The Scriptures And The Power Of God

We conclude this Easter Week with a flashback: Mark’s account of the Sadducees trying to “prove” Jesus wrong about his belief in resurrection (Mark 12:18-27). The temple-centered, conservative Sadducee-party in first century Judaism did not believe in resurrection or eternal life in any form. As such, they were opposed to the Pharisees who did and to whom Jesus was actually closer theologically, for all his criticism of them. (You always hurt the ones you love!)

Citing the Old Testament precept that a man should marry his deceased brother’s wife (or rather add her to his harem) in order to keep her from becoming destitute as a widow, the Sadducees set up a conundrum. Suppose this happens seven times in succession — seven brothers had fulfilled this obligation to one woman. So, Jesus, they scoff, “in the resurrection whose wife will she be?”

Jesus’ scathing response is, “Is not the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?” Pretty devastating critique of these “high church” leaders! But his point is that they are trying to use human categories and earthly arrangements to describe a state of existence far beyond such comparisons.

“Not knowing the scriptures” would seem to indicate that, while the Sadducees may have been well versed in the niceties of laws and commandments and obligations, they had apparently failed to note that the Hebrew Bible has very little to say about what “life was like” in Sheol or even in the hoped-for resurrection.

“Not knowing the power of God” was to underestimate the dramatic transformation which will take place at the time of resurrection and that earth-oriented, time-bound human relationships like marriage would likely be gathered up into a brand new existence of love and community quite impossible for our minds to grasp on this side of the grave.

Jesus’ warning to the Sadducees might well be taken to heart today for those who wish to “define” what the resurrection will be like, when it will occur, and exactly who will be its beneficiaries. Better to acknowledge that none of us really “know” the scriptures or the power of God and that some things are best left in the realm of mystery.

Mystery to be contemplated in awe. Not explained from our limited perspective.

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