[1] 1 Corinthians 15:44

[2] 1 Corinthians 15:54

[3] Philippians 3:21

[4] Luke 24:13-35

[5] John 20:26

[6] John 21:1-14

[7] Revelation 21:4

[8] Ephesians 1:13-14, and several others

[9] Compare Matthew 24:34, which is of great significance to Pre-Millennialism and probably affected the translation here.

[10] Romans 1:16

[11] 1 Corinthians 1:18

[12] 1 Corinthians 1:23-24

[13] Colossians 2:12

[14] 2 Timothy 1:8

[15] Proverbs 1:5

[16] Proverbs 19:20

[17] James 3:13

[18] Romans 1:16

[19] 2 Timothy 1:8

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