Have you been following the articles on Mark 12? Are you starting to spot a theme yet? At the start of the chapter, we had the story of the tenants in the vineyard, they withheld the rent due to their landlord. We then saw a debate over whether or not Caesar was entitled to the taxes due to him which concluded with Jesus challenging the Pharisees and Herodians for withholding what belonged to God.
Read Mark 12:18-26
Jesus is now quizzed by a different group, the Sadducees. They were what we might consider as more liberal in their approach to Scripture to the Pharisees, they accepted a smaller number of books as Scripture and they did not believe in a literal resurrection of the dead. Politically, the Sadducees were more associated with the establishment and those who controlled power among the priestly elite and in the Sanhedrin (the assembly that gathered in Jerusalem to oversee matters of religious law).
They throw Jesus a hypothetical question about an unfortunate woman whose husbands keep dying on her. The Law required that should a man die without children, then his younger brother was to take on the first son’s wife and produce an heir for him. In this scenario, this has happened to the widow seven times. So, they ask “When she dies, whose wife is she. Who does she belong to?”
Well, there’s a lot going on there isn’t there. It starts, I would suggest with them not understanding the law. The purpose of the Levirate law was not to have this woman passed on as a possession from man to man like part of the inheritance. Rather, it was in order for her to provide an heir for the first son and also so that she would be looked after and cared for.
Here we see these religious leaders getting into a pickle because they might have known the intricacies of the Law but they did not know the one who gave it and so they did not know his power and his purpose. The result is that they get into a mess about their hypothetical resurrection situation because they do not really believe in resurrection.
Jesus makes two points. First, that the Resurrection will not be like they are imagining it. There’s going to be no horse trading over who gets a claim on the woman after the resurrection because the first priority is God’s claim over all of their lives.
Secondly, he uses the detail of Scripture to demonstrate the truth of the resurrection. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This present tense truth was used to describe his relationship to them long after they died. You see, he was still their God because they were with him enjoying eternal life. Note, this refutes the belief of Jehovah Witnesses that we stop existing between death and resurrection too!
That theme of what belongs to God is present here again. God’s claim on our lives comes before any other in eternity. We are also seeing here God’s claim on His Word. We see his ability to use the very detail of grammar to communicate his purposes. The Sadducees by imposing their own human interpretations on it attempted to rob God of his word.
Are you prepared to give God what is his due by allowing him complete authority over his Word?