There are many intricate theological points highlighted by this week’s Gospel reading. However, I believe the text can be summarized as follows: how does Jesus deal with bullies, those who antagonize him publicly, those who seek to trap in him in unwinnable arguments, and those who have no intention of listening to his message?
The Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection, are not interested in Jesus’ answers. Their goal is to make Jesus look foolish by responding to their outlandish setup of a question. What can we learn from this encounter?
- Debating the furniture of Heaven or the thermostat in Hell is a lose/lose proposition. No one knows the realities of Heaven and Hell. John Milton and Dante have done more to shape our images of the underworld than anything in the Bible. The truth: none of us know. We’ve read passages of scripture that give us a vague idea. The truth is, we don’t know. Like so much, we go on faith.
- The Sadducees absurd questions weren’t designed to be answered. If you encounter something similar, Ignore them. That’s what Jesus did. He doesn’t get down into the weeds.
- Realize the difference between now and eternity. For human beings to set the rules for Heaven, in any meaningful sense, is taking power away from God. God sets the rules, especially in eternity.
- When Jesus was answering this question with the Sadducees, no one but Jesus understood the resurrection. Jesus redefined the meaning of the resurrection. You can’t debate people if one side is talking about apples, and you’re discussing oranges.
- If you’re laying verbal traps for people to “catch” people with whom you disagree, you’ve already lost. We don’t get other people into Heaven by asking trick questions. That’s called being a jerk. Resurrection is God’s business.
- The Sadducees ask the patriarchy question of the week, “Whose wife is this?” In their set-up attempt to bait Jesus, the “woman” is still treated like property in death. No, just no.