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Jesus confounds His critics

June 3, 2015

Mark 12: 18 – 27                                Wednesday 3rd June 2015

I can’t resist just saying something briefly about the gospel today, because it’s full of meaning, but if you don’t fully understand what is going on it is a bit of a riddle.

It starts by mentioning “Some Sadducees….” – a part of the Jewish people, devout Jews, but they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the body. We’re back to that idea of what happens after we die. The Sadducees would say, ‘No, you go off to Sheol, the ‘deep freeze’. You’re there in Sheol but nothing happens to you, you can’t do anything.

Jesus clearly believed in resurrection. Of course He did – He had ‘been there, done that’. Of course He did. God exists ‘out of time; He knows what happens.

But they ask Him a question to try an catch Him out, as usual. They are basically asking, ‘What happens when a person dies without children?’ It is the story of the woman who marries seven times, seven brothers, but never has any children.

This is an echo of the Book of Tobit that we heard earlier. Tobit was a story known at the time of Jesus. Jesus knew the story. They were referring to that story.

The reason it is important that people get married after a brother has died is because this was the Jewish Law. If a man gets married but dies before having any children, they thought that the only way of continuing to have life was to have children. That’s a very modern idea, isn’t it. People nowadays in our secular society say, ‘Oh, people live on in their children.’ Well, of course they do, genetically. But that is not ‘life after death’; that is another life being created.

Some of the Jews, like the Sadducees, thought that the only way of living after death was to have children. So the rule was this: if a man died without any children, his wife, his widow, would go to the next brother (even if the brother is already married). That brother had a duty to marry that woman and give her a child; and that child would be deemed to be the child of the dead brother.

This happened seven times. That is what the story in the gospel is all about. The Sadducees are trying to catch Jesus out by saying, ‘My goodness, what happens when they all rise from the dead at the resurrection?’ They are suggesting to Jesus that this is nonsense, that they are all going to be arguing over who is married to who.

‘No,’ says Jesus, ‘at the resurrection they don’t get married’. Why would they not get married after the resurrection? Because there is no need to have children, because you have everlasting life!

[Now that link between marriage and having children has been broken in the last 100 years due to modern scientific methods of artificial contraception. Hence the confusion in our society; hence the Synod on the Family and Evangelisation at the end of this year.]

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