Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 20:27-40 – Do You Know The God of the Living?

Grace For The Journey

We have this morning the third of three questions asked by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day . .

  • The first was, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things” (Luke 20:2)?
  • The second question was an attempt by the Pharisees to trap Jesus, back in Luke 20:22, “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 
  • The question we will look at today is the second of two attempts to trap Jesus, this time by the Sadducees. 

The Pharisees had had their shot, so perhaps the Sadducees – not willing to be outdone in this contest of revealing one’s ignorance and ineptitude before Jesus – decide that they will have a go at it.

Maybe you have been questioned about your Christian faith by an unbelieving skeptic.  You have been asked something like, “Why does a good God allow bad things to happen?” Or, “If God is sovereign and knows all things and does according to the counsel of His will, then why pray?”  “Does prayer change God’s mind?” and so forth.  Asking questions is good if one really wants to know the answer, but sometimes people ask questions merely to get a reaction out of someone.  They do not really want an answer, they are just trying to make sport of someone and to trip them up in their response.  That certainly was the case with the Pharisees and now the Sadducees of Jesus’ day.

The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther who was known for his abrupt way in answering critics.  Luther was taking questions from skeptics and one skeptic – in an attempt to trip up Luther – said, “You say God created everything, so what was God doing before He created everything?” Luther replied, “He was thinking about creating hell for people like you who ask stupid questions!”

Let’s first study this question of the Sadducees and then I will leave you with a question or two of my own as we apply this truth to our lives.

Verse 27 says, Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him.”  As we consider this verse, I think is it important to mention a thing or two about the Sadducees.  We have looked at questions from the Pharisees, identified in chapter 20 by the phrase, “Chief priests and the scribes” (Luke 20:1; Luke 20:19).  These were religious leaders in Jesus’ day known as the Pharisees.  We are introduced here to another religious group known as the Sadducees, mentioned only here in Luke’s Gospel.

Luke tells us in verse 27 that one of the differences between these two groups is that the Sadducees, verse 27, “deny that there is a resurrection.”  The Sadducees did not believe in life beyond the grave.  This is why some remember them by the humorous phrase, “This is why they’re ‘Sad,’ you see.”

The Sadducees claimed to descend from Zadok, the high priest under King David (1 Kings 1:26).  In Jesus’ day the Sadducees were like this inner circle of wealthy, and smug aristocrats.  They did not get along with the Pharisees.  The two religious parties were bitter rivals and enemies.  The Sadducees are no longer around.  They died out sometime after the Jewish Temple was destroyed in AD 70.  The Pharisees are no longer around, either, at least not in the sense of being a religious group of Jews separate from everyone else.  Pharisaism in Jesus’ day eventually became rabbinic Judaism, which ultimately produced traditional Judaism of today.

Luke reminds us in verse 27 that the Sadducees “deny that there is a resurrection.”   They also denied any kind of life after death.  The Jewish historian Josephus says that the Sadducees believed that the soul perished along with the body (Antiquities).  They also denied the existence of angels and demons.  In fact, Luke, writing in the Book of Acts, writes of the differences between the Sadducees and the Pharisees in Acts 23:8 where he says, “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection – and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.”  The Sadducees also did not practice the teachings of anything in the Old Testament beyond the Pentateuch or the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament.

I said there were no Sadducees today, but I mean the specific group of people that existed in Jesus’ day.  Because, there are “modern Sadducees” today, aren’t there?  Anyone who believes, “once you’re dead, you’re dead,” and by that they mean there is no life after death, this person is a modern Sadducee.  This is the belief system of the nihilist and of the atheistic existentialist. This is the way of anyone who denies the resurrection or the continuation of the soul at death.

I think it is very important for us as believers when we come up against this sort of thinking that we challenge folks to consider upon what authority they accept the idea of no resurrection or no life after death.  In other words, if our friend says to us, “Well, I just believe once you are dead, you are dead,” we then need to follow that up with the loving question, “And upon what authority to you believe that?  Did you learn it from reading a book or watching a movie?  Are you prepared to bank your eternity on a writer’s conjecturing?  Are you willing to stake your eternity on one man’s ideas?”  Then we take them lovingly to the Bible, our final authority.  We take them to Jesus.

Jesus believed in the resurrection.  You may remember in Luke 14:13-14 where Jesus says, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  Jesus believed in a conscious life immediately after death, remember the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31?  How about Luke 23:39-43 where we will hear Jesus say to the thief on the cross, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

Verses 28 to 40 tell us about the hypothetical situation the Sadducees create for Jesus.  In verse 28 they begin by saying, “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.”  This is true.  You can read it in Deuteronomy 25:5-6.  The purpose of this custom was to protect the family, to keep the name of the family alive and to maintain the family wealth, security, and honor.  The book of Ruth includes this custom in the telling of the history of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 1:11-13; 4:1-22).

In verse 29 the Sadducees continue, “Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children.”  The Sadducees are posing to Jesus a hypothetical question.  They are saying, “Let’s just say for the sake of argument that there is a resurrection.”  There were seven brothers.  The first marries, but dies without children.  They continue in verses 30 through 33, “And the second (brother) took her as wife, and he died childless.  Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died.  Last of all the woman died also.  Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.”  This is really crazy, isn’t it?!  To what great lengths the Sadducees have gone to try to trap Jesus in some silly hypothetical situation.  They really do not care about Jesus’ answer because they do not even believe in the resurrection.  They had worked-out this question ahead of time, probably meeting in somebody’s basement, and plotting the whole thing and they just cannot wait to catch Jesus stumbling and stuttering in His reply.

You get the logic of their question, right?  They are like, “If there really is a resurrection, or if there really is a heaven, what do you do with a woman who has been married several times – 7 to be exact – and then she dies and goes to heaven – who will be her husband in heaven; she cannot be equally the wife of all seven, can she?”  The Sadducees believe this hypothetical situation refuted belief in the resurrection.  But you cannot “trip up” the Son of God.  Verse 34 tells us, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage.’”  “The sons of this age” simply means, “Human beings in this present earthly life,” people living today in this world, people like you and me.  We are the people of “this age.”  You and I marry and are given in marriage.  Jesus continues in verse 35 by saying, “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage.”  Jesus says, “this age” and “that age” are quite different!  He may as well have said, “You guys go wrong at the point you begin to equate ‘this age’ with ‘that age.’  They are very different.  There is no death in the age to come so there is no need to procreate through marriage.  People in “that age,” people in the future state of heaven don’t need to procreate.  Genesis 1:28 is no longer necessary where God said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” 

Jesus goes on in verse 36 and says, “Nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”  The people of “that age,” the people of heaven and of the final state do not “die anymore.”   Jesus says “the are equal to the angels,” or “like the angels” in this sense that they are immortal.  They do not die.  This does not mean that people become angels!  Please dismiss any notion of that from your thinking!  We do not become angels, getting wings, and so forth!  We will always be people, people with glorified bodies, but people!  Jesus is talking about the fact that we will no longer need to procreate, the primary point of marriage.

The people of “that age” do not die, they live forever and are “sons of God,” being “sons of the resurrection.”  The Christian’s “sonship” or adoption is completed at the resurrection (Romans 8:23) when we receive a glorified body like the Lord’s.  Let me encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 as a refresher and read about the resurrection body that we will one day receive.  The Bible teaches that when the Christian dies, his soul immediately goes to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), absent from the body and present with the Lord.  Our soul immediately goes to heaven.  When Christ returns, He will raise up our mortal body and change it into a body like His, a glorified body that our soul will then inhabit forever and ever.

The way, the phrase that we will “neither marry nor be given in marriage” does not mean that we will not know our spouses in heaven or that we will not be able to be together.  This is an encouragement to most of us who are married – we will know one another in heaven! 

Jesus calls people by name when referring to the future state of heaven.  He says in Matthew 8:11, “Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”  We will know one another in heaven (see also Luke 9:30 and Luke 9:33).  And we will love our spouse more.  In fact, we will have a perfect love for our spouse and for all people.

Who will go to heaven?  Jesus tells us in verse 35, “those who are counted worthy to attain that age.”  How is one “counted worthy” to attain that age?  God saves him through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.  Those who enter into the Kingdom to Come (Luke 11:2) are those who have been saved by the power of the Gospel.

Now watch Jesus use the Scriptures to drive home the truth about heaven and about the One True God.  Verse 37 says, “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.’”  There was no chapter and verse in Jesus’ day like we have in our English Bibles.  When Jesus says, “In the burning bush” He is literally saying “at the bush.”  The burning bush passage is in Exodus 3:5-6.  God says to Moses, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.  Moreover He said, ‘I am the God of your father – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  The passage goes on to tell us that Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

Jesus quotes from the part of the Old Testament with which the Sadducees would have been familiar, Exodus 3, and He points out that God says, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”  He does not say, “I was the God of Abraham,” but, “I am the God of Abraham.”  And then Jesus drives home His point in verse 38, when He says “For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”  God is still their God, He is still the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because only living people can have a God.  He is not the God of the dead but of the living.  Jesus’ point . . . THERE IS A RESURRECTION.

Verses 39 and 40 tell us that the Pharisees are delighted to have Jesus on their side here, “Then some of the scribes answered and said, ‘Teacher, You have spoken well.’   But after that they dared not question Him anymore.”  Both group now have been silenced and this should have led them to be open to the teachings of Christ.

 Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we should consider more carefully what Jesus is teaching . . .

1) Am I Ready For “That Day?”

Remember from verse 35, we asked, “How is one counted worthy to attain that age?”  The answer is:

By receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,

Which means we repent from our sin and

We receive Christ as KING of our lives. 

He is number one and we live for Him.

The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  Are you ready for “that day?”  Have you made preparation for that day?  Theologian Charles Hodge, “It is important that when we come to die, we have nothing to do but die.” 

Are you ready?  If so, you will enter a place where you are equal to the angels, equal in the sense that you will be immortal, you will never die.  Of those in heaven, the Bible says in Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

2) Do I Truly Live For “That Day And For The “God Of The Living?”

Or, to put it another way, “Am I living a Christ-focused life?”  Does the way I live each day demonstrate that I am living for that day?  Is it reflected in the choices I make each day, in my job, at school, with my friends?  Am I truly living with eternity in view?  Remember, “this age” and “that age” are not equal!  That was the mistake in the Sadducees’ thinking.  So ask: “Am I more in love with “this age” than I am with “that age?”  “Do I truly live for ‘that age?” and for the “God of the Living?”

Adoniram Judson, Baptist missionary who labored for almost forty years in Burma, now known as Myanmar, lived for “that age.”  He looked forward to “that day” and “that age.”  He said, “When Christ calls me home I shall go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school.”  I can relate to that, can’t you?  I looked forward to school being out each day – except for the day we got our “Progress Reports!”  That day, as one person has said, “We would either take the short way home, the long way home, or we don’t go home at all.”  but most of the days like Adoniram Judson I bounded away from school heading home as quickly as possible!  Living for “That Age.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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