Sermon title:  CHRIST REFUTES SKEPTICS OF THE RESURRECTION

 

Matthew 22:23-33

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, September 8, 2019

 

 

Last week we talked about

how the Pharisees and the Herodians

conspired together

in an attempt to trap Jesus in his speech.

 

But they failed miserably.

 

And this week we’ll see

how another Jewish faction, the Sadducees,

immediately picked up the ball

and tried to trap Jesus

with a trick question of their own.

 

The account begins at Matthew 22:23,

right after the failure of the Pharisees and the Herodians.

 

They had tried to get him to give a “YES” or “NO” answer

to their question of whether to pay taxes to Caesar,

because “NO” would make him an outlaw

in the eyes of the Roman occupation forces,

while “YES” would infuriate patriotic Jews.

 

Our Lord surprised them

by getting them to look at

the tax coin that was

issued by Caesar, with his portrait and inscription.

 

And so, since Caesar issued the coin

bearing his portrait and inscription

it was obvious

that he could demand

that it be given back to him.

 

The two groups that got together

in this failed attempt to trap Jesus

with their trick question

were the Pharisees and the Herodians.

 

The Pharisees were the strictest sect of the Jews,

and the Herodians were political party followers

allied with the Herod family.

 

The Pharisees and the Herodians hated each other,

but they joined together

in their attempt to trap Jesus

with their trick question.

 

When Jesus blew them away

with his answer,

then another faction of the Jews—the Sadducees—

decided to try the same thing.

 

And that’s what we read about here in Matthew Chapter 22,

beginning with Verse 23.

 

23 That same day the Sadducees,

who say there is no resurrection,

came to him with a question.

 

24 "Teacher," they said,

"Moses told us

that if a man dies without having children,

his brother must marry the widow

and have children for him.

 

25 Now there were seven brothers among us.

 

The first one married and died,

and since he had no children,

he left his wife to his brother.

 

26 The same thing happened

to the second and third brother,

right on down to the seventh.

 

27 Finally, the woman died.

 

28 Now then, at the resurrection,

whose wife will she be of the seven,

since all of them were married to her?"

 

29 Jesus replied,

"You are in error

because you do not know the Scriptures

or the power of God.

 

30 At the resurrection

people will neither marry nor be given in marriage;

they will be like the angels in heaven.

 

31 But about the resurrection of the dead—

have you not read what God said to you,

 

32 'I am the God of Abraham,

the God of Isaac,

and the God of Jacob' ?

 

He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

 

33 When the crowds heard this,

they were astonished at his teaching.

 

So, this was the Sadducees’ attempt

to destroy Jesus in front of the crowds

with a trick question.

 

And they failed, just as the Pharisees and Herodians

had failed earlier that day.

------------------------------------------

 

The passage began by saying,

 

23 That same day the Sadducees,

who say there is no resurrection,

came to him with a question.

 

Acts 23:8 tells us more about the Sadducees,

where it says,

 

The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection,

and that there are neither angels nor spirits.

 

So, they actually rejected belief

in much of what the Hebrew Old Testament taught.

 

They remind us of today’s religious liberals

who claim to believe in the God of the Bible

and who claim to believe parts of the Bible

but reject other parts.

 

They pick and choose

what parts of Scripture they believe,

and what parts they reject.

 

And these Sadducees

who were trying to trap Jesus

with their trick question

were very much like that.

 

They claimed to believe in God,

and to speak for God.

 

In fact, some of the Sadducees held high positions

as priests at the Temple in Jerusalem.

 

But they didn’t believe

what their own Old Testament said

about spirits, angels and the resurrection of the dead.

--------------------------------

 

Now, of course,

they didn’t yet have all the evidence for the resurrection

that we have today in the New Testament.

 

They didn’t yet have the empty tomb

that was left when Christ rose from the dead

that first Easter morning.

 

They didn’t yet have the 500 witnesses

the Apostle Paul refers to at 1 Corinthians 15:6

who saw Jesus alive

after he rose from the dead.

 

And they rejected Christ’s promise at John 11:25,

where he said,

"I am the resurrection and the life;

the one believing in Me,

even if he should die,

he will live.

 

So, the Sadducees didn’t have

all the additional assurance of the resurrection

that we have today.

 

But they did have enough,

even in the Hebrew Old Testament,

so that they should have believed.

 

They already had their prophet Isaiah.

They regularly read from Isaiah

on Saturday mornings at Jewish synagogues

in Jerusalem and throughout the world.

 

So, they already had Isaiah 26:19,

where that Old Testament prophet wrote,

 

But your dead will live, Lord;

    their bodies will rise

let those who dwell in the dust

    wake up and shout for joy—

your dew is like the dew of the morning;

    the earth will give birth to her dead.

 

The Sadducees already had that inspired word

in their Isaiah scrolls,

but they didn’t believe it.

 

They also had the Old Testament scroll of the prophet Daniel.

 

And at Daniel 12, Verse 2,

one of God’s angels told Daniel

that at the end of days,

 

many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth

shall awake,

some to everlasting life,

and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

 

And in Verse 13 an angel told Daniel,

 

"As for you, go your way till the end.

You will rest,

and then at the end of the days

you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance."

 

In their Old Testament scroll of Daniel

the Sadducees had that angel’s promise to Daniel

that he and others would rise from the dead

at the end of the days,

but they didn’t believe it,

and they didn’t believe in

the angel who spoke to Daniel.

 

The Sadducees also had the Old Testament book of Job.

 

So, they knew what Job said

in Job Chapter 19, beginning at Verse 25,

where Job said,

 

25 But I know that my Redeemer lives,

and in the end He will stand upon the earth.

 

26 Even after my skin has been destroyed,

yet in my flesh I will see God.

 

27 I will see Him for myself;

my eyes will behold Him,

and not as a stranger.

 

How my heart yearns within me!

 

So, Job knew that he would rise from the dead

and see God, his Redeemer.

 

But the Sadducees didn’t believe Job.

 

They read the book of Job,

they read Daniel

and they read Isaiah

but they didn’t believe what they said

about the resurrection of the dead.

 

And there are religious people today

who do the same thing.

 

Over the years I’ve personally encountered individuals

who conduct Bible studies at church

or who preach from the pulpit,

but who don’t believe

some of the basic teachings of the Bible.

 

And that’s the sort of people

Jesus was dealing with here.

 

They were knowledgeable about the Scriptures,

and they quoted Scripture,

but they didn’t believe Scripture

to be the authoritative Word of God.

 

And now they were publicly questioning Jesus

in front of the crowds

in the courtyards of the Temple in Jerusalem.

 

The thrust of their question

was to discredit Jesus

and discredit Scripture at the same time.

 

They weren’t sincerely looking for an answer to their question,

but, rather, they used their question

to attack the credibility of Christ

and the credibility of the written Word of God.

 

So, these Sadducees,

who say there is no resurrection,

came to him with a question.

 

24 "Teacher," they said,

"Moses told us

that if a man dies without having children,

his brother must marry the widow

and have children for him.

 

They were referring to one of the Laws of Moses

found at Deuteronomy 25:5.

 

The first five books of the Bible—

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—

are collectively referred to as the Books of Moses,

and they contain the Law

that God gave to the new nation of Israel

after freeing them from slavery in Egypt.

 

And this particular law the Sadducees were citing

tells what God commanded through Moses

to care for young widows in Israel

and to ensure the continuation

of each family name,

on the farmland inherited

by each tribe and family.

 

It begins at Deuteronomy 25:5, and it says,

 

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.

 

6 And the first son whom she bears

shall succeed to the name of his dead brother,

that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.

 

That law was given only to the nation of Israel, not to us,

and it may seem strange to us today.

 

But God had his reasons

for giving a command like that

to the nation of Israel—

and who are we to question God!

 

But the Sadducees were trying to discredit Jesus

and to discredit the written Word of God in the process.

 

So, they challenged him in front of the crowds

with this hypothetical question:

 

24 "Teacher," they said,

"Moses told us that if a man dies

without having children,

his brother must marry the widow

and have children for him.

 

25 Now there were seven brothers among us.

The first one married and died,

and since he had no children,

he left his wife to his brother.

 

26 The same thing happened

to the second and third brother,

right on down to the seventh.

 

27 Finally, the woman died.

 

28 Now then, at the resurrection,

whose wife will she be of the seven,

since all of them were married to her?"

 

Remember, the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection.

 

So, they were trying to make it look like

belief in the resurrection

led to an impossible situation.

 

They were trying to make

belief in the resurrection look ridiculous

and to make Jesus look ridiculous

for defending Scripture as the Word of God.

 

But our Lord did not fall for their trick question.

 

29 Jesus replied, "You are in error

because you do not know the Scriptures

or the power of God.

 

30 At the resurrection

people will neither marry nor be given in marriage;

they will be like the angels in heaven.

 

31 But about the resurrection of the dead—

have you not read what God said to you,

 

32 'I am the God of Abraham,

the God of Isaac,

and the God of Jacob' ?

 

He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

 

The Sadducees claimed to believe

in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

 

As religious leaders, they based their authority

on their claim to represent and speak for God.

 

But they failed to realize

that God wouldn’t call himself

the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

if they were dead and gone forever.

 

Our Lord Jesus gave them

a quote from the Old Testament.

 

But Matthew’s account doesn’t mention where in the Old Testament.

 

At Mark 12:26 the Gospel of Mark

includes additional words Jesus said

that identify when and where

God spoke of himself that way.

 

Beginning at Mark 12:26 Jesus told the Sadducees,

 

26 Now about the dead rising—

have you not read in the Book of Moses,

in the account of the burning bush,

how God said to him,

‘I am the God of Abraham,

the God of Isaac,

and the God of Jacob’ ?

 

27 He is not the God of the dead,

but of the living.

 

You are badly mistaken!”

 

So, it was when God first spoke to Moses

at the burning bush

that he identified himself

as the God of those patriarchs of ancient times.

 

The Sadducees had started their trick question

with a reference to Moses,

and so the Lord appropriately answered them

with a quote from Moses

that proved them wrong.

---------------------------------

 

But, besides assuring us

that there is a resurrection of the dead,

our Lord also gave us new information

about what we will be like in the resurrection.

 

He said,

 

30 At the resurrection

people will neither marry

nor be given in marriage;

they will be like the angels in heaven.

 

Luke’s Gospel, at Luke 20:36, adds that Jesus said,

 

In fact, they can no longer die,

because they are like the angels.

 

So, we will be like the angels

and will have immortality.

 

Our Lord Jesus made these things very clear,

but there are still some in pseudo-Christian cults

and in liberal churches today

who deny the reality of the resurrection.

 

That isn’t anything new, though.

 

Way back in the early Christian churches of the First Century

the Apostle Paul encountered some

who doubted or outright denied the resurrection.

 

He wrote about it in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 15.

 

At 1 Corinthians 15:12, Paul wrote,

 

12 But if it is preached

that Christ has been raised from the dead,

how can some of you say

that there is no resurrection of the dead?

 

So, there were people in that Corinthian church

who were like the Sadducees

in denying the resurrection.

 

Paul answered them directly and pointedly,

when he went on to say,

 

13 If there is no resurrection of the dead,

then not even Christ has been raised.

 

14 And if Christ has not been raised,

our preaching is worthless,

and so is your faith.

 

Then in Verse 17 he added,

 

17 And if Christ has not been raised,

your faith is futile;

you are still in your sins.

 

But, of course, the evidence is overwhelming

that Christ has been raised from the dead.

 

Beginning in Verse 5 of that same chapter,

Paul summed up the evidence like this

naming some of the eyewitness

who had personally seen the risen Christ:

 

He appeared to Cephas (that is, Peter)

and then to the Twelve.

6 After that, He appeared

to more than five hundred brothers at once,

...

7 Then He appeared to James,

then to all the apostles.

8 And last of all He appeared to me also,

 

Paul knew for certain

that Christ is risen from the dead.

 

And the evidence makes absolutely certain

our own hope of eternal life

when we put our faith in Christ.

 

Just like the Sadducees,

who tried to embarrass Jesus

with a trick question about the resurrection,

there are people today who are “in error”

because they do not know the Scriptures

or the power of God.”

 

Their erroneous thinking is not an academic matter,

because it leaves them without hope for the future,

and without solid guidance in this world. 

 

As we study the Scriptures

and as we experience the power of God in our lives,

we can point them in the right direction—

to Jesus,

who faithfully promises us

a resurrection from the dead

and everlasting life with him in glory.