Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Jesus has finally arrived in Jerusalem, where in a few days He will be crucified at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government. His first action was to thumb His nose at the religious establishment - countermanding their authority by throwing out the moneychangers from the Temple complex. Like kicking a hornet’s nest, this drew the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes out into open opposition to Jesus. They wanted to destroy Him but couldn’t because the people, at this point, loved Him. So instead they try to discredit Him.
At first they confront Him directly and demand to know by what authority He did this. Jesus made them first consider whether they supported John the Baptist’s authority—from heaven or from men? They wouldn’t answer so neither would Jesus. Then they sent a group of spies to try and trip Him up with the politically sensitive topic of paying taxes to the hated Roman government. Jesus basically said to give the Emperor what is his due, but give God what is His due—your very life and loyalty.
This points us to a great way to understand just what Jesus is doing here—something that is amplified in the balance of Chapter 20. The religious leaders were caught up in thinking that heaven pretty much mirrors what life is like here. It does not. The denarius is a representation of value in this age. It has no value at all in heaven. Heaven is a different dimension with different values which are fundamentally different than what we experience here on earth in terms of currency, relationships and position. Jesus is trying to get them to think higher. Last time it was money, this time it is relationships and position.
27 – 40
This is a well-known story. The Sadducees were the rationalists of their day. If you couldn’t show them proof, then they just wouldn’t believe it. As a religious party they did not acknowledge the existence of angels or the resurrection from the dead. Why? Because they focused solely on what’s known as the Pentateuch—the first 5 books of the Bible known as the Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Because they believed that resurrection was not taught in those books, it did not exist.
Based on that belief they come to Jesus with a supposed theological question about heaven—a place they don’t believe in. Their rhetorical device was to push an idea to its illogical conclusion to show how ludicrous it was. They cite the levirate marriage law found in Deuteronomy 25:5, which states that a younger brother will marry the widow of his elder brother so the children will bear the name of that older sibling. Assuming that marriage in heaven is the same as on earth, they figured that the absurdity of the same woman being married to every brother would show how silly the idea of the resurrection really was.
Jesus gives them an education about the dimension of heaven as opposed to earth. On earth we die, so in order to keep the human race alive we marry and have kids. But in heaven no one dies so there is no need to pro-create. There is also no need for marriage because we are married to the Messiah (though Jesus doesn’t go into that here). But His point is that in heaven we are not married to other humans, just like angels.
Then Jesus brings them to their own texts to show how wrong they are about their theology of resurrection. He quotes Exodus 3:1-6. There, Yahweh tells Moses “I am the God of your father. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” If those men were dead and gone and not alive in Moses’ time, God could not have made that statement “I am” their God.
At least credit the Sadducees with knowing that they’ve been licked. They didn’t argue with Jesus but surrendered. You know, it’s never a good idea to argue theology with Jesus. We ought to take His view of the Scriptures, of God, and of both this dimension and the one to come. We sometimes scratch our heads and want to explain away what Jesus says, or explain it in a way that conforms to what we know. But I’d challenge you to accept what Jesus says and ask Him to explain it to you, rather than us schooling God on what He really meant.
Now Jesus turns the tables and asks His own tough theological question:
41 – 44
Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1. Here David is speaking—and speaking clearly of the Messiah and of Yahweh. Why? In 2 Samuel 7 God spoke to David and said that his Son would sit on a forever throne. The Jews knew this was a reference to the Messiah. Normally the elder would be greater than the younger. But if the Messiah is David’s Son, how can David, the elder, call Him “Lord”?
The conundrum is answered in understanding that Jesus is both fully human (David’s son) and fully God (God’s Son). This is actually crucial for our understanding as well. As David’s Son, Jesus would identify with humanity and suffer for humanity in our weakness. As God’s Son He was not tainted by sin and could become the sacrifice that satisfied God’s wrath against evil.
Paul makes this clear in Romans 1:3-4 (HCSB) concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh 4 and who has been declared to be the powerful Son of God by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness.
Finally, Luke pokes holes in our idea of position in this age being the same as in the age to come:
45 – 47
Matthew 23:1-36 gives us the extended version of what Jesus said about the scribes and Pharisees.
Here, Luke focuses on only some of their behaviors—behaviors that were emblematic of their wrong thinking about themselves and God. I see four things that Jesus calls out here:
- Their presentation of righteousness. The scribes’ robes were of white linen (Exodus 28), which signified how holy they were. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus says the good looking outside hid an evil inside just as a white-washed gravestone hides dead men’s bones.
- Their reception of honor. The scribes and Pharisees loved to be called “Rabbi”, honored by men verbally, honored with the best seat in the house at a banquet and the place of honor in church. Matthew tells us that they sat “in the seat of Moses” which was in fact what their special place of honor was called in the synagogues. But like the banquet giver (Luke 14:8), demanding to be honored means you probably shouldn’t be. Honor goes to God and He then honors us by allowing us to draw close to Him.
- Their inward evil. They came across as so holy in their presentation and reception, but inside they were filled with greed. What happened apparently was that the scribes would manage the affairs of their societies’ most vulnerable population—widows. But in doing so they would take a large cut for themselves.
- Their outward hypocrisy. Despite doing this behind closed doors, in public they pretended to care about others by making long prayers—but it was just for show, there was no honesty or humility in their prayers.
The point is that in God’s heaven, it isn’t how you appear on the outside that counts, but how you are on the inside. And because they refuse to bow to the Messiah, they will have to answer to God for their evil. The “stone the builders rejected” will roll right over them and crush them.
In conclusion I want to make two points for us to consider and meditate on. One involves the overall attitude of the religious leaders, and the other a grave error on the part of the Sadducees.
- 1.Connecting to this age may make you blind to the next one.
The religious leaders were basically enslaved to the values of this age. They saw money in this age connected to value. But money here is like Monopoly money to God. Its value is imaginary. That’s why Jesus could say to give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. We shouldn’t really care that much about the stuff this age values. At least not in comparison to how much we value what God cares about, which are relationships and righteousness.
Secondly, they figured that the institutions in this age work the same way as they do in heaven. We need security, intimacy, and purpose. In this age security comes from having lots of property and position. Intimacy comes, in part, from a marriage relationship. But in heaven, security, intimacy and purpose all come from being married to Jesus—intimate, secure, and having eternal life that is “abundant”.
We need to lift our sights higher than what this age offers. And we need to broaden our perspective so that this age’s values don’t tie us down so much that we can’t see beyond them to the reality, of which this world is but a shadow.
- 2.Let the Word of God and the Power of God reign supreme.
In Matthew’s account of this encounter with the Sadducees, the Lord said to them: “you are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.” The Sadducees read the Bible, but drew conclusions about it based on their world-view. They decided that since the Pentateuch didn’t teach about resurrection, then it must not exist. They erred in that they thought God’s revelation ended with Moses. Yet God clearly sent prophets, and even the Pentateuch says that prophets would come and tells the people how to know the false from the true (Deuteronomy 13). That line of truth-telling extended to Jesus, and His apostles:
Hebrews 1:1-2 (HCSB) 1 Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. 2 In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him.
So try to let the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) create your world-view instead of the other way around. We tend to layer our values onto God. Let’s turn that around.
The other thing the Sadducees failed to take into account was the power of God. They were rationalists. Because they couldn’t conceive of the resurrection, then it must not be true. God’s power is much greater than we think. God’s power is able to overcome our myopic worldview and give you His values, His viewpoint, His character.
His power can help you understand and trust God more.