afterlife_chairs02Mark 12 Continued

18.  Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him; and they asked Him, saying:

The Pharisees and the Herodians having been silenced, the Sadducees now have their turn at Jesus.  It seems the only thing that these groups could agree on was their hatred of the Lord.  These Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection from the dead, and their argument had to do with that.  No doubt this was a standard argument that they made, and had been used to stump the Pharisees, who believed in resurrection, many times.

19.  “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, and leaves his wife behind, and leaves no children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.

They bring up this law God gave through Moses.  The law they referred to is given in Deuteronomy 25:5,6.

5.  “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.
6.  And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.

This was a law they all were familiar with, and was God’s commandment on the matter.

20.  “Now there were seven brothers.  The first took a wife; and dying, he left no offspring.

Now, the Sadducees postulate this imaginary brother who dies having a wife, but no heir.

21.  “And the second took her, and he died; nor did he leave any offspring.  And the third likewise.

According to the law, the second brother must now marry her, which he does.  In the Sadducees’ imaginary situation, however, this brother too dies, leaving no heir.  The third then takes her, hoping to raise up an heir for his first and second brothers, but he too fails to do so, dying instead.

22.  “So the seven had her and left no offspring.  Last of all the woman died also.

The Sadducees take their example to the extreme, assigning to all the seven brothers the same bad luck as the first three, not having an heir but instead dying childless.  Then, to finish off their story, they have the woman die as well.

23.  “Therefore, in the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be?  For all seven had her as wife.”

This was the point of their story, and the question they hoped would trap the Lord.  If this woman and these seven brothers rise from the dead, to whom will this woman be married?  They well knew that polyandry was not according to God’s plan.  So what then?  They thought this would be impossible for Christ to answer.  No doubt the Pharisees had hemmed and hawed many times in trying to answer this one!

This would be easier for us to relate to if we would imagine a woman who believes in the Lord Jesus sequentially marrying seven men who also believe, and all of them eventually dying and leaving her a widow.  If she dies, then, and is raised from the dead, whose wife will she be?  The point of the argument, of course, is that this is an “insurmountable” problem, and proves that the dead cannot rise.

24.  Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?

The Lord was not intimidated at all by the Sadducees’ argument, no matter how many times it had been used to stump their opponents in the past.  He accuses them of error through ignorance of the power of God and of the Word of God.  Yet He did not just accuse them groundlessly.  He will show them why this accusation is accurate in the subsequent verses.

25.  “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

This is His answer regarding the issue of to whom this woman will be married.  Many have been quick to declare that the angels in heaven are neuter beings who have no sexuality, and therefore this means that that is what we will be like in the resurrection.  However, this is not true, nor is it what the Lord was saying here.  Angelic males had children with human females in the past, as we read about in Genesis 6:4.

4.  There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.

There can be little doubt, for one willing to study out the issue, that these “sons of God” were angelic beings.  How then, if they had children by human women, could they be neuter beings?  And we cannot imagine that God would give them the ability to have sex yet not allow them to marry!  The point of the argument is not that angels do not have marriage partners so therefore men will not either in the resurrection.  Rather, it is that men do not marry nor will they be given in marriage in that day.  If they do not marry by their own effort and are not given in marriage by their father’s will, then they must not be married by the power of men at all but by the authority of God.  And this is the point of Christ’s argument.

Although men may not be able to judge between seven worthy men as to who should marry whom, God certainly is able to, and will.  And He need not take the messed up relationships that men have instigated into His consideration when He does so.  We know that all marriage ties are broken at death, as even our wedding vows declare, “Until death do us part.”  Paul confirms this for us in I Corinthians 7:39.

39.  A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

So in the resurrection no one is married to anyone else, but all start out as single as they were at their original birth.  Then God is free to declare married whomsoever He will.  This is the way angels are married…by the commandment of God, and not the actions of themselves or other angels.  And this is the way it will be with men as well in the resurrection.  Such a woman would not be raised married to any one of these seven brothers.  The Lord could marry her to any one of them He pleased, or to none of them at all.  This is the truth of marriage in the resurrection.

26.  “But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?

Having spoken to their erroneous argument regarding marriage in the life to come, the Lord now speaks to the heart of their question: their lack of faith in the resurrection of the dead.  The word He uses for “the dead” here means literally dead bodies or corpses.  There is no idea of a “spiritual resurrection” without a physical body in the Scriptures!  Now, to answer this matter of their unbelief, He takes them back to God’s words out of the burning bush in Exodus 3:6.

27.  “He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.  You are therefore greatly mistaken.”

God is not the God of men who are dead to stay dead, but the God of the living.  This is not to indicate that these men are already raised, but that their future resurrection is so sure in God’s mind that He speaks of it as if it had already happened.  He is the God of the ones who will live again in resurrection.  Therefore, by saying there is no resurrection, these men were contrary to God and His very nature as the God of the living, and thus were greatly mistaken.

28.  Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”

The Sadducees are silenced, which prompts one of the scribes, apparently an honest man and seeking an answer to an honest question, to put to Christ the question that had been burdening his mind.  This was a common question among the religious leaders of the day…what is the greatest commandment?

29.  Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Although the Old Testament does not reveal anything about the relative importance of the commandments, the Lord has no trouble immediately identifying the most important one.  Notice that this time He was asked an honest question, and He gave an honest and straightforward answer.  How much were the religious leaders missing by questioning Him out of hatred and rejection, rather than seeking to learn from the vast store of truth He could offer them!

30.  “‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  This is the first commandment.

The Lord quotes the first (or greatest) commandment as being this commandment, originally given in Deuteronomy 6:4,5.  The commandment is to love the Lord your God with the totality of your being.  How far short do we fall of this!  Yet this is the goal that each of us should have.

31.  “And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Although the scribe had not asked for it, the Lord thinks it important to reveal to him the second greatest commandment as well.  This commandment is found in Leviticus 19:18, and has to do with loving your neighbor as you love yourself.  These words of the Lord reveal the truth that all the commandments may be summed up in two simple principles: love for God and love for each other.  If we would exhibit perfect love for both of these then it would be impossible for us to break any other commandment.

32.  So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher.  You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He.

This scribe further proves his honest and seeking heart by acknowledging the truth of what Christ said.  He is impressed by the Lord’s answer, and agrees with Him wholeheartedly.  In this, we must be impressed by this scribe as well.

33.  “And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

The scribe further demonstrates his agreement with what the Lord had said, acknowledging that to love God and to love your neighbor is more important than any law-keeping and sacrifices.

34.  Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  But after that no one dared question Him.

The answer this man gave was what would have been expected of him in response to these words of Christ.  Thus, when the Lord sees that the scribe has answered Him wisely, He acknowledges that he is a man not far from the kingdom of God.  He was a man who responded in faith.  Now, he needed to continue in faith, and believe in the One Whose words he praised.  We cannot tell if he took this further step and did this or not, but we know from the Lord’s words that he was not far from doing it!  I certainly would hope that he did.  This man provides a stark contrast to the spiteful and scheming men who had been trying to trap our Lord.  How refreshing is his honest question and believing answer in the midst of all this opposition and rejection!

Once the Lord has answered the puzzling question this scribe had put to Him so thoroughly and indisputably, the Lord’s enemies can finally see that they will get nowhere trying to trap Him.  They are dealing with One far wiser than they, and so they no longer dare to question Him.

35.  Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?

Though his enemies have given up questioning Him, the Lord is not about to leave them alone and let them simply walk away and save face.  Rather, He now responds to their questions to Him by asking them a difficult and puzzling question of His Own.  First, He points out that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David.  Of course, they were right, and yet the Messiah was also far more than this!

36.  “For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’

The Lord quotes David’s words out of Psalm 110:1.  He confirms that this was indeed David speaking, as it says in the text of Psalms, though the modern “higher critics” attempt to deny this.

37.  “Therefore David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?”  And the common people heard Him gladly.

This is the Lord’s trap, and it snares the religious leaders successfully, unlike their traps for the Lord, which failed utterly.  If David called the Messiah, “Lord,” then how can he be David’s son?  No man calls his son, “Master.”  This question, which so stumped the scribes and other religious leaders, is one that is easy for us as believers to answer, for we know that the Man Who was David’s Son was also His Maker and Lord.  This was a question that the religious leaders could not answer, however, and so they proved that they were not in the same league as the Lord when it comes to anwering difficult questions!

Notice that, though the leaders no doubt chafed under this question that proved their own lack of knowledge next to the Lord’s wisdom, the people heard these words gladly.  There was no spite or rejection in them, just in their leaders, who saw in Christ a threat to their position of absolute authority over the people.

38.  Then He said to them in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces,

It is interesting that the Lord is so hard on the scribes, when a scribe was the only one of the crowd who asked Him an honest question.  Remember, though, the scribes were one of the three groups who came to question His authority originally back in chapter 11 verse 27.  Perhaps He wanted this impressive scribe to realize that his place should be with the Lord, not with this hypocritical group that were the scribes.

The Lord’s warning about the scribes has to do with their love of showy and impressive things.  They desire to go about in long robes, appearing to the fleshly eye as “holy men.”  They love impressive greetings given in the marketplaces.

39.  “The best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts,

The scribes love being honored with the best seats in the synagogues.  They love being accorded the best places at feasts.

40.  “Who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers.  These will receive greater condemnation.”

These scribes, who thought themselves so godly and who loved the attention and respect of men, making a great show of how godly and important they were, would take away the houses of poor widows who could not pay their debts.  They were in charge of making wills and conveyance of property, according to The Companion Bible, and so they could use the laws to their advantage to make this more likely to happen.  After doing such a cruel thing, they then would come as the house was being repossessed, dressed in their long and impressive-looking robes.  There, they would make a great show of praying for the widow who was thus evicted from her home, all while their own men were doing the work of kicking her out!  This sort of hypocrisy was what caused Christ to condemn them so, and to reveal that they would receive greater condemnation from God for such actions.

41.  Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury.  And many who were rich put in much.

The Lord sits opposite the treasury and watches those who are putting their money there.  According to The Companion Bible, the treasury was located in the “women’s court,” making it accessible to all Israelites.  There were thirteen receptacles, called “trumpets” after their shape.  Nine were for legal dues, and four were for voluntary contributions, each being labeled carefully as to its special object.  The Lord now carefully watches those who are contributing.  First, He sees the rich, who put much into the treasury.  It is said that they would break their money down into the smallest coins they could, and then scatter them into the receptacles, causing a great noise and making an impressive show of their giving.

42.  Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.

This one poor widow comes and throws in two mites.  In Greek this is the plural form of “lepton,” which means peeled or paired down.  This was a very small Jewish copper coin, similar to our pennies.  A “quadrans,” or Greek kodrantes, was a word that meant a “fourth,” like our American “quarter.”  A quadrans was a fourth of the Roman “as.”  The point here is that what she threw in was a very small amount.  It was very hard to be a widow in Israel.  The people were poor enough as it was.  A woman with no man to care for her, however, was in the worst straights possible.  A woman did not just go out and get a job.  She was cared for by her husband or father or son, and the only place she could work was in their businesses.  If she had no husband or father or son to care for her, her options were greatly limited.  The only sure-fire way to make money then was prostitution, but an unattractive or older woman couldn’t consider that, and an honorable woman wouldn’t consider that.  The only option then was beggarhood, and that, in a country that was poor to begin with, was a difficult life indeed.  This widow, then, is in a sad condition, as is shown by the small size of her offering.

43.  So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;

This was a stunning statement, as the rich who had come to the treasury had no doubt thrown in many dozens upon dozens of mites, far more than this woman could possibly have afforded.

44.  “For they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”

We learn why the Lord was so impressed by her offering here, and why He considered it more than all the rich had put in.  This miniscule amount she had donated was all she had, her whole livelihood.  What faithfulness to God and love for Him could have motivated a person in such desperate straights to make such an incredible and costly sacrifice!  We cannot help but marvel at the love and faith of this poor and destitute woman.  We who live in the United States seldom have opportunity to give in such a manner.  We who have so much do not know what it means to give out of poverty.  Let us thank God for the blessings we have, and not forget to give generously, remembering this woman, who, in her poverty, gave all that she had.  What servant of God could possibly do more?