Situation 3: In Heaven, To Whom Will We Be Married?

Situation 3: In Heaven, to Whom Will We Be Married?
(Matthew 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27)

Who questioned him: Sadducees (those who didn’t believe in a resurrection from the dead)
What they asked: If a woman has been married to more than one man (having lost prior husbands to death), whose wife will she be after the resurrection?
Why this is significant: If the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, this question is pointless at the surface .  They were using this question at the very least to spark debate with the Pharisees, the religious leaders who did believe in the resurrection.
Jesus’ response: He pointedly answered that in the resurrection, there would be no marriage between believers (other Scripture tells us that earthly marriage is only a picture of the perfect, eternal marriage between Jesus – the groom – and his Church – his bride). He then went a step further and pointed to Scripture that says there is, in fact, a resurrection because even after Abraham died, God said, “I AM” the God of Abraham (not “I WAS” the God of Abraham), which indicated that Abraham is living, even though his body died.


What We Can Learn from Jesus’ Response:

Contrasted with the prior situations, the Scripture does not indicate that the Sadducees were looking to trap Jesus.  They very well could have been, but it seems that at the surface, their question was created to spark debate with the Pharisees.

But think about it. If they didn’t believe there was life after death, where was hope?  Surely, even after clinging so stringently to their ideas, in the deepest recesses of their hearts they were looking for hope.

This is complete conjecture on my part, but I believe Jesus saw the desire for hope – if not from all the Sadducees then from many in his presence – and he took the opportunity to set the record straight on this very serious subject.  He made it clear to everyone in earshot that there IS a physical, bodily resurrection after death.

And he didn’t make this clear by his own intellectual prowess like he did with the question on taxes.

He did it by quoting the very Scripture that the Sadducees and Pharisees claimed to believe.

The Power of Scripture

Let’s not forget the power of Scripture here.  Matthew 22:33 says, “And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.”  The crowd here included both people who knew Scripture and people who didn’t know it as well.  Yet even the latter saw the truth in Jesus’ answer.  In the same way, we as Christians cannot forget the power of Scripture in answering others’ questions and challenges. We must be diligent in intellectually learning the Scripture so that the Holy Spirit can bring it to mind in these situations, to do a mighty work in those who are seeking.

The Seeker’s Heart

Jesus was able to see past the machine-gun-like fire of questions by people trying to trap him, to take the opportunity to see into the deepest needs of the people.  They desired hope in this life after death, and he showed how their very own Scripture gave them that hope.

In the same way, we need to resist the temptation to look at a question or challenge on its surface level.  Some of those challenges may seem downright combative.  But if we dig a little deeper, we can see if the motive is a deep searching on behalf of the person or group.  All humanity is created with a spirit that seeks God.  The problem is, we don’t always know it is God who fills those longings.  We search to be filled by a myriad of other things in this world, only to be left empty.

The Sadducees and the crowd present were still seeking, and Jesus met them in their need.  Now, it was up to them to accept truth and claim for their own the hope that Jesus offered.


Situation 2: Do We Pay Taxes or Not?

Situation 2: Should We Pay Taxes or Not?
(Matthew 22:15-22, Mark 12:18-27, Luke 20:30-38)

Who questioned him: Pharisees and Herodians (“spies”)
What they asked: whether they should pay taxes to Caesar
Why this was significant: The Jews resented being under Roman rule because they believed, as God’s chosen people, they should have their own nation. If Jesus was claiming to be the Christ, the King (on a mission to set up his own kingdom), then what would he say about them paying taxes to the government currently ruling them?
Jesus’ response: He showed them a coin and asked them whose likeness and inscription was on it. Then he said to give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.
Bottom Line: Jesus saw their hearts and their hypocrisy – they weren’t interested in really knowing whether to pay taxes.  They were only looking to trap him.  Instead of deflecting the answer as he did earlier, he answered it in a way that silenced them but also did not give them the full story. He knew their hearts wouldn’t accept his divine kingship anyway.

What We Can Learn From Jesus’ Response:

Beware of Flattery:

Before the Pharisees and Herodians asked Jesus the question, they “buttered him up” by saying that he “truly teaches the way of God.” They were hoping to appeal to him and deceive him into thinking they were seeking truth.  But Jesus saw through the artificial flattery.

In the same way, we need to be on guard for people who attempt to lure us into a trap by pretending to seek truth.  We Christians can be a sympathetic bunch when we feel someone has a genuine interest in hearing about Jesus.  We must be in tune with the Holy Spirit, who will enable us to see past any false flattery.

Be Aware of the Audience:

Jesus also did not entirely avoid this question like he did the last.  Instead he answered the question in a way that made those hearing him “marvel.”  I believe he knew that there were people present who were seeking truth. By answering in this way, he silenced those who wanted to trap him but also appealed to the hearts of those who were truly seeking.

In the same way, we should be aware that even within a challenge, there may be those present who are seeking truth. We need to be sensitive to those people and their needs and not mentally lump them in with the accusers.

Remember Whose Kingdom We are Building

Jesus also was pointing out, in a way that wasn’t evident at the time, that his kingdom was not an earthly kingdom.  Caesar was no threat to his kingdom; it was the kingdom of God he was seeking to build.

In the same way, we can get so caught up in our own governmental complaints that we miss that the kingdom we are to be building is an eternal one.  I’m not proposing that we shouldn’t be active in governmental and social affairs. But I am arguing that sometimes we as Christians tend to care more about the “issues” than we do about our true purpose: sharing the message of the salvation of Jesus Christ.  Jesus built his kingdom by ministering to one soul at a time, one group at a time. He did this by meeting immediate needs, making the people aware of their sinfulness and need of a Savior, and then ultimately meeting that need.  He kept “first things first” and didn’t get sidetracked with peripheral issues.

Situation 1: What Authority Do You Have?

Situation 1: What Authority Do You Have?
(Matthew 21:23-27, Mark 11:27-33, Luke 20:1-8)

Who questioned him: chief priests, scribes, and elders
What they asked: what authority he had to do the things he was doing (this was right after he caused a scene and cleansed the temple of the moneychangers and merchants who sold animals to be sacrificed)
Jesus’ response: He said first they had to answer him whether John’s baptism was from heaven or from man.
Result: They refused to answer Jesus, so Jesus refused to answer them
Bottom Line: Jesus saw their hearts, that they were only looking to trap him. Therefore, he knew an honest answer would have done no good anyway; their hearts didn’t want to receive the truth.

What I can learn from Jesus’ response: 

Although I cannot see into someone’s heart, I can ask for wisdom (James 1) and discernment to know the motives behind a question or challenge.  These chief priests, scribes, and elders were not seeking the truth. They were seeking to trap Jesus. They were luring him to commit what they saw as blasphemy.

It’s worth noting that Jesus was not avoiding the question. He had answered it multiple times before.  See an entire passage in John 5:19-47 where Jesus clearly said that everything he did came from God himself.  The chief priests, scribes, and elders hadn’t had amnesia on this instance; they knew exactly what authority Jesus claimed to have.   Jesus knew their motive wasn’t to seek truth, so he didn’t play into their ploy.

In the same way, some instances require a pause before answering or defending.  Before rushing to answer, I need to seek wisdom in regard to the motives behind the confrontation.  Is someone asking because they are truly seeking truth? Or are they asking to stir up an argument and catch me in my words?  I certainly don’t want to be lured into that trap.  I’m not Jesus and I would probably fall flat on my face despite my best efforts.

And I also have to face the fact that when a heart is hard, no amount of logic or apologetics or historical data is going to break through.  I need to pray that God will penetrate that heart so that it would be open to hearing truth.

Instead of rushing to defend, I would pray this verse over the person challenging my faith: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Once God has changed a person’s heart from stone to flesh, only then truth will penetrate.