Scripture: Mark 12:13-27
Key verses: (24-27) Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that 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 story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.”
Reflection: Trying to trick Jesus, the Sadducees ask him a question about marriage and the resurrection. An old Jewish law (from Deuteronomy 25:5-10, and Genesis 38:8) stated that a brother should marry his brother’s childless widow, and count any future children born as his brother’s. If this happened seven times to the same widow, whose wife would the woman be in the resurrection? The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, so they hoped to trick Jesus into pointing out the ridiculous nature of this scenario.
Jesus responds in two ways. First, he clarifies what is meant by “resurrection.” It isn’t some new enactment of our earthly life, with the same kinds of bodies and relationships, just after death. It is a wholly different kind of transformed life. They have the terminology and definition wrong from the start, so their understanding of what resurrection means will be flawed.
Secondly, Jesus does a little teaching on biblical interpretation. The Sadducees point out an ancient and accepted practice based on scripture. He reminds them of another part of scripture that adds nuance to the argument. When God says, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” naming long-dead ancestors, God shows intention to be the God of the living: those in the present age, and in the age to come, when the patriarchs and others will be resurrected.
We could focus on the question of the resurrection and its implication for us, but I am interested today in how Jesus uses scripture. He asks that we make sure our terms are defined accurately. He also shows us that one part of scripture can speak to another part. Most importantly, perhaps, we should note that this text is immediately followed by Jesus being asked which commandment is the greatest. Maybe you remember his answer, essentially: love God, and love your neighbor (Mark 12: 29-31.) When we talk to one another about God’s intentions, may it be so.
Prayer: Lord of the living and of the dead, I do not understand it all. I don’t understand death, or resurrection, or life in all its complexities, or all of what I read in scripture. But I want to love you, and my neighbor. Help me do that today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Author: Julie Hester
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].