Luke 20:27-40 – The Reality of the Last Resurrection (Oct 15th)

Message Notes:  God of the Living Oct 15

OPENING DISCUSSION:

Ask your group members if they have thought about the idea of marriage in eternity. How do they view it? Do they expect to be married to their spouses for eternity? What about the idea of remarriage in this life? Will it affect who they are married to in the next life if they are married at all? In today’s passage, the Sadducees, another religious group in Jerusalem, sought to challenge Jesus’ teaching of eternal life using the idea of remarriage. His response leaves them silent.  

BIG PICTURE/MAIN IDEA:

Synopsis: Resurrection is possible and will soon be exemplified by Jesus, the Son of the living God, who is God of the living, not of the dead.

Luke now reports a second and final attempt to confound Jesus in an argument. This time the Sadducees, who are only mentioned here in the Gospel, raise a far-fetched example, in order to refute the belief in the resurrection held by both Jesus (14:14) and the Pharisees (Acts 23:8) but which they deny. Their scenario has been carefully worked out, for since no brother left an heir, none has any real advantage over the other. The Sadducees knew that neither Jesus nor the Pharisees would have answered “All seven equally,” so they felt confident that the whole doctrine of the resurrection had to be rejected as illogical. However, Jesus in this pronouncement story refutes his opponents. He does so by refuting their premise that the situation and conditions governing this present age (Luke 20:34) will continue into and govern “that age” (20:35), i.e., the age to come.

KEY POINTS IN THE PASSAGE:

  • Jesus defends the reality of life after death.
  • Life in heaven is not to be imagined as being just like life on earth.
  • God’s covenant with his people cannot be terminated by death.

WHAT DOES IT SAY?

READ Luke 20:27-40 and answer the questions below:

Who came to see Jesus in v. 27?

What part of the law did they ask him about?

What was the main question the Sadducees brought to Jesus? What were they trying to refute?

What did Jesus say about marriage after the resurrection?

Who did Jesus reference when talking about the resurrection?

What was the response of the Sadducees after Jesus answered their question?

The Sadducees denied all supernatural occurrences including resurrection (v. 27; cf. Acts 23:8). Their question on the resurrection, therefore, was not to elicit information but to find a way to make Jesus look foolish by presenting an extreme hypothetical case. They posited a situation in which a woman married each of seven brothers after each previous brother had died. The idea behind such an occurrence was the Hebrew concept of the Levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5–10) in which an unmarried man would marry his dead brother’s widow who was childless in order to have children in his name. Then the Sadducees asked, At the resurrection whose wife will she be?

First, Jesus said, there will be no marriage in the resurrection (Luke 20:34–36). This showed (a) that the present Age contrasts sharply with the Age to come; and (b) when people are resurrected, they will be like the angels, being God’s children and children of the resurrection. Jesus did not say that resurrected people become angels. His point was that they, like angels, will be immortal. Thus there will be no further need for procreation, and the marriage relationship will not be necessary.

Second, Jesus pointed out that there certainly will be a resurrection (vv. 37–38). He referred to an incident when the Lord told Moses that He is the God of the patriarchs (Ex. 3:6). Jesus appealed to Moses because the Sadducees wrongly taught that Moses’ teachings did not reveal a resurrection. The statement that the Lord is the God of the patriarchs should have shown the Sadducees that the patriarchs were still alive (He is … the God … of the living), even though those words were uttered several hundred years after the last patriarch’s death. God was preserving them alive for future resurrection.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Use the information from the text and the commentary notes below to help discern responses to the following questions. 

  • Why do you think the Sadducees were trying to challenge Jesus’ teachings?
  • Why do you think the Sadducees brought up the issue of marriage after the resurrection?
  • Why do you think the Sadducees marveled at his teachings after he answered their question? 

As in the previous pericope, Luke sought to demonstrate Jesus’ surpassing wisdom and knowledge. Even as his opponents marveled at his wisdom and were driven to silence in the previous account (20:26; cf. also 13:17), so here they were forced to commend him and recognize that further attempts to catch him in his words would be useless (20:39–40). Jesus, God’s Son, has a wisdom too great for them, for his wisdom is greater than that of the wisest of all men, King Solomon (cf. 11:31)

Luke’s editorial work is most clearly seen in 20:35a, 36b, 39. In 20:35a he pointed out that not all people will participate in the blessedness of the resurrection. On the contrary, only those “considered worthy” will experience the resurrection of that age. Luke did not define here what it means to be “considered worthy,” but in 14:14 and Acts 24:15 he referred to the resurrection of the righteous; and in Luke 18:14 it was the humble and repentant tax collector who was justified, i.e., declared righteous. Luke did not think it necessary to describe how one is “considered worthy” because he assumed his readers would apply at this point the other teachings in this work that describe what is needed to enter God’s kingdom.

Cultural/Historical Background

Sadducees, the “party” that controlled the temple priesthood, accepted as authoritative only the written law of Moses, and so they rejected such “newfangled” ideas as resurrection and life after death. The test case that they propose in order to ridicule the idea depends on the law of the levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5-6). There are only two examples of this law being applied in the Old Testament. (Gen. 38:6-11; Ruth 4:5-10), in both of which the surviving relative proves reluctant. But a large body of rabbinic legislation on the subject shows that the law remained in force, at least in theory. The imaginary story of a woman’s seven marriages may be loosely based on a story from the apocryphal book of Tobit, where a woman, Sarah, marries seven husbands in turn but each is killed by a demon before the marriage is consummated. Sarah eventually marries Tobias, son of Tobit, who survives the wedding night through prayer and by repelling the demon with the help of the angel Raphael.

HOW DOES IT APPLY?

Have you ever considered the idea of marriage for eternity? Does it make you happy or sad to think that we won’t married in the next life? Why (not)?

Do you consider yourself “worthy” to attain the next life? How does this passage help you understand what eternity will be like?

How do you see God as being the God of the living and the dead? In other words, what are v. 37-38 trying to teach us about the eternality of God?     

COMMENTARY NOTES:

20:27 Some of the Sadducees. Although this group is only mentioned here in Luke, cf. Acts 4:1; 5:17; 23:6–8. The Sadducees originated as a priestly sect claiming descent from Zadok, the high priest under David (1 Kgs 1:26). In Jesus’ day, they were no longer exclusively priestly but were a party or circle of priestly and lay aristocrats, Hellenistic in orientation, who catered to the well-to-do. They were bitter opponents of the Pharisees, who were a lay party with whom most Jews were sympathetic. This hostility went back to the second century before Christ. After Jerusalem’s destruction in a.d. 70, the Sadducees disappeared from the scene. Who say there is no resurrection. The Sadducees differed from the Pharisees doctrinally in that they denied the resurrection of the dead or life after death, the existence of angels or demons, the validity of the oral traditions and in practice all the OT except the Pentateuch, and divine providence (Acts 23:6–8).

20:28 Moses wrote. Compare Deut 25:5. And have children for his brother. Compare Gen 38:8. This levirate regulation is witnessed to in Ruth 4:1–12. (Levirate comes from the Latin levir, which means husband’s brother.) Such a marriage would not conflict with the prohibitions of Lev 18:16 and 20:21, for in these references a brother has a sexual relationship with his living brother’s wife.

20:29 Now there were seven brothers. No special significance is to be seen in the number. “Seven” was simply a favorite number.

20:30 The second and third brothers are mentioned, but for economy sake the expression “and died childless” is omitted.

20:31 In the same way the seven died, leaving no children. The hypothetical situation is well-crafted. It is, of course, true that if anyone had left a child, the levirate regulation would have come to an end at that point. But even the seventh brother did not leave a child, so that none of the seven have an advantage in claiming to be the husband.

20:33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be? The question is stated. Since the seven were married to her? The Sadducees reminded Jesus of the basic problem. In their thinking this multiple husband-wife relationship made the idea of a resurrection preposterous.

20:34 The people of this age. Compare Luke 16:8b. This expression means human beings in their present earthly life. Jesus at the very beginning pointed out the flaw in the Sadducean thinking. They were equating behavior in “this age” with behavior in “that age.”

20:35 But those who are considered worthy. “Those who are considered worthy” is a divine passive for those God considers worthy. Compare 4 Macc 18:3; 2 Thess 1:5. Luke expected his readers to understand that “those considered worthy” are those who through repentance and faith have entered God’s kingdom, i.e., those who are saved (cf. Luke 18:25–26). Luke was not a universalist with respect to salvation. In that age. In 18:30 “that age” is referred to as “the age to come.” This is the time of the consummation when the “kingdom comes” (11:2). And in the resurrection from the dead. Compare Acts 4:2; 1 Pet 1:3. This does not describe a second level of attainment, after first gaining entrance into the age to come, but another description of sharing in “that age,” i.e., in that age in which the dead are raised. Will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Marriage is not an eternal fixture in God’s creative purpose. It came into being at a point in time, and it will cease when time as we know it ceases to be. The need of marriage to fill the earth (Gen 1:28) will be past and the need for procreation ended. The need for companionship, which marriage was meant to fill (Gen 2:18–25), will no longer be needed, for that need will be met by God himself and the family of believers.

20:36 And they can no longer die. The reason is now given why marriage as an institution is ended in the age to come. For they are like the angels. This may explain either why there is no marriage (Luke 20:35) or why believers can no longer die (20:36a) in “that age.” If it describes the former, then the asexual nature of angels is being cited. If, and this is more likely, it explains why they can no longer die, then the immortality of the angels is being cited. Since the Sadducees did not believe in the existence of angels, there is present in this saying a rebuke of their unbelief in this matter. They are God’s children. Compare Luke 6:35, where the future tense (“your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High”) refers to this blessedness of the believer in the consummated kingdom. In this state death is no more (Rev 21:4), and the believers’ sonship is completed by the resurrection, just as Jesus’ sonship was (Acts 13:33; cf. Rom 1:4; Acts 2:32–36). Since they are children of the resurrection. This clause is a causal participle (literally being children) that indicates why the full sonship of the believer has been realized. It is because the resurrection (the general resurrection, not Jesus’ resurrection) has now taken place, and the mortal has been clothed with immortality (1 Cor 15:53–54).

20:37 But in the account of the bush. Since the OT was not versified or even divided into chapters at this time, Jesus referred in this manner (literally at the bush) to the place in Exodus he cited (cf. Rom 11:2). The clearest OT references to the resurrection are found in Job 19:26; Ps 16:9–11; Isa 26:19; and Dan 12:2. Because his opponents believed that the Pentateuch alone was the supreme authority, Jesus limited himself to this portion of the OT and used Exod 3:6 as his proof text for the resurrection. That the dead rise. Literally a divine passive: that the dead are raised by GodFor he calls. The present tense indicates that Moses still speaks, i.e., that as Scripture what Moses “said” continues to speak. The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Even after their death, God still identifies himself as “being,” not “having been,” their God.

20:38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. “God” is emphatic, so the sentence may be translated better, “God is not [a God] of the dead but of the living!” Jesus drew the conclusion from Luke 20:37 and completed his argument: “Only living people can have a God.” For to him all are alive. Compare Acts 17:28; 4 Macc 7:19; 16:25. The thought in this statement, which is unique to Luke, appears to be that all the patriarchs (and those considered worthy of the resurrection, Luke 20:35) live because of their association with the God of life. It is incorrect to interpret this as referring to a future resurrection from their present state of sleep or as a reference to being “in Christ” in the Pauline sense.

20:39 Some of the teachers of the law responded. Compare Acts 23:6–10, where despite the common animosity toward Paul, the centuries-old animosity between the Pharisees and Sadducees arises over their differences concerning the resurrection. Since the teachers of the law tended to be Pharisaic in orientation, we may have another example of this here.

20:40 Luke omitted the next account in Mark 12:28–34 and Matt 22:34–40 concerning the great commandment since he included a similar passage in Luke 10:25–28. However, he used Mark’s concluding sentence in 12:34 here because it serves as a good conclusion to Luke 20:27–39 and reinforces what has been said in 13:17; 19:48; 20:19, 26.

Posted in Group Notes, Luke 14, Luke: A Jesus for Everyone