Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that ‘if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ 20 There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; 21 and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; 22 none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. 23 In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”
24 Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 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’? 27 He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.”
We get another citation from Moses and from the Law. In actuality, their statement plays loosely with the declaration recorded in Deuteronomy 25:
For the Sadducees, the value of the widowed woman is only to bear the child. She has no equal value in the family system. They “are certainly not concerned with the poor woman who did not bear offspring, barrenness being the deepest shame for her. They further objectify her by speculating who she would ‘belong to’ in the afterlife (Myers, 315).” This contradicts the radical equality for women within the community that Jesus taught about in the discipleship catechism: Mark 10:1-16.
Jesus dismisses their complicated equation, attributing it to their failure to understand both scripture and the power of God. He returns to the story of Moses, but this time cites Moses’ encounter at the burning bush. The claim that God is God of the living is a strong statement of how God can transform death into to life in this world. The God who delivers the people from the death of slavery in Egypt is the living God of the ancestors, who still live in the promises God made to them, and to the people of Israel.
Jesus also switches terms for the rising of dead. He uses the term resurrection, the same one introduced by the Sadducees, anastasis, and switches to a form of hegero, the term we have encountered six times already in Mark’s story, and will encounter again at the tomb, when Jesus raises people to new life.
“Jesus conceives of the resurrection not as a static doctrine but a living hope for the transformation of the world…The Sadducees, on the other hand, have a vested interest in denying any other ‘world’ except the present one, which they control (Myers, 316).”
The ministry of Jesus has already raised people to new life, resurrected them for life in this world. The new social reality called the kingdom of God has the power to help us see the world around us as transformed through this raising to new life. In this transformed reality women have equal status in the community and the kingdom is perpetuated by faithfulness to what God is doing and not through the status of name and land. God is the one who gives, sustains, and creates life, not the passing down of a name or the ownership of land.
Questions for Modern-Day Disciples
- How do we encounter God’s living presence in our lives?
- How do we encounter our world transformed through the power of Jesus’ raising us to new life?
- What "equations" for status perpetuation get in our way of experiencing the new life promised by Jesus?