Luke 20 Part 3
27. Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him,
It seems that, the spies having failed, the Sadducees decide to take their shot at Christ. The Sadducees were a sect that did not believe in resurrection. They seem to have believed that a person would live his life, die, and that would be the end of him. As such, the only reason to serve God would be because it benefits us in this life, since there is no benefit in the life to come. The result of such a philosophy is seen in the Sadducees, in that they believed in living this life “to the fullest.” These were the moral liberals of the day, and were only tolerated by the morally conservative Pharisees. Yet it seems that all the leaders, liberal or conservative, had a common goal in attempting to trap the Lord Jesus Christ.
28. Saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.
First, the Sadducees site something Moses wrote in the law. Part of the reason that the Sadducees rejected the idea of a resurrection was that they only recognized the books of Moses as Scripture, and denied the rest of the Old Testament. Since the most obvious passages speaking of resurrection were those in the prophets, like Ezekiel 37 and the valley of dry bones, this left them able to claim that resurrection was not truly Biblical. Angels are also more obvious in the books after Moses than they are in the first five books, and so the Sadducees denied the existence of angels. Of course, their views were incorrect, as all the Old Testament was given by inspiration of God, not just the books of Moses.
So because of their bias towards Moses, the Scriptural command these Sadducees bring is from the law of Moses. Of course, ultimately this command was not that of Moses, for everything Moses wrote was given him by God. But the passage they are referring to is 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.
So we see that the Sadducees were quite correct, and that this was a law that Moses gave. We might wonder what the purpose of this strange law might have been, since it seems an odd requirement to us today. Yet we need to remember the importance of the family line in Israel. Your family line told you your place in Israelite society, for what you were depended in large part upon which tribe you were descended from, and even upon what family within a tribe. You also had a very great responsibility to carry on your family line. If a man died without sons, and therefore without anyone to carry on the male line, then his line would come to an end, and their place in Israel would be lost. Since their place in Israel was not just a cultural position, but one actually given to them by God, it was a real tragedy for them not to carry that line on. Thus there were special provisions made for a man who died without a son, so that his line might not be destroyed. This verse tells us what the provision was: the brother of the man who died leaving a widow behind but no son was to marry the widow. Their first child, then, would count as the child of the dead man, whereas any children after that would belong to the brother who was the second husband.
So this was the law that the Sadducees referred to, and was a way of carrying on the family line, which was all-important under the system wherein each Israelite had an inheritance that he received from God and passed on to his children. Interestingly, this could also be the only time where God might actually command polygamy, for notice that no exception is made here for if the surviving brother is himself already married, which he might well be. Since a woman could not live very well on her own, but really needed a husband and family to take care of her, this was as much about compassion for the widowed wife than anything else. But its possible support of polygamy is not the feature the Sadducees wish to bring forward, but merely this law of the brother marrying the widow.
29. “Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children.
Now the Sadducees come up with a hypothetical scenario. This is always a dangerous method in such a case, for hypothetical situations do not exist, but only real situations involving real people. Yet this is their hypothetical situation regarding seven brothers. They avoid the question about polygamy by having the oldest brother get married, and then die without having children.
30. “And the second took her as wife, and he died childless.
Now the next brother in line, himself coming to marriageable age, take the widow as wife, as the law in Deuteronomy 25 requires. Yet he too unfortunately dies without children.
31. “Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died.
The third brother comes of age and marries the widow, yet he too dies childless. So through all seven of the brothers, who dutifully marry the widow, and yet die without children. This seems quite unlikely under normal circumstances, but all we need to do is imagine a war or a famine going on while this is happening, and we see that this could actually take place.
32. “Last of all the woman died also.
To finish off their story, the Sadducees have the woman die as well. This is an extremely hypothetical situation, but a possible one. As I said, in a war or a famine, something like this certainly could happen. Though we do not have the law that would make such a thing, we might ask ourselves the same question of a believer who is widowed and remarries in our day, both her husbands also being believers. Whose wife would she be in the resurrection?
33. “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.”
Remember that the Pharisees did believe in resurrection, and believed in it most firmly. It would seem that this argument, then, was one that was used by the Sadducees in an attempt to stump their adversaries the Pharisees. No doubt they had used it many times against them, and found that it was usually enough to silence the Pharisees, or else to set them to hemming and hawing in a way that made them look ridiculous. Though polygamy had been accepted at times in Israelite society, polyandry never was, and so this seemed a most difficult predicament for those who championed the doctrine of resurrection. Used to this argument being one that would silence all opposition and make them look good, these Sadducees decide to try using it on the Lord Jesus Christ. They know that He supports the idea of a resurrection, so they think perhaps it will shut Him up as well.
We can just imagine the Sadducees getting to this point in their argument, and practically crowing out this question. This was the place that they were used to all who opposed them falling into confusion and defeat. The answer the Sadducees were implying, of course, is that there could be no resurrection because problems such as this would arise and would be too great to solve. Think of the problems that it would cause if some of your dead relatives were raised. What would become of the inheritance you have received from them? What about their things you sold or are now using yourself? What if their former partners have remarried? Where would you house them, since their former dwelling is no doubt sold off and gone? Such problems would indeed be difficult or even nearly irresolvable for men. Yet the Sadducees erred in that they underestimated the perfect judgments and plans of God, Who was represented by the One standing before them. To attempt to stump the Judge of all the earth in matters of judgment was indeed most unwise.
34. And Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage.
The Lord Jesus is not frightened by the Sadducees’ “impossible question.” Instead, He answers with the cool assurance and authority of the One Who is the resurrection and the life. First he speaks a fact known to all: that the sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. The word “age” here is the Greek word aionos, which we could make English by using the word “eon.” The sons of this eon marry and are given in marriage. In our society, our custom is to marry. When one feels the time has come to marry, he goes out and seeks a wife. Finding a girl he believes is right for him, he asks her and they make the decision to marry. In other societies, however, things are done differently, and marriages are actually arranged by the parents or the family of the people getting married. In this case, people are given in marriage. In the context of the day in which Christ was speaking, it was probably the men who had a say in whom they married, and the women who were given in marriage with little choice in the matter. Yet these are basically the two ways people get married, and all societies will have some variation of one of these methods.
35. “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage;
Now Christ speaks of a different eon. We live in this current, evil eon. In this eon, we still marry and give in marriage the way Christ speaks of it here. Yet there is another eon coming, and only those who are counted worthy to attain to it will live in that eon. That eon is also characterized by the Lord as the resurrection from the dead. It is resurrection that characterizes that eon, even as death does this eon. Therefore, that eon could even by called “the resurrection.” It is that eon of which the Lord is speaking, and it is that eon that the Sadducees did not believe would ever come.
Now Christ reveals that this arrangement for how men get married is not the way things are in the resurrection. Men do not marry women, nor do they give away their daughters in marriage. But does this mean that there is no marriage in the resurrection? Some teach this, claiming that this idea is taught by this passage. But is that really the case? Let us read the next verse and finish the Lord’s argument before we come to any conclusion.
36. “Nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
Now some argue based off this statement about being “equal to the angels.” They claim that angels are neuter, sexless beings, and that if we are like them in the resurrection, then we will be neuter, sexless beings as well, experiencing no marriage. Yet we might ask how these people know that angels are neuter, sexless beings who experience no marriage? And their answer almost invariably is to point us to this passage. So we end up knowing that we are neuter, sexless beings in the resurrection because this passage says we will be like the angels, and we know that angels are neuter, sexless beings because this passage says we will be like the angels in the resurrection. This is what is known as circular reasoning, and proves nothing. This passage says nothing about neuter, sexless beings, nor does it say that angels have no sex and do not marry. These are ideas that are read into it by those who then want to turn around and read something out of what they have read in.
I think that many who argue this have probably been less than satisfied in their marriages themselves, and tend to feel that we would be better off if we had never had marriage in the first place. However, this low view of marriage does not change the fact that marriage was God’s idea in the first place. All throughout the record of creation, God looked at what He made and pronounced it good. See Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, and 31. Yet in Genesis 2:18, God for the first time saw something that He said was not good.
18. And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”
For the first time in creation, God sees something that is not good, and He acts to reverse this deficiency. The result is the creation of the woman, and of marriage. Now am I to believe that God will take a situation that He Himself said was “not good” and that He made good, and that in the resurrection He will reverse it and make it not good again? This makes no sense.
This also negates the argument, “If there is no procreation in the resurrection, why should there be marriage?” Well, first of all, who says there is no procreation in the resurrection? Does the Bible ever say this? I do not believe so. But even assuming it will be so, marriage was not given primarily for the purpose of procreation. Rather, it was given because it was not good that man should be alone. This will remain true as long as man is man, and if anyone wishes to think that we will not be men in the resurrection, then I must part ways with him, for this is not the teaching of the Scriptures.
Returning to the passage at hand, we might ask if the point of Christ’s argument is that there is no marriage in the life to come, then why does He bring in this statement, “nor can they die anymore”? This would seem to be a superfluous statement, having nothing to do with His argument, if His point is to say that there is no marriage in the life to come. Yet consider the fact that death is one of the biggest reasons in this world why a marriage cannot last forever. If you are married, you cannot promise your partner that you will live one more day, nor can your partner promise that to you. Death might take you from each other at any time, and then no amount of love or faithfulness or dedication or anything else could cause your marriage to continue, for one of the partners is dead. Yet in the resurrection, there will be no such obstacle to marriage. Death, which arises to end even the best of marriages, will be done away with, and those who are resurrected will not suffer from it again.
Christ is not teaching here that there is no marriage in the resurrection. He is showing rather that marriages in the resurrection can and will be permanent. What, then, did He mean that they will not marry nor be given in marriage? Not that there is no marriage, but rather that the act of marrying is no longer up to men but up to God. Even leaving death out of the picture, many marriages seem to be a mistake from the beginning, and the partners are just not suitable for each other. Even men with the best of intentions can make a mistake, and mistakes regarding whom one marries can have devastating consequences. In our day, people are loathe to work through any problems in a marriage, rather being quick to divorce and take the easy way out. However, it all goes back to who is arranging the marriage and deciding who will marry. In the life to come, all mistakes will be erased, for God will choose who is to be married to whom, and He will start from a clean slate since all marriages end at death, as is clearly taught in the law. A woman widowed seven times would be married not to all seven but rather to no one upon being raised from the dead. God will make the marriages at that time according to His Own determination, and being made by God and with all sin and death removed, these marriage will not fail, but will therefore last forever.
37. “But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’
Christ moves on from marriage in the resurrection, for He knows that marriage in the resurrection is not the Sadducees’ real argument. Their true topic was the resurrection of the dead, and they wanted to prove that there is no such thing. So Christ speaks to demonstrate that the dead are raised. To do so He does not cite this rabbi or that rabbi, this respected teacher or that respected teacher, as so many today are wont to do. Rather, He refers them straight to the Word of God. And He does not go to the books that the Sadducees rejected beyond Moses, but rather to the very five books they clung to, and the writings of Moses, the one teacher they respected. He takes them to Exodus 3:6 and 15, wherein Jehovah God calls Himself “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
38. “For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”
The Lord explains that all live to God, for He is not the God of the dead but of the living. Then He declares that all live to Him. This is easy enough to understand. My grandparents have all passed away, yet I can see every one of them, and they live to me in my memory. Some people died many hundreds of years ago, however, and though some of them might have written things down or done things that cause them to be remembered even today, no one truly remembers them as they were as a living person, for all who knew them when alive have themselves passed away. Yet even though their deaths were long ago and their resurrections have not taken place yet, these men still live in the mind of God. He was there when they lived, and He remembers them. It is because of this that they will live again in truth. It is as sure as the fact that He is their God.
So the Lord totally defuses the Sadducees’ argument. He shows them that their false premise, that only the books of Moses are legitimate and that they do not speak of resurrection, does not stand up to actual examination of the law. Moses did speak of resurrection when he spoke of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Sadducees were just wrong altogether.
Now what this does not prove is that the dead are already living, as some like to teach. This flies in the face of the Lord’s Own words, for He said that this proves, not that the dead are alive, but that the dead are raised. If the Lord’s words are true, then these people are currently the dead, for He said not that the living are raised, or that their bodies are raised, but that the dead are raised. Yet if the Lord’s words are true, we can be sure that the dead will be raised, and that they will live again. They will be raised on the authority of God’s Word, which cannot fail. To make this passage to mean anything other than this is to deny the truth as given by God just as surely as the Sadducees did.
39. Then some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.”
Some scribes speak up and commend His answer. These scribes were doubtless of the party of the Pharisees, and as such must have struggled with this question themselves when it had been put to them by the Sadducees. For this reason, they are very glad to hear the Lord’s answer. We can imagine them scribbling down notes on what the Lord has said. Though the Pharisees as a whole might not have learned much from the Lord, perhaps they did learn this. We might suppose that the Sadducees did not have as much success with this argument from this point on now that the Pharisees had God’s answer to it, whether or not they would acknowledge the One Who had given it to them.
40. But after that they dared not question Him anymore.
This ends the attempts of the Lord’s enemies to trap Him with hard questions. They realize at last that trapping the living Word with the feeble words of men is impossible. He has so thoroughly disarmed this pet argument of the Sadducees that it is doubtful that they ever were able to use it effectively again. Who knows what other pet arguments these leaders had that the Lord might demolish if they put them to Him? This could destroy much of the teaching that they clung to and had no intention of giving up. No wonder they did not dare to ask Him any more questions.
41. And He said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David?
It seems that His enemies fall silent at this point, perhaps rather in awe at His answers, and unwilling to risk looking foolish by asking Him any more questions. Seeing that they are done questioning Him, the Lord brings forth a question of His Own and puts it to them. He does not let them off the hook so easily!
His question is: how can they (by which He means most if not all of the leading teachers of that day) say that the Messiah is the Son of David? Well, everyone did accept this idea, and taught it. But now the Lord is going to question them upon it. We will see if these men, so wise in their own eyes, are able to answer His question as well as He answered theirs!
42. “Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand,
The Lord now quotes David himself from Psalm 110:1. The Psalm has the LORD speaking to David’s Lord. Though in Greek both words for “Lord” here are the word kurios, yet in Hebrew the first word is Yahweh or Jehovah, and thus is represented here by LORD in all capital letters. The second “Lord” is Adonai, and is represented by a capital “L” and then all small letters. The Lord Jesus implies here that this second “Lord,” the “Adonai,” is the Messiah.
Now we have this matter of the right hand. This word is dexion in the Greek, and though it means the right hand, the Greek idiom made this the place of right or authority. Yahweh is basically telling this one to sit on His rights, or to rule in His place. Basically, He is giving this One the authority of God.
Notice that the Lord ascribes the authorship of this Psalm to David. Modern scholarship tends to deny that David actually wrote many of the Psalms that claim to be his. Yet the Lord never doubts the authorship Divinely ascribed to these Psalms. He was not a higher critic, but rather He believed not only God’s words, but also that the person God said wrote them actually did so. If the critics today think that David did not write this Psalm, then they are incorrect. The Lord testifies to this fact, and we can believe His words over the scholarly arguments of ignorant men.
43. “‘“Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’
This completes the quotation of Psalm 110:1. David’s Lord is to sit on the rights of Yahweh until His enemies are made His footstool. This passage is quoted many times in the New Testament. In fact, few passages are quoted any more often than this.
What this is telling us is that Christ will sit on the rights of God until all His enemies are subjected to Him. Something that is under your feet is something you have control over. You can tread lightly on it, or crush it in the dirt. Basically, you can do as you like with it. Therefore, to be under the feet is an idiom for being under the power or the control. So Christ reigns until all His enemies are His subjects.
Now this does not mean that His reign stops at the point when all His enemies are subjected to Him. Rather, the word “till” indicates this is the great point or purpose of Him being given this position. It is to subject His enemies and make them obedient to Him. Once they are subject to Him, then He can reign indeed. This is not the end of His reign, but rather the beginning!
44. “Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?”
This is the Lord’s question He put to these enemies of His who were questioning Him. It is one that we can answer, yet they could not, for they did not acknowledge the truth about the Christ that we know and believe.
As I have discussed in my message on “Sonship,” a son is the representative of the father. How can the Messiah be David’s Son, and yet his Lord at the same time? For one’s son is in his own image, and cannot be a greater being than his father. Though he might surpass his father in some accomplishments or abilities, yet in essence the father, who is represented, is equal to the son, who represents him. How then could a son be his father’s Lord?
Therefore the Lord Jesus’ question becomes clear. How could Messiah be the son of David if David calls Him “Lord”? We realize, of course, that the answer to the riddle is that He was not only the Son of David, not only the Son of Man, but also the Son of God. God projected Himself and became a Man on earth. This man was David’s son, and God’s son as well, and so David could rightly call Him Lord.
The ones questioning Him, however, did not acknowledge these truths, and thus were unable to answer Him. They failed, therefore, to stump Him, but He stumped them, and trapped them with a question they could not answer. If they did answer this question, they would have to admit that the Messiah must be more than a man. They would have to admit that He is God Himself. This, they were entirely unwilling to do.
45. Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples,
His enemies are silenced, and made to look foolish to all who observed this. Now, the Lord takes the opportunity to further demonstrate their hypocrisy to the people. Thus, He speaks to His disciples now in the audience of the all the people.
46. “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts,
The Lord warns His disciples against the scribes. He refers to their proud actions. They loved to be seen and acknowledged by men. They loved being looked up to and respected. They would go around in long robes. To many, impressive garments, if they are the right garments, indicate great holiness. Even today we seem to connect robes with some kind of spiritual superiority. So these scribes wore long robes to impress people. They also loved being greeted in the marketplaces. These were elaborate and formal greetings. Men might say, “Good morning, rabbi,” as a show of respect. These things they simply loved to experience.
These scribes also loved the preferential treatment they got. They preferred the best seats in the synagogues. These were probably the most prominent seats, where everyone in the synagogue could see them and see them well. As the scribes, the great teachers of Israel, it was probably assumed that they had important things to say, and so everyone needed to be able to see and hear them. But they just loved this show of importance. They also loved the best places at feasts. The guests at feasts were usually arranged in importance by how near one sat to or far one sat from the host. To have the best place was again an honor, and it was honors they loved.
47. “Who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
Though they loved these honors, the Lord brings the hypocrisy of these scribes to light. They would evict widows from their houses. As we have discussed before, women could not work at that time outside of working for their families. She could work for her father, husband, or adult son, but no one else. A widow whose father was dead and who had no son to take care of her was in the most desperate of straits. She could not just be hired or take a job. Unless she could find another man to marry, she was destined for a life of beggarhood and destitution.
Now in attempting to feed themselves a little longer, these widows might take out a loan on their houses in order to get a little money. A house might be the only thing a widow had of any value. Yet inevitably when the loan came due, she could not pay it. The money had been spent in feeding herself, and she had earned no money in the meantime. Therefore, these scribes, who had loaned the money to these widows in the first place, acted to foreclose on their houses.
Now even as these poverty-stricken widows were evicted from their homes, these scribes would put on a great show for the people. They would come to where the eviction was taking place, and would make a display of praying for them as they were being put out! Or it could be that they spoke loudly of their compassion for this poor woman, and resolved on the spot to march down to the temple and pray for her. Of course, they could have done far more than praying. They could have allowed her to keep her house, and done something to relieve her poverty and suffering. Yet this they did not do, and their concern for her was just an illusion. Their prayers and “compassion” may have impressed men, but the Lord promises that these prayers would only earn them greater condemnation in the sight of God.