Matthew 22:23 – The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question,

Last time we studied the Pharisees and the Herodians who laid a trap for Jesus, hoping to ensnare and arrest him.  They not only failed, but were disgraced in front of the people.

Now the Sadducees will attempt to perplex Jesus with hard questions. They too, hoped to ‘entangle Jesus in his talk’ in order to arrest him or at least to harm his reputation among the common people.  They too will be put to shame by Jesus.  

What do you remember about the Sadducees? They were one of the three major divisions of the Jews. Do you remember the other two?

If you said the Pharisees and the Essenes, you are correct. Feel free to reward yourself with candy!

Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible tells us this about the Sadducees:  “The SADDUCEES are supposed to have taken their name from Sadok, who flourished about 260 years before the Christian era. He was a pupil of Antigonus Sochaeus, president of the Sanhedrim, or great council of the nation. He had taught the duty of serving God disinterestedly, without the hope of reward, or the fear of punishment.  Sadok, not properly understanding the doctrine of his master drew the inference that there was no future state of rewards or punishments and on this belief he founded the sect.”

The Sadducees believed that there was no resurrection; when a man died his soul perished with his body.  Therefore, there was no eternal state or life after death, either good (heaven) or bad (hell).

If there is no eternal life after death, then there cannot be a future state of rewards and punishments.  Every reward you will ever get from God you will receive here on earth, and every punishment you deserve will also happen here.

The Sadducees also rejected all of the traditions of the elders and believed only what was found in the Old Testament, especially the Pentateuch. 

They were far less numerous than the Pharisees, but their members were extremely wealthy and had a high standing in the community, so they were able to wield quite a bit of influence in society. 

Matthew 22:24 – saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’

As we would expect, the Sadducees are relying on an Old Testament (Pentateuch) regulation.  It is found in Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 25:5-6 – If brothers dwell together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger.  Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.  And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.

Legally, the son of this union would be considered the son of the deceased man.  The son would be included in his (the deceased) genealogy, and would inherit his estate.  This helped to perpetuate the 12 tribes and also keep them distinct from one another.  

You can find a reference to this practice in Ruth 1:11, where Naomi tells her two daughters-in-law to return to their fathers because she has no more sons for them to marry. 

Matthew 22:25-26 – ‘Now there were seven brothers among us.  The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother.  So too the second and third, down to the seventh.’

This scenario is plausible, but unlikely; there is no record of this situation actually occurring.  The Sadducees are making up the most difficult situation they can imagine, so that they can baffle Jesus and display their own wisdom in front of the people. 

Matthew 22:27-28 – ‘After them all, the woman died.  In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be?  For they all had her.’”

The phrase “they all had her” means that they were all lawfully married to the woman, so each had equal rights to claim her as his wife.

So what, exactly, is the point of their question?  How does it tie in with their beliefs on resurrection?

They are attempting to show/prove that the doctrine of resurrection and life after death (eternal life) was absurd.  They insinuate that if there were an eternal state, it would be exactly like the present age, in which people die.  So in order to keep the next life ‘populated’, men and women must marry and have offspring.  Relationships would be the same in the next life as they are now.  Their question attempts to show that this would produce a world full of confusion, strife and disorder (7 husbands + 1 wife = chaos).  In their mind, it would be an untenable and absurd situation, so therefore it cannot be true. 

What tiny, little imaginations they have!

We serve a God of infinite power, wisdom and creativity.  He loves variety. He is always doing something new.  Nothing is impossible with him!  I wonder what would make them think that God would create the exact same thing twice?  What would make them think that God would allow death into his perfect kingdom?  It’s like they don’t know him at all!  Thankfully, the Lord has assured us that this will not be the case; the old way of things (including death) will no longer exist:

Revelation 21:3-5 – And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Hallelujah!  Praise his name!  There will be a future state for you and I and it will be one where we dwell in the very presence of God!  No eye has seen, no ear has heard neither has it entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for us!

Matthew 22:29-30 – But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.  For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

Jesus is now going to show them the error in their logic.  First off, the Sadducees either don’t know or don’t believe the Holy Scriptures.  They clearly indicate that there will be a resurrection from the dead.  Here are just a couple of examples:

Daniel 12:2 – And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Isaiah 26:19 – Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.  You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!  For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. 

So Jesus points out that if they truly knew and believed the scriptures, they would know that God raises the dead.  They would know that there is a future state of reward and punishment.  They would also know that the state of men in the next world will not be the same as it is now; people no longer need to marry and have children, because they are no longer subject to death.

So we see that ignorance and unbelief cause them to go astray.  This is a very valuable lesson for us as well.  If we don’t read the scriptures, how will we know what God has to say?  When we don’t know what God says, we open ourselves up to deception by Satan and his followers. 

2 Peter 2:1 – But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who shall secretly bring in destructive heresies…

The Sadducees had no excuse for their ignorance.  They had ample time and opportunity to read and study the scriptures.  They had a chance to meditate on them, and discover their true meaning. 

What about you and I?  Do we have access to the scriptures?  Do we have the opportunity to meditate on the words of life and discover their meaning?  Of course we do!  In fact, we have it much better than the Sadducees ever did, because we also have direct access to the throne of God and we have the power of the Holy Spirit to instruct us.  If they had no excuse for their ignorance, what excuse do we have?

Their problem also involved an element of unbelief.  The original Greek word for “know not” can also indicate feeling or choice.  This means that the Sadducees were unwilling to know or acknowledge the truth that the scriptures presented to them.  They chose to ignore, cast aside, or disbelieve it.  So in addition to being ignorant of God’s word, they are also guilty of not believing what God said.

I think it is extremely important in this day and age that we believe what God tells us in his word.  The world is in turmoil right now.  Our only true foundation is God; if we don’t believe what he tells us, we are left with only one option – to trust in man.  And that will result in failure and death.

God’s word says :

  • The church will stand up to the gates of hell, and hell will not prevail against her, Matt 16:18. 
  • He knows what we have need of, before we even ask, Matt 6:8. 
  • He will baptize us in the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38-39. 
  • He forgives our sin and heals our diseases, Psalms 103:3. 
  • We have victory over the enemy, through Jesus Christ our Lord, I Corinth 15:57.

The list goes on and on and on.  Why not make your own personal list of promises from the Word?  Believe and meditate on them, and watch your faith grow!      

The Sadducees had yet another problem.  They grossly underestimated the power of God.  In their minds, when a man has turned into dust and been scattered to the four winds, there is no way to bring him back.  But that is not what the Bible says.  The bible says that with God, nothing is impossible.  It also states that he will one day raise us from the dead, by his great power:

1 Corinthians 6:14 – And God has both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.  

Acts 26:8 – Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

I think that part of the reason they did not believe in the power of God was that they did not see it at work in their lives.  Had they experienced it, they would not have been able to deny it.  What about you?  How have you seen the power of God at work in your life?

Matthew 22:31-32 – “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God:   ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

Notice that when the Sadducees came to contradict Jesus, their basis for doing so was Moses and the Pentateuch.  Jesus now uses those very things to show them they are in error.  This time Jesus quotes from Exodus 3, where Moses is encountering God through the burning bush.

At the time when God spoke this to Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had died hundreds of years earlier.  Yet, God refers to them in the present tense.  In essence, he says, “I am currently the God of these men.”  That can only be true if they are still living! 

And if they were still living, this proves that there is an eternal state/life after death.  It also shows that the soul is immortal and resides with God, even while the body is turning to dust in the ground (it does not cease to exist as the Sadducees believe).  At some point, that dead body will be resurrected, changed and reunited to the soul by the miraculous power of God! 

Matthew 22:33-34 – And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.  But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.

The crowd was amazed at the wisdom of Jesus.  His teaching was entirely new and it opened up the depths of the scriptures to them. 

The Sadducees, however, were put to shame and confounded.  They silently walked away. 

Matthew 22:35 – And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.

The terms ‘lawyer’ and ‘scribe’ are interchangeable. Both terms refer to a person whose business is the study and knowledge of the law.  It was also their role to explain the law to the people. 

In this case, it does not seem that the lawyer is maliciously asking this question, but is really seeking true knowledge from Jesus.  The term “test” or “trying” is used in the sense of examining.    

Matthew 22:36 – “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

Which commandment was most important?  This was a much debated question amongst the schools or sects of Jewish religious leaders. 

Some felt that matters of ritual were most important.  These included washings, circumcision, observing the Sabbath, etc.  Some felt the moral laws were the most important.  These included things like adultery, murder, theft, etc.  Some felt that judicial laws were greatest.  These included things like governing authority, restitution and punishment for crime.

In fact, the religious leaders of Jesus day recognized 613 different commands, which they divided up into lesser and greater commands.  According to them, 248 were positive (things you must do) and 365 were negative (things you must not do).  The different sects constantly bickered about which law was the absolute greatest.  They desired to know this so they might keep that one, all important law instead of keeping them all.   

As usual, they are making things way too complicated! 

Matthew 22:37-39 – And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

As we would expect, Jesus gives the perfect answer.  He draws their attention back to the original 10 commands given by God on Mt Sinai (see Exodus 20:1-17).

These commands or ‘words’ of God are often divided into two sections.  The first group consists of these: You shall have no other Gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself a graven image.  You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.  Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.    

The second group consists of these:  You shall not murder.  You shall not commit adultery.  You shall not steal.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.  You shall not covet.  Honor your father and mother.   

We can easily see that the first group centers around our relationship with God, while the second group centers on our relationships with each other.  Thus, Jesus has summed up all of the law in just these two simple commands!

Of course, understanding them and actually keeping them are two different things. 

What does it mean to love God with all of your heart, soul and mind?

Heart love – This means that we should love God supremely.  We should love him more than all other beings and things.  He should occupy the special place of honor in our hearts.  Our affections and loyalty should be fixed on him; we should be ready to follow his command at any time.

Soul love – This refers to our lives.  We should be willing to give up our lives to him; surrendering our will and replacing it with his.  We should be willing to devote all that we are to his service, and even be willing to die if he so commands.

Mind love – This refers to our intellect.  Our knowledge and understanding must be based on or filtered through the absolute truth of God’s word.  We should submit ourselves to the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit.   

So here is the answer that the religious leaders couldn’t figure out:  The supreme or most important commandment is to love God.    

The second most vitally important commandment is like the first – Love your neighbor as yourself.  These two commands are the fountain from which all of the other commands flow. 

How do we love our neighbor?  We love them by forgiving them and overlooking minor faults.  We love them by mourning with them in adversity and rejoicing with them in blessing/prosperity, by promoting their good, supporting them in weakness, instructing them in the ways of the Lord, and treating them with kindness and patience. 

In short, we should endeavor to do everything in our power for our neighbors, in all circumstances, just as we would desire them to do to us, were our situations reversed. 

When this happens, it creates a peaceful, harmonious bond between people: 

Colossians 3:14 – And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

And according to Paul, it fulfills the law:

Romans 13:10 – Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 

What a peaceful place the world would be, if all mankind followed these two laws!

Matthew 22:40 – “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

The phrase ‘law and prophets’ refers to the whole revelation of God’s divine will in the Old Testament.  So these two great commandments are the root of all other laws; the rest of laws either expand or apply these two commands.

Matthew 22:41-42 – Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ?  Whose son is he?”  They said to him, “The son of David.”

Jesus has now baffled the Pharisees, the Herodians and the Sadducees.  He responded to a scribe/lawyer who was truly seeking knowledge.  In so doing, he makes the will of God plain to all mankind, for all the ages.  Jesus is amazing!

Now that he has the attention of the people, he turns the tables and asks a question of the Pharisees.  Obviously, this was not done with a spirit of maliciousness or envy.  Jesus was trying to get their attention and focus on the true doctrine of the Messiah.   For this reason, he asks them to tell him about their expectations of the Messiah.

They respond at once, in the traditional, earthly/fleshly manner.  They expect the Messiah to be the physical descendant of King David, who would deliver them from the power of the Romans and restore their kingdom and civil rights.  In their opinion, he was nothing more than a man, who would restore nothing more than earthly privileges.

Matthew 22:43-45 – He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put our enemies under your feet’?  If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”

Jesus’ reply comes from Psalms 110:1, a well known Messianic Psalm, written by David.

Jesus is asking how the Messiah could be both David’s Lord and also his son.  No son is Lord to his father; therefore, if Christ were David’s sovereign, he must be more than a man.  He must be more than merely David’s physical descendant.

Furthermore, if David’s Lord and Master existed during the time of David’s reign, how could he also be David’s descendant generations later?   

The only explanation is that as a man, he is David’s descendant, but as God, he was David’s Lord. 

Jesus is challenging the religious leaders to stop and think; to consider whether or not their view of the Messiah was the whole truth or not.  And if it they didn’t have the whole truth, what were they missing?  Hopefully, if they were seeking the truth of this mystery, it would lead them to salvation.

Are there portions of scripture that the Holy Spirit is bringing to your mind?  Does he want to bring a fuller revelation of himself to you in some area?  For example, some people have been taught that God does not heal people today; he only did that during the time that Jesus walked the earth.  If you were taught that at some point in your life, the Holy Spirit might want to challenge you to stop and think about your belief. 

If he is challenging you, then I suspect he has some wonderful gift or revelation of himself that he wants to share with you.  I would encourage you to embark on a quest for the truth, and find out what it could mean for you.

Matthew 22:46 – And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

None of the leaders could (or would) offer any kind of solution to the difficulty Jesus presented to them.  

All of the religious sects had been put to shame by the wisdom of Jesus repeatedly.  They now cease trying to entangle him with his words.  They now focus their attention on some other way to murder him.  

Let me offer you some encouragement:

The Sadducees had a major, major problem.  According to Jesus, they erred in their beliefs because they did not know or understand the scriptures.  Their lack of knowledge led them down a dark path, away from the very God they were trying to serve!

This danger still exists today.  We can be caught up in popular praise music, or Christian books and films and neglect to spend time in the actual word of God.  The bible tells us that when we fight spiritual battles we are to put on the belt of truth.  Without it, we would not be able to stand against the enemy. 

So I encourage you to get into the actual word of God, even if it means putting down your favorite Christian author, or turning off that Christian radio/TV program.  Get into the word yourself.  Make sure you know what is says so that you can’t be led stray by false teachers or doctrines. 

Let me offer you some relief and strength:

At the beginning of this lesson, we saw that the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection or eternal life.  I find this astonishing and frankly, I don’t understand it at all. 

What a sad religion they practiced!  If there is no eternal state where we are in God’s presence and fellowship, then what is the purpose of religion?  What is the point of serving God at all?  

Thankfully, you and I know better!  From Genesis to Revelation, God continuously tells us that he loves us and wants to dwell in our midst.  He assures us that we will all be resurrected from death and we will be alive for eternity (what a relief!).  Not only that, but God also plainly tells us that in his kingdom he will reward us for all that we do for him here on earth. 

So don’t grow weary in your service for God.  Do you feel your strength waning during these difficult and uncertain times?  Then I have good news for you – when you spend time in God’s presence, he gives you strength:

Psalm 18:32 – It is God that girds me with strength, and makes my way perfect.

You may come to the end of your strength, but you will never come to the end of God’s strength!  What were you doing for God before the pandemic?  Were you working with kids, or teaching bible study, or leading a prayer group?  Whatever it was I encourage you to seek the Lord for a way to not only continue but expand your ministry.  God will make your way perfect and open up greater and greater doors for ministry, if we will look to him.  People need the truth of the gospel like never before. 

So draw close to the Lord and keep working to spread the gospel message.  One day you will find rest within his kingdom.     

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