The Sadducees are sad you see because they deny the resurrection. So goes the little ditty. However, on at least one occasion they pretended to believe in the resurrection for the sake of argument. We read in Mark 12 how they came to Jesus with a clever conundrum that would expose the ridiculousness of belief in the resurrection. First, they pointed back to ancient Mosaic law that stated that if a man died without offspring, his brother was obliged to marry his widow. Then they create an improbable, but not impossible, scenario where seven brothers all marry the same woman in keeping with Moses’ law. When everybody resurrects at the end of the age, who will be the brother that is married to the woman?
The Sadducees Get Schooled
No doubt the Sadducees thought they were being clever and could stump Jesus into admitting that the Mosaic laws of the Old Testament created some tension for belief in the resurrection. And from a limited, human-wisdom point of view perhaps they were quite clever. Jesus, however, exposed their faulty thinking and stony hearts. He pointed out that the resurrection really is taught in the Torah and if they had been reading God’s Word correctly they would already know this. Jesus also gives us a little lesson in hermeneutics as he rightly discerns the implicit truth of the resurrection in the episode of the burning bush: God told Moses that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Is, not was. The Patriarchs still are. God is the God of the living, not the dead and gone.
Since the Sadducees have not truly understood the Scriptures, they do not truly know the God of the Scriptures and his awesome power. Therefore, they reject the resurrecting power of God, and ultimately Jesus himself.
Bringing Down God
Part of the Sadducees’ problem was that they brought God down to their level and thought that God’s thoughts were like their thoughts. But they thought wrong. They thought like fools. They approached God and his Scriptures from a strictly human level and entirely left out the basic ingredients for understanding the Word of God: wonder, humility, and reverence. In doing so they got the message of the Scriptures all wrong and made a fool of themselves before the very Word of God himself. They could quote Scripture and teach it with persuasion, but they never had a living encounter with its Author. We also are in danger of being as sad as the Sadducees unless we come to God’s Word with wonder, humility, and reverence, and seek to know God through the power of His Spirit. Only then will we be able to see the truth of God’s Word