Matthew 22:23-33 Part 2


The Sadducees were the ones who, although they didn’t strictly practice it, viewed the Pentateuch as the nation’s constitution (condemning the Pharisees for their debasement of it).  And they didn’t see the remainder of the Scriptures as having much relevance.

On the other hand, they were practical situationists (realists in their opinions) who promoted incorporation into the society and culture of their rulers.  They ridiculed the idea of a restoration and resurrection of Israel to its former estate (which was a perverted view of Scripture teaching on resurrection – held by most of Israel’s elders and priests).

And when they saw the Pharisees and priests humiliated (in public – theologically and intellectually) by this man Jesus of Nazareth, the Sadducees secretly delighted in that and saw an opportunity to promote themselves; so they approached Jesus in order to put Him to the test.  And they presented Him with a hypothetical situation which they alleged was real!

Attacking the resurrection issue which they know Jesus has taught concerning Himself, they took the Mosaic legislation regarding levirate marriage (a statute which, in and of itself, promoted eschatological anticipation rather then disproving it), reduced it to the absurd, and used it to trap Jesus into making an irrational and asinine statement with regard to resurrection!

On the one hand, if Jesus chooses one of the seven brothers as the woman’s husband, then He is arbitrary; for there are no apparent reasons to choose one over the other six.  But if Jesus says that all seven are her husbands, then the resurrection includes polygamous marriage!  Either answer illustrates an absurdity; therefore the Law of Moses (prima facie) obviates a resurrection!  That’s the Sadducean plan.  And Jesus, even though He’s taught a resurrection, will be humiliated and have to recant.

And all of this, you see, is based on a nonBiblical and perverted idea of resurrection!  And, further, all of this from men who consider themselves realists who deal with real-life situations intellectually!

Now, these men called “Sadducees” were blind with regard to God’s Truth; and they didn’t understand death and its terror – that because of man’s sin (and the curse of God) awful things had happened to those created in God’s image!  And the restoration in the coming resurrection of God’s Messiah was a restoration of that image.  Not the restoration of Israel as a nation – as the Pharisees believed!  (It is, indeed, a ludicrous situation if the restoration is that!)

So the Sadducees – antagonistic to the Pharisees under any other circumstances – actually have confederation in a common goal:  to humiliate this man Jesus, and expose Him as a fraud in public.

If I might divert for a moment, this tactic is a common practice among men, isn’t it, even though the Scriptures forbid God’s people from confederations and common goals with pagans.  The Scriptures clearly state that evil associations seriously affect one’s manner!  And yet we are overrun with examples of that very thing – from those who profess to believe!

Christian Churches, for example, form councils and associations with representatives of other religious bodies in order to find some common ground; governments solicit support and coalitions with groups that are inimical to the very existence of good government in order to promote power.  And individual Christians will also join with impious people to get their support toward a particular end – even though the goals (and especially the reasons for the goals) are totally different!  And all of that is forbidden by God!

Here in the text, two hypocrite groups (having very little common ground) find themselves on the same side against God and His Messiah!  But any two groups of unbelievers (it doesn’t matter how disparate they are in their goals and philosophies) would be eager to join forces against Christ and His Kingdom; for there is this innate enmity and antagonism in all “natural” men for Christ and His Word – and for His people.

All other lifestyles and philosophies are worthy of compromise, and all other goals and expectations can easily coalesce, in order to form a united front against the inevitable victory of Christ!  It was expected that the Pharisees and Sadducees would oppose Him – even though they were mortal enemies!  And we can expect the same; if we do, and we understand it, then we won’t be startled and thrown off guard by it.

But now let’s go to Jesus’ answer, beginning with verse twenty-nine.  Listen again:


“But answering Jesus said to them, ‘You are deceived (you deceive yourselves), knowing neither the Scriptures nor the power of God….’”


Remember that these “Sadducees” are, in their minds, purveyors of truth in real-life situations.  They are what they would call “realists” – skeptical of absurd, irrational ideas such as “resurrection”!  “Deal with what’s real” they said – like Moses did.

So Jesus begins His statement to them with a word that’s specifically designed for them, and employed here with surgical precision!  He said, “You are deceived….” (present tense, passive voice).

The word which I’ve translated “deceived” is a very ancient Greek word which was originally used to note one who wanders as in a labyrinth.  It is aimless thought and conduct – it is illusion and debasement of sense-perception; a tragic error of mind-confusing madness!  This is what Jesus calls those men who consider themselves “realists”!

In the Septuagint usage (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) all of that ancient word is brought forward to the blind transgression of the Revelation of God; and it is culpable – bringing down God’s judgment.

The apostle Paul (just for further clarification for you) picks up on the word in the first chapter of his letter to the Church at Rome.  And there he is describing the depravity of all men born in to this world.  Not only can they not read and understand the Revelation of God in His Word, but neither can they see the Divinity and Power of God in His creation!  They suppress the Truth – the result being a descending spiral of sin.

And during his discussion of this “sin spiral”, at the point when sexual perversion is the issue, Paul uses the word which Jesus uses here in describing these Sadducees.  Rather than walking in Divine reality, obedient, and cognizant of God and His Power, he says, men prefer to walk in false and seducing practical error!  That’s our word here which I’ve translated “deceived” in verse twenty-nine.  “You are deceived”, Jesus said, “knowing neither the Scriptures nor the Power of God.”

“Knowing” here is the word for intimate and thorough knowledge.  These men had surely read and studied the old texts; but they did not “know” them in that sense.  And they certainly didn’t know the Power and Divinity and glory of God innately, or by observation of His creation.  All men do “know” God (we’re all creatures); but that’s not the “knowing” that Jesus uses here.

So, according to Jesus, by knowing neither the Scriptures, nor the Power of God from His creation, these men have been involved in aimless, labyrinthine wandering, living practically and situationally, misreading Moses and being seduced from the Truth.

Of course (like all people in this same condition) the Sadducees considered themselves as sensible, rational, good people who lived in the “real” world – skeptical of the sensationalists and the utopians.  But Jesus tells them they are “deceived” … knowing neither the Scriptures nor the Power of God. They have misused Moses, which is inexcusable… the Pentateuch both assumes a Resurrection and teaches a resurrection within the very outworkings of God’s history!

But it doesn’t teach a resurrection as envisioned by the Pharisees!  The Pharisees’ premise, as we heard last Lord’s Day, is based on a restored and renewed Israel in which the same conditions prevail post-resurrection as they did during Israel’s glory!  And where does the Bible teach anything like that?

And the Power (or ability) of God (as revealed by Him in His entire creation) is surely unlimited.  Why would anyone ever assume (unless they were blind) that His creation teaches a limited resurrection and restoration?  His Power and Glory reveal an unlimited and unrestricted resurrection – a complete restoration of His entire creation – according to His Divine Justice!

So these Sadducees are really wandering around in a maize!  And Jesus perceives it immediately.  Using a Pharisaical misconception of resurrection, being spiritually blind with regard to the Scriptures, and being unable to discern the Power of God, these men attempt to entrap Jesus by using Moses Law!  It’s truly laughable when you think about it.  (Talk about living in reality!)

In verse thirty the dilemma (falsely hypothesized) by the Sadducees crumbles immediately and disappears when Jesus says,


“for in the resurrection they neither marry nor give themselves to marry, but are as angels in the heaven….”


Men don’t marry, and women don’t give themselves to marry in the resurrection!  The entire creation of marriage and sex and childbirth, etc., is intended for now – not in the resurrection.  You and the Pharisees should have known this from the creation and the Power of God; and you should certainly have known it from Scripture!

Angels don’t marry and have sex and bear children!  They don’t die, so they don’t replenish the race!  And men and women are as angels in the heaven with regard to those things!  That’s plainly revealed by God, so you should have seen it!  If you weren’t dead to all creation revelation, and blind to God’s Word, and if you weren’t deceived and wandering in a labyrinth of confusion (which you call “reality”) you would have seen it!

So, in a word Jesus demolishes the idea that resurrection will be anything like what the Pharisees conceive.  I’ll say a few things in a minute about resurrection and resurrection life.

But first, let’s see how Jesus deals with the Sadducees themselves.  He just dealt with this false hypothesis based on the Pharisees’ misconception of resurrection… destroying it and quickly putting it aside; now He addresses the Sadducees themselves and their denial of any resurrection!  They’re not going to get away with an attempt to entrap Jesus by using somebody else’s false assumptions; now they have to face their own, and what is, indeed, reality!

Verses thirty-one and thirty-two:


“But concerning the resurrection of the dead ones, did you not read (that’s ‘read with understanding’), did you not read that which was said to you by God saying, ‘I, I Am Abraham’s God and Isaac’s God and Jacob’s God’” (end quote)?  Then Jesus continues, “He is not God of dead ones but living ones.”


Now you’ll notice that Jesus doesn’t quote from one of the prophets, or from a place in the wisdom literature, or from any other Mosaic legislation to prove or infer resurrection of those who are dead (although He easily could have done so).  Instead He proceeds directly to Moses and the burning bush… where Moses had to remove his shoes; and where Moses could not look upon God, but had to turn his face away.

This is an event which should be decisive to the Sadducees since they rejected all writings except the five books of Moses.  And Jesus proceeds directly to what God said to Moses.  And since he said it to Moses, He said it to Israel.  That’s why Jesus could say, “Did you not read that which was said to you by God?”

And here is the Word of God which was so astonishing to the crowds.  And this, by the way, is a true appeal to the final court of appeal – the Scriptures… not a false appeal such as the one by the Sadducees.  “I.  I Am Abraham’s God and Isaac’s God and Jacob’s God.”  That’s it!  And one clarifying statement by Jesus after that!  “He is not God of dead ones but of living ones!”

Now the Greek way of doing things in grammar is very plain here.  When the predicate of the verb “to be” is to be emphasized, the subject is doubled.  There is no other way to highlight the “am” in “I Am” when writing.  It’s easy to do when speaking.  You can say “I Am.”  (You can hear the emphasis)  But there’s no sound from the written page.  So it is written in such a way as to make it clear what is meant and where the emphasis is to be placed.  “Ego Eimi” is “I, I Am”… Present tense – stress on the “Am”!

In other words as God spoke to Moses in the bush, hundreds of years after Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, “I Am” Abraham’s God and Isaac’s God and Jacob’s God… present tense!  Long dead they were, but present tense “I Am”, indicating beinglife!  Then Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would remain lifeless, making God a god of dead men… an impossible thought, meaning death was not conquered… death was holding its prey; death was the stronger (stronger than God) and leaving it triumphant!  But not so!  The covenant was for life.  Death is not superior to God; and it isn’t eternal and irrevocable… it has suffered a deathblow!  And God is God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – living men! ... living in the covenant of promise and in the Power of God – to be resurrected on the last day!

Now, Jesus wasn’t speaking of a spiritual resurrection here, as in conversion and rebirth.  The Sadducees denied the resurrection of dead bodies!  And to substitute a spiritual resurrection in answer to their entrapment would have been deceptive (at worst) and evasive (at best).  What if Jesus, one time, had been exposed as deceptive?!!  But our Lord was vocal and specific and unequivocal about a physical resurrection (not a physical resurrection of the same old body, as we’ll see in a minute, but the resurrection of a new creation!)

But when God said, “I Am Abraham’s God and Isaac’s God and Jacob’s God…” that’s when Moses was bowed down and wouldn’t look – the same kind of astonishment and awe which these crowds experienced when they heard that Jesus said these words!

And then the word of explanation, “He is not God of dead ones but living ones.”  In other words the patriarchs of Israel who faithed in God, presently have God as their God!  They’re not dead… they’re living; for God is God of living ones.

So, Sadducees, your Greek philosophy of annihilation is false, according to the text!  You are deceived… turning in madness to confusion; not knowing the Scriptures, not knowing the Power of God.  God’s Word to Moses explicitly proves life after death for God’s people.  God isn’t defeated by death… He has power over death!  The victory of death is that it holds!  The sting of death is the grave!  But in Christ there is no victory and sting of death – because there is life, and resurrection, and restoration of humanity and creation!  In resurrection there is total defeat of death!

As I mentioned to you last Lord’s Day, apparently the Sadducees were quite active, along with the Pharisees, in subverting the Christian Churches during the forty years between the crucifixion and 70 AD.  And the Corinthian Church seemed to be so susceptible to all kinds of subversion.  It looks as if there was a group there, maybe even among the officers, who had heard the Sadducees’ argument and were questioning the resurrection!

So, in his first letter Paul writes the astonishing fifteenth chapter concerning resurrection.  We’ll have time only for the briefest look at it.  (More later, certainly, when we come to Jesus’ resurrection.)

Paul begins with the argument that if Christ isn’t arisen from death then all of this is worthless.  The preaching, the Church… everything is vanity and futility – and all of us are false witnesses of God!  We are still in our sin; and when we die, we perish!

But, if Christ is arisen from death, then it’s all true!  And He has!  And He now reigns until all His enemies are put under His feet – including death!  “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin,” Paul says; for the final defeat of death is on the way.  It has not held us, for those who have “fallen asleep” in Christ presently have God as their God – just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  And they will be resurrected anew when Jesus completes His Kingdom.

Then Paul gives the foolish Corinthians a quick look into that resurrection to give them comfort and to stop them from their ridiculous wrangling and squabbling and contention over the subject!

First he gives them several negative arguments from the creation.  But then he gets down to the meat of the subject when he says that the earthy body is one of weakness and corruption and dishonor.  But the resurrection body is one raised in power and glory without corruption – because it is one raised by the Spirit of Christ.

Where the former body is a “pseukikos” body (a soulish body which, subsequently, was cursed by God and died), the resurrection body is a “pneumatikos” body (one made and supported by the Spirit of Christ) brought forth in the power and glory of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!  It will not be subject to weakness and corruption and dishonor, because it is brought forth and supported by God the Holy Spirit!  It is a “spiritual” body because it is made new and brought forth by the Spirit!

On that last day, death will receive is final defeat – when God’s people are raised up from death.  Since Jesus Christ did arise from death, then so will we be raised up.  So, says Paul, be steadfast, immovable, abounding in God’s work, in as much as you know your labor is not in vain.  God is God, presently, of the living ones; and our great hope and anticipation is our resurrection from death and corruption.  That, says Paul, is a good reason for faithfulness.  It is promised to God’s faithful people that death cannot hold them.

So you see, there is no Christianity without resurrection; all is futile and vain and worthless without resurrection.  If all is simply annihilation, then this is all no more than an accident.  But if Christ be risen from the dead, then death is swallowed up in victory!  It is defeated!  It can’t hold us!  There is life; and there shall be life incorruptible – in resurrection.  If you died now, would there be anticipation of that resurrection?  Would there be life from the grave?  Or would you be among dead ones for the rest of eternity?

Abraham’s corruptible body is gone, but is Abraham dead?  God is not the God of dead ones – but living ones!  Abraham is alive in the Covenant promises of God in Christ Jesus.  And his resurrection will take place as surely as Christ’s resurrection took place.  And he shall have an incorruptible body – a pneumatikos body – a spiritual body, like the angels in the heavens.  Not that our Spirit supported bodies will be in the heavens… not so.  But we will be like them, and they are in the heavens.

But the angels in the heavens do not have that which we have!  Jesus Christ is their King, but He did not shed His blood for angels!  He died an agonizing physical death for us – shedding His blood.  The race called humanity was saved in Him!  And we live in Him until we are raised as He was raised.

These are the things we remember as we come to the Table, and offer up thanksgiving for so great salvation.