Commentary on Mark 12:18-27
Jesus faces another confrontation today, this time with Sadducees. The Sadducees were a group which did not accept many of the beliefs held by the Pharisees. They confined their beliefs to the Pentateuch, the so-called books of Moses, the first five books of our Bible.
Among the beliefs they rejected was that of life after death. Armed with this conviction, they approached Jesus with a hypothetical case which they felt could not be answered by him.
A woman married a man but he died before they could have children. In order that her late husband, the eldest son in his family, would have heirs, she followed a law (known as the Levirate law) which said she had to marry her husband’s brother. She did so but he also died and, in the end, she married seven brothers, all of whom died before a child could be conceived.
The Sadducees’ question to Jesus was that, if there is life after death, which of the seven men would be her real husband in the next life? For them, of course, there was no problem but, for Jesus and all those who believed in an after-life, they thought it created an insoluble situation.
Jesus answers them on two fronts. First, he says that in the next life marriage will no longer exist. People will all be related equally in a common relationship with God. Second, he astutely quotes from the book of the Exodus, a book of the Bible which the Sadducees acknowledge as divine revelation. Jesus reminds them that God spoke to Moses from out of the burning bush and said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). So Jesus adds: “He is God, not of the dead but of the living.” God did not say to Moses: “I was the God of Abraham”, or “I used to be the God of Abraham’” but “I AM here and now the God of Abraham”.
Perhaps we might not be altogether swayed by this argument but, faced with a text from a part of the Bible they accepted as divine revelation, it was a statement the Sadducees could not question. And they had no comeback.
It is useful for us to be able to handle distortions of our faith which can sometimes be thrown at us. It is essential that we are familiar with our Bible in order to do so. But we might also say that we do not bring people to Christ simply by besting them in arguments. The real way to bring people to Christ is by the compelling example of our words, our actions and our attitudes reflecting his love and tolerance.