I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. Jesus plainly told a group of unbelievers why they were chasing falsehoods, but somehow I’d missed it. I hadn’t extrapolated what Jesus said to those He was addressing to all others who also held firmly to error.
Toward the end of Jesus’s life, the power brokers of His day—the Jewish leaders who controlled who was considered “clean” and therefore had access to the temple or, in places outside Jerusalem, to the synagogue—grilled Him about all kinds of things. Their motive was to trap Him so they could accuse Him of breaking the Law.
They asked Him what was the most important Law, whether it was right for Jews to pay taxes to Rome, how an adulterous woman should be punished, where His authority came from, and more.
Finally the Sadducees, the sect which didn’t believe in supernatural events like miracles and life after death or supernatural beings like angels, came up with what they thought was a fool-proof trap.
They told Jesus a story about a married woman whose husband, one of seven brothers, died. She had no children, so according to Jewish law, the brother was to marry her and produce an heir. First one brother married her, then he died. The next brother stepped up and married her, then he died, and so on until all seven brothers had married her. At last, she died as well.
The Jewish legalists trying to trip Jesus up had the stage set. So, they asked, in the after life [which they didn’t believe in], whose wife will she be since all seven men had her.
First, I’m a little shocked they told this story. It seems to me that any sensible man, after watching two, three, four of his brothers die after marrying that woman would realize she was a black widow and run the other way!
But apart from that, what hypocrites! Did they ever ask their polygamist men what wife would they have in the after life since they’d had all of those women? Of course not. It was fine for David to have hundreds of wives, for Solomon to have hundreds and hundreds of wives, but horrors if a wife had more then one husband, even if she only had one at a time.
Those unbelieving priests could just as easily have asked Jesus which wife would David have in the after life, but apparently in their cultural framework, multiple wives didn’t need to be explained. Only multiple husbands!
Jesus went straight to the heart of the problem, which wasn’t their inerrant cultural view of women. Their problem was that they didn’t believe in the supernatural.
I have to wonder what they thought about the blind men who could see after an encounter with Jesus. Or the lame man who got up and picked up his pallet when Jesus told him to. How about the lepers who were instantaneously clean? Or the dead boy raised to life? How did they account for these miracles if there was no supernatural power to intervene and change the course of nature?
They couldn’t explain any of it, so they teamed up with the leaders of the other Jewish sects to try and do away with Jesus. That’s all they had.
Jesus handled their question with aplomb. He didn’t beat around the bush, but gave them a straightforward answer that revealed their two problems—the same two problems all unbelieving people have:
1. You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures
2. You are mistaken, not understanding the power of God
Jesus then gave them a little Bible lesson:
“But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matthew 22:32)
In one short answer, He gave them understanding of Scripture and of God.
First, He illustrated God’s power by reminding them that the words they knew from Scripture came to them from God. The line He quoted was what God told Moses at the burning bush—that would be the bush that burned but was not consumed. The miraculous bush from which God spoke. The bush on holy ground.
Jesus not only reminded them of God’s supernatural power but also of the truth of Scripture—every single word. After all, His argument hinged on the tense of the verb AM. God said, I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Not, I was their God. The only conclusion to draw is that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are living beings.
But the sect that didn’t believe in miracles or the after life or angels couldn’t get it. They read past the truth clearly stated in Scripture, and they didn’t believe God had the power to do these supernatural things.
They wanted a nice, neat, manageable God that they could manipulate for their own purposes. In fact, they didn’t even want a Messiah, though they professed to be waiting for Him to come. They tipped their hand when the joined the mob railing against Pilate for his “not guilty” ruling at Jesus’s final trial. You’re no friend of Caesar, the crowd cried. They topped that by answering Pilate’s question, What shall I do with the King of the Jews, by shouting back, We have no king but Caesar.
Ah, they really didn’t understand Scripture. And they really didn’t understand the power of God.