Friday, February 24, 2017

The Sadducees Challenge Jesus

Mark 12:18-27

“Then come unto him the Sadducees, which say there is no resurrection; and they asked him, saying, Master, Moses wrote unto us, If a man's brother die, and leave his wife behind him, and leave no children, that his brother should take his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.  Now there were seven brethren: and the first took a wife, and dying left no seed.  And the second took her, and died, neither left he any seed: and the third likewise.  And the seven had her, and left no seed: last of all the woman died also.  In the resurrection therefore, when they shall rise, whose wife shall she be of them? for the seven had her to wife.” (Mark 12:18-23)

After Alexander the Great conquered Israel in 320 BC, Many of the wealthy Jews had adopted Greek customs and culture in an effort to be accepted by the people around them, often accepting even the Greek religious belief but unwilling to give up their positions in Israel.  The Pharisees had arisen in an effort to counter that influence, leading to an ongoing struggle for control.  When the Pharisees’ efforts to discredit Jesus failed, the Sadducees saw an opportunity to strengthen their standing with the people by discrediting him.

Though they did not believe in the Jewish faith or tradition, they knew it well and decided to challenge Jesus on his teachings in an effort to convince those who followed the Jewish religion they still believed and practiced the old traditions.  Referring to the command in Deuteronomy 25:5, which stated that if a man died without children, his brother was to marry his wife and raise up a child to be his heir.  They asked whose wife the woman would be in eternity if she had been married to all the brothers and never produced a child. 

“And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?  For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.  And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, 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 the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.” (Mark 12:24-27)

Jesus said that they were making a serious mistake, because they only knew some of the scriptures and ignored others with the result that they had no real understanding of God’s word, or his power.  They had never stopped to think about what it meant when God told Moses he is the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, 400 years after Jacob’s death and 600m years after Abraham’s death.  He did not say he was, but that he is presently their God.  their bodies might be dead, but their soul and spirit were not. 

The Sadducees were like many today who cling to some of the old traditions and teachings but do not believe the word of God as a whole.  As an example who insist we must accept all the refugees who come without question, quoting  passages such as Leviticus  19:33-34, “And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.  But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”  They are opposed to any vetting of those refugees, completely ignoring passages such as Numbers 15:15-16.  “One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD.  One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.”   If refuges or immigrants come, they have to be willing to obey the same laws as the natives.   They could not insist on keeping their own laws. 

The conflict between the Sadducees and Pharisees was the same conflict we see today between liberals and conservatives, with both sides determined to have their own way.  Both sides attack those who try to stand for what is right, because they would rather fight over the things they blame the other side for than to admit their own faults.    


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