For the modern day Christian, resurrection is a basic principle of belief, but in Jesus’ time it was a hot topic, intensely debated between the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
Believe it or not, there is almost no reference to the idea of resurrection in the Old Testament. The early Hebrews seemed to teach that everyone entered into a place called Sheol when they died. But then in Jesus’ time, the Pharisees latched onto a few minuscule passages referring to the possibility that God might be able to pull the righteous out of Sheol into a resurrected state. The Sadducees didn’t believe it though. They actually taught that when your physical body died, so did your spirit. There was no afterlife whatsoever.
The Pharisees who believed and taught resurrection had to work some passages pretty hard to establish the doctrine, though their studies never impressed the Sadducees. The Sadducees thought the idea was ridiculous and had a trump card to play to get everyone else to believe it was ridiculous. It was a story of sorts: “Let’s say one woman had seven husbands before she died. Which husband is she married to in the afterlife?”
The Pharisees were probably never able to offer a great answer to that question, so the Sadducees played the same card against Jesus. But Jesus passes the test with flying colors by essentially telling them that their story is way off base. They think that the afterlife is like our current life and they couldn’t be more wrong. The Resurrection is so different that there is no marriage.
No marriage? This makes most of us sad to hear and so we stop listening. But if we’re paying attention, there’s a spectacular takeaway in this statement. There’s a lot going on in the story of Jesus talking with the Sadducees. I’ve worked hard to carefully dissect it all in this week’s podcast episode.
Photo Credit: Josh Marshall