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A Trial of Tricks and Traps II

Luke 20:27-40.  This sermon was preached on September 6, 2015 by Pastor Marty Bonner.

Last week we looked at a political trap that was laid for Jesus.  Essentially they wanted to make him look like a threat to Rome.  Today we will look at a different type of trap that is laid for Jesus, a religious or theological one.

It is common in every age to use whatever means possible to manipulate authorities against certain people and to manipulate the people against other people or even certain authorities.  These schemes that wicked people use may be effective in this world, and in such ways, they get what they want.  However, as a follower of Christ, we should be insulated from such manipulations because we do not look to the arguments of man to be foundational in our decision making process.  Rather, we look to the words and example of Jesus for our direction.  Though we do not do this perfectly, we should ever be vigilant to the schemes of manipulation that are being worked on us by wicked people.  We should also be vigilant over the fears and desires in our heart that provide the leverage for such manipulators.

The Theological Trap

The religious leaders were getting desperate in that last week leading up to the crucifixion.  They were not having any success manipulating Jesus.  Some of their attempts might appear quite weak to us, but part of that is because we are removed from the event in time and in culture.  Plus, a person can block 1,000 attacks, but it only takes one fatal blow to overcome such a defense.  So if they couldn’t get Jesus to offend the Romans, perhaps they could stir up trouble between Jesus and his followers.

The passage tells us that this particular attack comes from the group called the Sadducees.  Their name is a reference to a 3rd century BC rabbi named Sadoc.  This rabbi had begun to teach that humans did not have a spirit and there was no such thing as a spirit world (angels etc…).  They rejected any concept of a resurrection and an afterlife.  They only accepted the Books of the Law (The first 5 books of the Old Testament) and rejected the rest.  They tended to treat the Scriptures like life lessons rather than commands to be obeyed.  This is similar to what the Greeks did with their mythologies.  They see the stories as inspiring rather than inspired, something to incorporate into your life rather than something to be obeyed.  In that sense they were the religious liberals of their day (in contrast to the Pharisees who were very much religious conservatives).  In all respects they were moralizing naturalists.

These Sadducees present a hypothetical situation to Jesus and ask a question concerning it.  In this hypothetical situation they are referring to a teaching in the Law of Moses regarding a man who dies without having a son to inherit his property.  Israel was had twelve tribes who had very clear tribal boundaries.  Within these tribes were clans and families who had ancestral properties.  It was important for them to keep their property within the family and thus it was common for someone within the family to marry the widow in order to raise up a son to inherit for the dead man.  In this way, his name and his family property would not be lost to others.  Yes, God could have given them a different way to deal with this situation, but it was a very common practice in the middle east and was not adverse to the purposes of God.  We need to recognize that when God gave His law to Moses for Israel, He could have made it so perfect that no one would have even tried.  Instead, there are areas where God says, “You will not do this thing that your culture does.”  And in other areas He says, “You can still do this, but restrain yourself in these ways.”  Lastly, He sometimes does not make an issue out of things that He could have.  It is easy to judge the law that God gave Israel.  However, I would put before you that we should more humble in such judgments.  What will people 100 years from now think about your moral judgments and life?  Wouldn’t they be shocked at some of the things you did and called good?  How about 2,000 years from now?  I am not saying that God changes the definition of what is good.  But rather, the purpose of the Law was not to make a timeless statement of what a perfect society looks like.  Rather, it was to restrain the sin of Israel long enough so that God could do His work of redemption through them.  Also, it was to show them their guilt before God.  None are righteous, no not one.

So in this hypothetical situation we have a woman whose husband dies childless.  Thus the husband’s brother marries her to raise up an heir.  Yet, this guy also dies before having a child.  This happens 7 times until at last the woman dies without ever having a child and being married to 7 different men.  Now it seems quite obvious that no such situation existed, or ever had.  It is important to recognize in arguments that many hypothetical situations are so rare that they have little bearing on the issue.  Take time to analyze them and recognize the motives behind shaping the story in that way.  Now this story would be the same problem even if there was only two husbands.   Whose wife will she be after the resurrection?  We will get to the answer in a moment.

Why 7 times?  It is because the Sadducees in no way believe in a resurrection.  It is a ridiculous notion to them.  It is asked in this way to reduce the idea of a resurrection to an absurdity in the minds of those listening to Jesus.  They believe that any answer Jesus could give would make him look ridiculous.  Surely, he wouldn’t say that she will be a wife to all seven.  She could only be the wife of one man.  So who would it be, the first or the last?  And, under what justification would that be made?  In their minds they have given Jesus an impossible situation that will make him look ridiculous in the minds of those watching on.  Now let me remind you that we are being manipulated today.  Whether in politics or in everyday life on the job, things are not always as they seem.  Be careful how you judge things.  Sometimes you are being manipulated to walk away from a good leader.  Leaders can also be manipulated to use their authority against the wrong people.  Be slow to judge and quick to listen.  Be quick to pray for God’s wisdom to see through such manipulations.  We could spend more time on this.  However, simply receive this as a basic caution to quick judgments.

The Truth About The Resurrection

They get more than they bargained for on that day because Jesus doesn’t just answer the question.  He also gives new revelation regarding this resurrection spoken of by the prophets before him, which should be a reminder to us.  We know nothing about the resurrection except what God has revealed to us.  In fact this is also the reason we know anything about God and His purposes.  Thus throughout history God spoke to godly men and confirmed His word with fulfilled prophecy.  Yes, He would reveal the future in advance to substantiate what was being revealed about heavenly purposes.

Yet, there is a tendency within man to try and fill in the gaps between such truth with our own logic.  We create suppositions and hypotheses, prop them up with “biblical logic,” and call them doctrines.  Thus whole systems of theology are created that leave precious little to the humility of ignorance.  We are too proud to remain ignorant.  The truth is that God does not reveal to us most of what is to come.  He gives us enough to understand His intentions and to trust Him.  Why are we not okay with that?  The Sadducees had elevated their opinions to the level of Truth.  “There is no resurrection, period, and anyone who believes in it is a deceived idiot!”  Instead of humility before God’s Word, they were filled with their own wisdom and knowledge.

Jesus simply tells them that there is no marriage in the age following the Resurrection.  Thus the question is moot.  She will be the wife of no one and they will be the husbands of no one.  Why?  There are a couple of reasons given.

First, our bodies after the Resurrection will be immortal (never die).  Part of God’s purpose in marriage is procreation.  We are dying beings and thus we must replicate ourselves on the earth.  If we do not then mankind will cease to be.  After the Resurrection we will not need to replicate ourselves because none of us will die.  This revelation probably caught the questioners by surprise.

Second, marriage is intended to be a symbol of man’s union with God.  Thus Jesus says we will be equal to the angels (in that we don’t die) and will be Sons of God.  Although he doesn’t tie in the marriage analogy, he does insinuate that we will be in direct relationship with God like the angels are.  The work that is done to make a marriage work involves a man “laying his life down” for his wife.  Thus marriage is a picture of the work of salvation and redemption.  We were designed in such a way and given such an institution of marriage in order to remind us of God’s plan and purpose.  Thus we marry now as a prophetic picture of what is to be.  After the resurrection we will be eternally wed to God as a people.  Today we say, “’Till death do us part.”  But the union with God following the Resurrection is to never be separated by death.  We will not “wed” each other because we will be wed to God.  It is clear that Jesus is pointing out that life will be quite different in the age to come.  We are not just living this life over again, like some kind of reincarnation.  Our flesh will be very different from the flesh of today and so the way that we live will be quite different too.

This leads to some things we should think about.  The reason God hates adultery and divorce is because it causes hurt and pain, but also because it symbolizes a break up and failure of this eternal plan of God.  Part of the reason why God rejects same-sex sexuality and marriage is because of what it says about His eternal purposes.  It symbolizes humanity rejecting God and moving forward only with themselves.  It also symbolizes God rejecting mankind and moving on without us.  This will never happen.  God will not turn back from His plan.  Why does God reject pre-marital sex?  He does so because of what it does to the symbol of His great commitment to us.  When you see the other person only as a means of sex and fun until the next person comes along, then you diminish the powerful commitment that God has made to us and wants us to reciprocate.  Pre-marital sex trivializes the marriage and strengthens the very things that will get in the way of the greater relationship that can be.

In Matthew 22:29 and following, we see that Jesus made another statement before giving this answer.  He said, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.”  Now in verses 37-38 of Luke 20, Jesus is not pointing out the most powerful passages regarding resurrection in the Old Testament.  The most powerful passages are in Isaiah 26:19-21, Ezekiel 37:12-14, Daniel 12:1-3, and even Job 19:25-27.  But these were books that the Sadducees rejected.  Thus Jesus takes an example from the books that they did accept and mercifully shows them the logic of why there must be a resurrection.  Sometimes we are ignorant of God’s word because we don’t read it.  But other times we are ignorant because we have told ourselves it can’t be trusted.  Don’t make this mistake.  God knows what He is talking about.  We are the ones who have no clue.  Quit being so proud of your own intellect and logic, and rejecting the testimony of The One who created all things.

Jesus reminds them of God’s words in the burning bush passage.  God reveals Himself to Moses by saying, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  Jesus points out that God is not the God of the dead but of the living.  Two things must be said here.  First, God didn’t say I was the God of Abraham.  “I am!”  God was presently still the God of Abraham.  Now in the mindset of that culture it was unthinkable to say that God was the God of the dead.  This was a phrase that the pagan cultures used to speak of their false Gods.  The God of death was synonymous with the devil at this point.  Yet, in other places in the speaking of Jesus we see that he speaks about the living and the dead in a qualitative sense.  What I mean by this can be demonstrated by several simple statements of Jesus.  He spoke of those who though dead would still live and of those who though alive were still dead.  Living and dead are not statements of whether someone is breathing or not.  No matter how much you breath and animate yourself in this life, if you go on into eternity separated from God then you have always been dead, even while you “lived.”  But, if you are in relationship with God then you never really die.  O yes, you give up this flesh, but then the God of life brings you to Himself.  If He created us to be Flesh and Blood, will He not then plan to reunite us with new flesh?  Thus the prophets spoke of the resurrection that God had revealed to them.

Let me close by recognizing that we are most able to be manipulated when we reject that which God has given to us.  In fact we can become a tool of the enemy against the purposes of God when we refuse to hear the words of life.  Listen to His Word today! 

Tricks and Traps II audio