Mysteries Masking the Master
Dr. Stephen Johnson
Mark 12:18-27
August 23, 2020

The following is the manuscript of the message, not a transcription of the delivered sermon.

I read an interesting article about cows this week.

This is what it said:

Most people don’t give much thought to grazing cows, but when a team of scientists went through thousands of Google Earth’s satellite images of cows, they stumbled upon a detail that we have missed for millennia: Cows will stand along the Earth’s magnetic poles—facing north and south—whenever they’re grazing or resting.

The pattern remained consistent regardless of wind or other factors, and nobody’s quite sure why.

While some animals are known to contain an internal compass, this is the first time it’s been found in a large mammal. Another weird thing is that the nearer they are to the poles, the less accurate they get with the orientation.

Scientists don’t know why.
But it is pretty consistent across six continents.

It is a mystery! Why do cows face either north or south while eating?

There are lots of mysteries in the world.
Some are just plain fun.

If a tree falls when no one is there to hear it, did it actually make a sound? Before we answer “of course” we best determine how sound is defined. Because quantum theory holds that without a measuring device to record it, sound does not exist.

Other mysteries are more directly related to the spiritual realm

How many angels can fit on the head of a needle?
Could God create a rock he could not lift?
Is it possible for God to change his mind?
If God knows everything, how can he forget our sins?
If God is both loving and all powerful, why does evil exist?
How many times should you forgive someone?

Another one is contained in our text for this morning.

Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?

Let’s read Mark 12:18-27 where this question is asked of Jesus and see how relates to us today.

And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying,

“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.

There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring.

And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise.
And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died.
In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?

For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?
He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

This is the Word of God.

Let’s set the scenario of this incident.

In Mark 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday.
It has been a couple of days filled with the Jewish leaders attempting to entrap Jesus with a series of questions.
In Mark 10 the Pharisees question him about divorce
In Mark 11:27ff the chief priests and scribes challenge his authority.
In our passage from last week the Pharisees team up with the Herodians to question Jesus about taxes.
And now, the Sadducees join in the effort to trap Jesus with a question about the resurrection.

People have always had questions concerning scripture, theology, God and the way things work out in real life.

But often people ask questions, not because they want an answer, but because they want to prove, by our inability to give what they consider a satisfactory answer, they want to prove that our faith is false.

And that is what was happening here.

The Sadducees in our text are but the latest group of individuals who asked Jesus questions - not because they wanted the answers - but because they wanted to trip Jesus up.

They were trick questions.

With the question of taxes there were two groups represented - the Herodians, who had no problem paying taxes and the Pharisees who were loath to pay taxes.

Here the Sadducees ask about the resurrection and they don’t even believe in the resurrection.
They formulate a question designed in their minds to show that the concept of the resurrection is ridiculous.

To the Sadducees the Resurrection was an irrational fantasy, but to the Pharisees it was a great hope.

So the question they asked Jesus would serve a dual purpose.

It would show that Jesus’ belief in the resurrection was crazy.
And they would be superior to the Pharisees as well.

They referred to a passage in Deuteronomy 25:5

“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger. Her husband's brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her.”

This is called a levirate marriage.

It is literally a “marriage with a brother-in-law.” The word levirate, which has nothing to do with the tribe of Levi, comes from the Latin word levir, “a husband’s brother.”

Levirate marriage is what’s behind Judah taking Tamar as his wife in Genesis 38 and also gives the background to the kinsman redeemer as described in the Book of Ruth.

The Sadducees saw this law as something which proved that the resurrection wasn’t really a thing.

If there really were a Resurrection, they conjectured, seven men would be married to one woman in heaven.
In that case, the law would be promoting in the future life what it condemned in the present life.
Such a conclusion would be absurd; therefore, according to their logic, there could be no future life.

It seemed to them an unanswerable problem.
A mystery which could only bring one conclusion:
There was no resurrection.

In response to the question Jesus twice tells the Sadducees they were wrong.

And this is where this text speaks to us today.

Jesus is going to tell the Sadducees exactly why they are wrong. And his instruction still holds true today. So, if we don’t want to hear Jesus tell us we are wrong we should take to heart what he says to the Sadducees.

Jesus gives two reasons why the Sadducees were wrong.

And even today people are wrong because of the same issues.

But we don’t have to be. Each error is correctable.

The first error:

They did not know scripture.

Jesus says in verse 24 this is the reason you are wrong, you don’t know the scripture.

Now that is an interesting statement because the Sadducees actually did know scripture. But only part of it.

They only embraced the Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible. They held the idea that true doctrine could not be based upon what the prophets or other writers of the Old Testament had written.

They knew part of scripture but ignored much of it.
As a matter of fact, they ignored most of it.

This approach to scripture is always dangerous.

It leads to false doctrine.
And it also leads to pride.
Because by limiting which books of the Bible you agree with you can discount anyone who quotes any other passage.

After I made my oral defense for licensing, one of the panel asked why it is that I kept quoting from the Gospel the words of Jesus.

That individual didn’t believe the gospels were written for the church age.
Some today reject everything except the writings of Paul.
Some reduce it even further to only accept the prison epistle.

Regarding the doctrinal beliefs of the Sadducees:

They believed in the existence of God, but they rejected everything else that was of a supernatural nature.
They did not believe in demons, angels or the devil, they did not believe in miracles.
They did not believe in Heaven or Hell.
They did not believe in a future judgment.
They did not believe in life after death, nor did they believe in the resurrection of the dead.

They lived without hope of the afterlife.

They could not find these doctrines in their reading of the Pentateuch, so they rejected them out of hand.

Such doctrine and philosophy on life and death affected their way of life.
The Sadducees adopted the philosophy of the Epicureans – eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.
Such an attitude continues to permeate modern society. Our world is filled with those who do not believe in God, nor do they regard His Word.

Our world is also filled with people who are selective in which portions of scripture they choose to believe.

And Jesus said to the Sadducees: you are wrong because you do not know scripture.

And he will say the same to us if we don’t study and embrace the whole of scripture.

We must consider the Word of God in its entirety, studying the whole counsel of God, in order to fully comprehend biblical doctrine.

Jesus doesn’t stop there. He says they were wrong because they didn’t know scripture, and they were wrong because:

They did not know the power of God.

While they believed God created the world they didn’t believe He had the power to raise the dead. They essentially limited God by their own conception of rational possibilities.

In short, they put God in a box.

They tried to use logic to prove a matter of faith.

Faith and logic often go hand in hand but sometimes they don’t.

Jesus refers to Exodus 3:6 to show how logic doesn’t always rule the day.

That is the passage where God speaks to Moses from a non-burning - burning bush.

That is not logical.
But then Jesus uses logic to prove the resurrection from the Pentateuch.

God says to Moses, I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In the burning bush passage He did not say He was their God, but “I am” their God, indicating that their existence had not ended with their death.

God is powerful enough to raise the dead.
And that defies logic.

Jesus affirmed what the Sadducees denied: the existence of angels, the reality of life after dead, and the hope of a future Resurrection, and He did it with only one passage from Moses!

God is not the God of the dead but of the living. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all dead when God spoke to Moses.
The necessary conclusion is that God must have raised them from the dead.
The character of God, as the God of the living, demands the Resurrection.

The Sadducees were wrong because they didn’t know the power of God

And sometimes we fall into that same trap.

We believe that God is not capable of certain things.

Like forgiveness.
Like healing.
Like changing our hearts or the hearts of others.

And when we do that Jesus would like to whisper in our ears.

You are quite wrong.

As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3

God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

When this life is over, I don’t want to stand before Jesus and hear him say, you are wrong, you are quite wrong.

So I will study and believe all of scripture, for all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

And I will believe in the unbridled power of the almighty to do far more than I can even think.

Don’t risk having Jesus tell you that you’re wrong!


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