“Emmanuel’s Resurrection” – Matthew 22:23-33

May 22nd, 2016

Matthew 22:23-33 (see also: Mk 12:18-27; Lk 20:27-40)

“Emmanuel’s Resurrection”

Auxiliary Text: 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Call to Worship from: Psalm 119


Service Orientation: Not much has changed in 2,000 years.  We still rob ourselves of the abundant life for the same reasons the Sadducees did:  we deceive ourselves by not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. —  Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25


Background Information:


On the Sadducees:

  • The Sadducees were the aristocrats of Judaism, being largely in control of the Temple and the operation of the priesthood, and it was primarily through the Temple concessions of money changing and sacrifice selling (see 21:12) that they obtained their wealth. The high priest and chief priests were almost invariably Sadducees, as were most members of the Sanhedrin, the high Jewish council.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 328)
  • The Sadducees were the Jewish rationalists of their day. Though comparatively small in number, these influential aristocrats included priests in their ranks.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 120)
  • The Sadducees were not many in number; but they were the wealthy, the aristocratic and the governing class. The chief priests, for instance, were Sadducees.  In politics, they were collaborationists, quite ready to co-operate with the Roman government if co-operation was the price of the retention of their own privileges.  In thought, they were quite ready to open their minds to Greek ideas.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 320-1)
  • At this time they controlled the high priesthood and a majority of the seats in the Sanhedrin. (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 315)
  • The Sadducees were the skeptics. Although they were religious and accepted much of what was in the Bible, they repudiated the supernatural.  They had no patience with the Pharisees’ beloved traditions and rejected traditional interpretations of the Scriptures.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 424)
  • They refused to acknowledge any worth, much less authority, in the oral or written interpretations of Scripture or in the rabbinical traditions. They were fastidious in Levitical purity and prided themselves as being the preservers of the true faith.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 328)
  • The Sadducees were at odds theologically with the Pharisees (the other major group of Jewish leaders) because they honored only the Pentateuch–Genesis through Deuteronomy–as Scripture and because they rejected most of the Pharisees’ traditions, rules, and regulations. The Pharisees expected a cataclysmic restoration of David’s kingdom by the Messiah, while the Sadducees were pro-Herod and favored cooperation with political powers and pursuit of earthly prosperity.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 436-7)
  • The attitude of the Sadducees toward Christ was summarized by one of their number, Caiaphas, the current high priest (A.D. 18-36). To rouse the Sanhedrin to take action against Jesus, he said to the council: “Ye know nothing at all [You have no sense], Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not” (Jn 11:49-50).  Expediency was his law of life.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 425)
  • The Sadducees’ identity were so tied up in the temple that they as a group disappear from history forever at the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.
  • This (Levirate marriage law) was a significant law for the Sadducees, who believed that the only sense of life after death a person could experience was through his offspring. So, to die with no children was to be dead and gone forever.  Essentially, the only comfort in death was to be found in the legacy of the children one left behind.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 639)


On Levirate Marriage:

  • The term levirate is from levir, Latin for “husband’s brother.” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 330)
  • In the Law, Moses had written that when a man died without a son, his unmarried brother (or nearest male relative) was to marry the widow and produce children. The first son of this marriage was considered the heir of the dead man (Dt 25:5-6).  The main purpose of the instruction was to produce an heir and guarantee that the family would not lose their land.  The book of Ruth gives an example of this law in operation (Ruth 3:1-4:12; see also Gn 38:1-26).  This law, called “levirate” marriage, protected the widow (in that culture widows usually had no means to support themselves) and allowed the family line to continue.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 437-8)
  • Levirate marriage antedates Moses in the canon (Gn 38:8); i.e., Moses regulated the practice but did not initiate it. The OT gives us no case of it, though levirate law stands behind Ruth 1:11-13; 4:1-22.  Probably in Jesus’ day the law was little observed, the younger brother’s right to decline taking precedence over his obligation.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 461)
  • There are only two instances of a similar principle being invoked in the OT, in both of which the surviving relative proves reluctant (Gn 38:6-11; Ruth 4:5-10), though the existence of a large body of rabbinic regulation for levirate marriage (m. Yebamot) shows that it continued to be valid, at least in theory. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 838)
  • Disobedience to this command was frowned upon (Dt 25:7-10). Half-hearted obedience, so that a man was willing to marry the widow but not to raise offspring by her since such a child could not be counted as his own, was in the case of Onan punished with death (Gn 38:8-10).  For an interesting application of the law of levirate marriage see Ruth 4:1-8.  To what extent this law was still being obeyed during Christ’s sojourn on earth is not clear.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 805)


On Matthew 22:23-32

  • The Sadducees approach Jesus “that same day,” the day which in Matthew begins as 21:20 and probably continues until 26:5, a remarkable day indeed, the Tuesday of Passion Week. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 804)
  • After Jesus evaded the trap of the Pharisees and the Herodians, the Sadducees came to Him with a type of argument known as reductio ad absurdum (“reduction to the absurd), which involves taking an opponent’s position to its logical conclusion in order to show absurdity. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 638)
  • The plot may have been borrowed from the fictitious but well-known folk-tale reflected in Tob. 3:8. (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 75)
  • (v. 29) NIV “error” = Grk planao (Strongs # 4106) Def. “to make to wander”, “to lead astray”, “to go astray”, “to go off course”. In the NT, the Grk word planao occurs also in Mt 18:12-13; 24:4, 5, 11, 24; Mk 12:24, 27; 13:5-6; Lk 21:8; Jn 7:12, 47; 1 Cor 6:9. 15:33; Gal 6:7; 2 Tm 3:13; Ti 3:3; Heb 3:10; 5:2; 11:38; Jam 1:16; 5:19; 1 Pt 2:25; 2 Pt 2:15; 1 Jn 1:8; 2:26; 3:7; Rv 2:20; 12:9; 13:14; 18:23; 19:20; 20:3, 8, 10). In most of those references planao is being translated “deceived”.(Gerhard Kittel ed; NDNT: Vol VI, pgs. 229-253)
  • (v. 29) Planaō, from which are mistaken is translated, means to go astray, wander off, or deceive. In its form here it means to lead oneself off course or to stray from the truth.  It often carried the idea of being cut loose from reality.  Like the false teachers condemned by Jude, the Sadducees were “wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 13).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 332)
  • (v. 32) Or think about this–we studied Matthew 17 a few chapters ago, and Jesus could have said, “You should have seen the transfiguration. Do you remember Moses (he died 1,480 years ago) and Elijah (he went away in that whirlwind about 900 years ago)?  Well, Peter, James and John just saw and heard them.  Those two prophets aren’t dead!”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 649)
  • Every aspect of Jesus’ short defense is significant. It is significant that our Lord selected a verse from the Torah because he recognized that the Torah alone was the authority used by his opposition.  Furthermore, it is significant that of all the verses he could have selected from the Torah, he cited Ex 3:6.  Instead of building his case on a pile of proof-texts, through this one verse Jesus reminded the Sadducees, in the simplest terms, that at the heart of the covenant is the promise of a real and living and lasting relationship between YHWH and his people.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 649)
  • Seven major options have been put forward for understanding Jesus’ hermeneutic: (1) Jesus is simply contrasting the present tense with what otherwise would have been the expected past tense (“I was the God . . .,” not “I am the God . . .”); (2) the Sadducees’ objection involved cases of sterility, so Jesus is pointing out how God overcame sterility among the patriarchs and matriarchs and thus how he can bring life from death; (3) God’s covenant promises to the patriarchs were not entirely fulfilled in this life, demonstrating that their complete fulfillment must be in a life to come; (4) it is absurd for the immortal to define himself in terms of the mortal, therefore the patriarchs are not dead; (5) the text assumes that the three patriarchs are now dead, but because of God’s covenant with them, their resurrection is assured; (6) the consonants of the Hebrew word for “Yahweh” should be repointed to create the verb “to be,” showing that God makes Abraham to exist; (7) Jesus has adopted an argument somewhat parallel to Philo’s in which the patriarchs stood for imperishable virtues (Davies and Allison 1988-97; 3.231-32). (G. K. Beale and D.  A. Carson, Commentary on the NT Use of the OT, 79)


The question to be answered is . . . What is Matthew’s purpose in revealing how Jesus harshly tells the Sadducees they have deceived themselves?


Answer:  The Sadducees were deceiving themselves and thus robbing themselves of the true, abundant life because they were foolishly and pridefully holding onto erroneous doctrines thinking they were protecting their religious, economic, and political life.


The ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead is filled with ideas and stories about life after death.  In the tomb of the great pharaoh Cheops, who died some 5,000 years ago, archaeologists discovered a solar boat intended for him to use in sailing through the heavens during the next life.  Ancient Greeks often placed a coin in the mouth of a corpse to pay his fare across the mystic river of death into the land of immortal life.  Some American Indians buried a pony and bow and arrows with a dead warrior in order that he could ride and hunt in the happy hunting grounds.  Norsemen buried a dead hero’s horse with him so he could ride proudly in the next life.  Eskimos of Greenland who died in childhood were customarily buried with a dog to help guide them through the cold wasteland of death.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 326)


The Sadducees had succeeded only in putting their own ignorance on display for everyone in the Temple to see and hear.  “You are dead wrong,” Jesus said, in effect, “and have no idea what you are talking about.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 331-2)


Jesus clearly stated that these Sadducees were wrong about the resurrection for two reasons: (1) They didn’t know the Scriptures (if they did, they would believe in the resurrection because it is taught in Scripture), and (2) they didn’t know the power of God (if they did, they would believe in the resurrection because God’s power makes it possible).  Ignorance on these two counts was inexcusable for these religious leaders.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 438-9)


The Word for the Day is . . . Deceived


“You’re giving me a headache, Dr. Thurman,” my truth-seeking patient said, rubbing her temples.  “If truth is that hard to grasp, why does anybody attempt to know it?”

That’s a very good question.

We must seek truth and live by what is true because what we see as truth is what primarily determines our path through life.  Psychiatrist Scott Peck states this nicely:

For truth is reality.  That which is false is unreal.  The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world.  The less clearly we see the reality of the world–the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions, and illusions–the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions.  Our view of reality is like a map…If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there.  If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost. (Dr. Chris Thurman; The Lies We Believe, 167)


What can we learn from the challenge by the Sadducees?:

I-  Ignorance of the Truth of God’s Word deceives us. (Mt 22:29a; see also: Ps 119; Mk 12:24; Lk 20:36-39; Jn 8:32-36; 17:17; 2 Tm 3:15-17; Heb 4:12-13; ch 11)


God’s relationship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was based on an eternal covenant that He made with them.  The covenant God made with Abraham was not a covenant that died with the death of Abraham; neither did it die when Isaac and Jacob passed away.  The relationship God had entered with the patriarchs was an eternal relationship that was not cancelled by death.  That idea has wonderful implications for us, for we are in a better covenant (Heb 7:22; 12:24).  The One who is the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18) will be the firstborn of many brethren (Rom 8:29).  Though we may go through the valley of the shadow of death, the resurrection of Christ is God’s guarantee that we will live for eternity.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 642)


Jesus’ answer was that anyone who reads Scripture must see that the question is irrelevant, for heaven is not going to be simply a continuation or an extension of this world.  There will be new and greater relationships which will far transcend the physical relationships of time.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 322-3)


Attempts have been made to rob Christ’s argument of its value.  It has been said, for example, that the expression, “the God of Abraham” simply means that while Abraham was on earth he worshiped Jehovah.  However, a study of the context in which Ex 3:6 and all similar passages (see Gn 24:12, 27, 48; 26:24; 28:13; 32:9; 46:1, 3, 4; 48:15, 16; 49:25; etc.) occur, quickly proves that the One who reveals himself as “the God of Abraham. . .” is the unchangeable, eternal covenant God who blesses, loves, encourages, protects, etc. his people, and whose favors do not suddenly stop when a person dies but go with that person beyond death (Ps 16:10, 11; 17:5; 73:23-26).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 807)


The Sadducees’ understanding of death as extinction, without any hope of resurrection, implies that God is a “God of the dead” (cf. v. 32).  Jesus reminded them that it would be foolish for God to undertake the task of protecting his people from calamity during their lives, but fail in delivering them from the supreme calamity of death.  What kind of protection is that?  If death has the final word, then God’s covenant has been breached or broken.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 649)


He does not say that the love between those who have been married on earth will vanish, but rather implies that it will be broadened so that no one is excluded.  Our problem is that we, like the Sadducees, have only this life’s experience by which to measure what is to come.  We do not know what it is like to be like angels in heaven.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 839)


For the first step in learning is the capacity to doubt, nor is there anything so inimical to learning as the presumption of one’s own erudition or excessive reliance upon one’s own wits:  the one takes away our interest in learning, while the other diminishes it, and in this way students unnecessarily deceive themselves.  The easiest person to deceive is one’s self, and there is no one our deceit damages more than ourselves.  (Richard M. Gamble, The Great Tradition, 323)


All those who are ignorant of the Scriptures are in error; they deceive themselves.  There was no excuse for the Sadducees’ not knowing the Scriptures.  They were not unable; they were unwilling to know them.  It was their unwillingness that the Lord rebuked.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 426)


These three patriarchs are singled out, and each is specifically related to God, suggesting His unique personal intimacy with each one.  Whether the genitive preposition of refers to God’s belonging to the patriarchs or to their belonging to God, both meanings are true.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 333-4)


The surprise to them (and perhaps to many of us) is the fact that marriage is a temporary institution.  Your marriage might be made in Heaven, but it’s not made for Heaven.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 647)


First, note what Jesus did not say here.  He did not say that in heaven we will become angels.  We are not angels now.  Therefore, we will not be angels at any time in the future.  Angels are a different order of creation, different beings.  However, Jesus said we will be like angels in one respect–we will not be married, just as angels are not married.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 640)


One of the reasons for marriage is the propagation of the species through the bearing of children, which will be completely unnecessary in heaven.  Also, another of the reasons for the institution of marriage is that it is not good for a man to be alone (Gn 2:18).  Human beings need intimate relationships in this world, but in heaven God will fulfill that role.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 640)


The Sadducees did not believe in angels either (Acts 23:8), so Jesus’ point was not to extend the argument into another realm.  Instead, he was showing that because there will be no levirate marriage in the resurrection or new marriage contracts, the Sadducees’ question was completely irrelevant.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 439)


At the burning bush (Ex 3:14, 15), the voice of God attested the fact of life after death.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 120)


They sound rather like what later became known as Deists.  Because they see everything in terms of this world, and do not reckon on any real divine dimension, of course they are not going to be able to understand about life after death.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 839)


In a very real sense, the Sadducees were the secularists of their day.  They believed that the only sphere in which human life exists is the here and now.  When a person dies, the soul perishes with the body.  So, their whole focus was on this world, with no view to the world to come.  It is no wonder they disliked Jesus, whose public teaching included manifold references to the final judgment, to heaven, and to hell.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 638)


He does not mean that the children of God will be, in all respects, like the angels, but only so far as they shall be free from every infirmity of the present life; thus affirming they will no longer be exposed to the wants of a frail and perishing life.  Luke expresses more clearly the nature of the resemblance, that they can no longer die, and therefore there will be no propagation of their species, as on earth.  Now he speaks of believers only, for no mention had been made of the wicked.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 51)


The fall of man involved the entirety of man; all aspects of his personality were corrupted by sin.  As a result, reason is not the judge of truth; only God can act as such a judge.  Moreover, sin has so affected mankind that even rational abilities are not neutral.  Christians seek to use their reason in dependence on God.  Non-Christians seek to be independent in their thinking; there is no neutral ground on which to deal with unbelief.  Human reason can be as much a hindrance as a help to faith in Christ.  As St. Augustine once said, “Believe that you may understand.”  To rest our faith on independent reason is to rebel against God.  Reason must rest on our faith commitment to Christ and our faith must rest on God alone. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 74)


Biblical authority must never depend on human verification for it is the unquestionable Word of God.

The problem with much of the popular tactics used by many defenders of the faith today may be summed up as a problem of authority.  The apologist must see clearly that the nonChristian is in need of forsaking his commitment to independence and should turn in faith to the authority of Christ.  If however, trust in Christ is founded on logical consistency, historical evidence, scientific arguments, etc., then Christ is yet to be received as the ultimate authority.  The various foundations are more authoritative than Christ himself. . . . if beliefs in Christian truth comes only after the claims of Christ are run through the verification machine of independent human judgment, then human judgment is still thought to be the ultimate authority. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 79-80)


II-  Blasphemous diminishing of God’s omnipotence deceives us.  (Mt 22:29b; see also: Ez 37:1-14; Mk 12:24; 1 Cor 2:9; 15:11-58; Eph 3:14-21; Phil 3:21; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 1 Jn 3:1-2) 


The argument is not linguistic:  “I am the God of Abraham” would be a perfectly intelligible way for God to identify himself as the God whom Abraham worshiped long ago.  The argument is based rather on the nature of God’s relationship with his human followers:  the covenant by which he binds himself to them is too strong to be terminated by their death.  To be associated with the living God is to be taken beyond the temporary life of earth into a relationship which lasts as long as God lasts.  Those with whom the living God identifies himself cannot be truly dead, and therefore they must be alive with him after their earthly life is finished.  It is an argument of faith rather than of strict logic, and Sadducean theology, with its distant God and human autonomy, would probably not find it convincing.  But for those who give more weight to “the power of God” (v. 29) it provides an assurance that life after death was not just an innovative theology of the intertestamental period, but finds its root in the essential nature of the living, covenant-making God himself.  “God of the dead” is not a title appropriate to the God revealed in the Pentateuch.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 840-1)


God is the eternal God of the covenant, a fact especially stressed wherever reference is made to the patriarchs (e.g., Gn 24:12, 27, 48; 26:24; 28:13; 32:9; 46:1, 3-4; 48:15-16; 49:25).  He always loves and blesses his people; therefore it is inconceivable that his blessings cease when his people die (cf. Ps 16:10-11; 17:15; 49:14-15; 73:23-26).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 462)


We must never limit God in our thinking, for His power is not limited in any way.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 641)


The Sadducees did not know the power of God.  If they had known, they would have understood that God was not at his wit’s end when he fashioned mortal life.  This earth is but the poor charcoal sketch:  hereafter God will reveal the glowing canvas.  The implication is that the power of God is far greater than our best longing, and that his greatness is one with his goodness.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 521)


The Sadducees asked Jesus what marriage would be like in heaven.  Jesus said it was more important to understand God’s power than know what heaven will be like.  In every generation and culture, ideas of eternal life tend to be based on images and experiences of present life.  Jesus answered that these faulty ideas are caused by ignorance of God’s Word.  We must not make up our own ideas about eternity and heaven by thinking of it and God in human terms.  We should concentrate more on our relationship with God than about what heaven will look like.  Eventually we will find out, and it will be far beyond our greatest expectations.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 436)


Here God deals with man as whole, not only with his soul or merely with his body.  On the contrary, when God blesses his child he enriches him with physical as well as spiritual benefits (Dt 28:1-14; Neh 9:21-25; Ps 104:14, 15; 107; 136; and many similar passages).  He loves him body and soul.  He is going to send his beloved Son in order to ransom him completely.  The body, accordingly, shares with the soul the honor of being “the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:19, 20).  The body is “for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (2 Cor 6:13).  God loves the entire person, and the declaration, “I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (note the triple occurrence of the word “God,” mentioned separately in connection with each of the three to stress personal relationship with each) certainly implies that their bodies will not be left to the worms but will one day be gloriously resurrected.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 807)


Now though we know that we are the children of God, yet as it doth not yet appear what we shall be, till, transformed into his glory, we shall see him as he is (1 Jn 3:2), we are not as yet actually reckoned to be his children.  And though we are renewed by the Spirit of God, yet as our life is still hidden (Col 3:3), the manifestation of it will truly and perfectly distinguish us from strangers.  In this sense our adoption is said by Paul to be delayed till the last day (Rom 8:23).  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 51)


III-  Life’s irreconcilable conflicts are a clear indication we are ignorant or deceived and not yet basking in ALL truth.  (Mt 22:29a; see also: Gn 17:7, 13, 19; Num 18:19; 2 Sm 23:5; 1 Chr 16:17; Ps 105:10; Prv 3:5-6; Isa 24:5; 55:3; 61:8; Jer 32:40; 50:5; Ez 16:60; 37:26; Jn 20:9; Rom 4:171 Cor 1:18-2:15; 8:1-3; 13:8-12; 15:35-55; Heb 11:13-19, 39-40; 1 Jn 3:1-2)


When Moses wrote these words, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been long dead.  But God was still their God, and He is the God of the living.  Therefore, Jesus makes clear that God was still in relationship with these patriarchs, and that these men would one day be resurrected as God had promised.  Yet the Sadducees’ secular and materialistic mind-set had blinded them to the truth of the resurrection and the truth of who Jesus is.   (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 294)


There will probably never lack unreasonable people who will intrude into things unseen and make imaginary difficulties their excuse for unbelief.  Supposed cases are one of the favorite strongholds in which an unbelieving mind loves to entrench itself.  Such a mind will often set up a shadow of its own imagining, and fight with it as if it were a truth; such a mind will often refuse to look at the overwhelming mass of plain evidence by which Christianity is supported, and will fasten on a single difficulty which it fancies is unanswerable.  The talk and arguments of people of this sort should never shake our faith for a moment.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 208-9)


Human salvation demands the divine disclosure of truths that surpass reason.  —Theologian Thomas Aquinas  (Dr. Chris Thurman; The Lies We Believe, 166)


Self-deception is “corrupted consciousness,” says Lewis Smedes.  Whether fear, passion, weariness, or even faith prompts it, self-deception, like a skillful computer fraud, doubles back to cover its own trail.  “First we deceive ourselves, and then we convince ourselves that we are not deceiving ourselves.”   (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 107)


It is quite difficult to break the power of religious self-deception, for the very nature of faith is to give no room for doubt.  Once a person is deceived, he does not recognize that he is deceived, because he has been deceived!  For all that we think we know, we must know this as well:  we can be wrong.  If we refuse to accept this truth, how will we ever be corrected from our errors?  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 30)


The Sadducees erroneously assumed that if people were resurrected, they would assume physical bodies capable of procreation.  They did not understand that God could both raise the dead and make new lives for his people, lives that would be different than what they had known on earth.  The Sadducees had brought God down to their level.  Because they could not conceive of a resurrection life, they decided that God couldn’t raise the dead.  And since they thought that Moses hadn’t written about it, they considered the case “closed.”  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 438)


Now, what was one of the most common titles for God in the Pentateuch?  “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob.”  God cannot be the God of the dead and of decaying corpses.  The living God must be the God of the living.  The Sadducean case was shattered.  Jesus had done what the wisest Rabbis had never been able to do.  Out of Scripture itself, he had proved the Sadducees to be wrong and had shown them that there is a life after death which must not be thought of in earthly terms.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 323)


Even if marriage is no longer an institution in heaven, love will be.  I envision it this way.  In this fallen world, the closest relationship I have with any other human being is the one I have with my wife.  I do not think that the love I have for her or the love she has for me or the closeness that we enjoy will be removed in heaven.  Rather, it will get better.  I believe that my relationship with Vesta will be superior in heaven to what it is on earth.  But the glory is that we will have that kind of communion and that kind of relationship with all of the saints of God.  The only bride in heaven will be the church, the bride of Christ.  All the people who are a part of the bride of Christ in their glorification will enjoy the communion of saints to such a degree of felicity and blessedness that marriage by contrast will be a very poor substitute or imitation.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 640-1)


Now experience plainly shows that they were chargeable with the grossest stupidity, since it is manifest that the reward which is laid up for the good is left incomplete till another life, and likewise that the punishment of the wicked is not wholly inflicted in this world.

In short, it is impossible to conceive anything more absurd than this dream, that men formed after the image of God are extinguished by death like the beasts.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 49)


Jesus was not teaching that people will not recognize their spouses in heaven.  Jesus was not dissolving the eternal aspect of marriage, doing away with sexual differences, or teaching that we will be asexual beings after death.  Nor was he teaching that the angels are asexual.  We cannot learn very much about sex and marriage in heaven from this one statement by Jesus.  His point was simply that we must not think of heaven as an extension of life as we now know it.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 439)


In Jesus’ mind the Sadducees were denying Scripture (v. 29) because they approached its clear teaching on the subject (Isa 26:19; Dn 12:2; cf. Job 19:25-27), assuming that if God raises the dead he must bring them back to an existence just like this one.  Jesus’ response was acute.  The Sadducees, Jesus insists, betray their ignorance of the Scriptures, which do teach resurrection, and of the power of God, who is capable of raising the dead to an existence quite unlike this present one.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 461)


Note the Lord’s threefold condemnation of theological liberalism and rationalism.  He condemned (1) self-deception (Rom 1:21-22); (2) ignorance of the spiritual content of the Scriptures (Acts 13:27); and (3) unwillingness to accept the fact of God’s powerful sovereign intervention in the natural order of events.  The problem of rationalists is not that they cannot believe, but that they will not believe.  If they would admit that God is omnipotent and omniscient, all difficulties would vanish.  The Sadducees, like all their kind, were blind to the Word of God and the power of God.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 426)


Because the Sadducees accepted only the Pentateuch as God’s inspired Word, Jesus answered them from the book of Exodus (3:6).  God would not have said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” if he had thought of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as dead (he would have said, “I was their God”).  Thus, from God’s perspective, they are alive.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 440)


The living God is the God of all the living.  We are included among those who are truly alive because in Holy Baptism “he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pt 1:3).  That is why those who are born twice die only once, while those who are born only once die twice.  As the baptized children of God, we confess, “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  (G. J. and M. J. Albrecht, The People’s Bible: Matthew, 316-7)


The line of argument is reduction ad absurdum:  God would not order a practice that would lead to such an absurd situation.  Therefore the idea of resurrection is invalid.  The Sadducee’s question is no question at all; it is an attempt to discredit Jesus as a logical teacher.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 209)


God’s creative power will so transform the nature of existence that the normal conditions of life will no longer be in effect (cf. Paul’s “We will all be changed,” 1 Cor 15:51ff.).  Immortality will make procreation unnecessary.  Any question about whose wife will a woman be who has married more than once fails to understand the true nature of eternal life.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 209)


This is a curious question from a group that didn’t believe in the resurrection and the afterlife, a question clearly intended to trap Jesus.  Jesus responds by telling them that earthly marriages are not eternal (v. 30).  This may sound like bad news if you’re in a good marriage, but we can be assured that the relationship we have with our Christian spouses now will be even better in the next life.  In the resurrection we who know Christ will be joyful and fulfilled in the eternal presence of God.  In that day there will be no sorrow or sadness (Rv 21:5), and all our relationships will be perfect.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 293)


We know little of the life to come in heaven.  Perhaps our clearest ideas of it are drawn from considering what it will not be, rather than what it will be.  It is a state in which we will no longer be hungry or thirsty; sickness, pain and disease will not be known; wasting old age and death will have no place.  Marriages, births and a constant succession of inhabitants will no more be needed:  those who are once admitted into heaven will dwell there forevermore.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 210)


Believers do not become angels, because angels were created by God for a special purpose.  Angels do not marry or propagate; neither will glorified human beings.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 439)


Those in heaven will no longer be governed by physical laws but will be “like the angels”; that is, believers will share the immortal and exalted nature of angels, living above physical needs.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 439)


With this declaration and his earlier promotion of celibacy for those who are called to such a life, Jesus rejects the “divinizing of marriage.”  At the same time, while the state of relationships will be altered in the resurrection, this does not imply that prior earthly relationships are eliminated completely, nor does it imply that resurrected relationships are without special attachment.  The wife (or husband, for that matter) of multiple spouses in this life will have an equally altered capacity and understanding of love, which will enable her (or him) to love all without measure or jealousy or possessiveness.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 724)


Some have concluded from Jesus’ answer that in heaven there will be no memory of earlier existence and its relationship, but this is a gratuitous assumption.  The greatness of the changes at the Resurrection (cf. 1 Cor 15:44; Phil 3:21; 1 Jn 3:1-2) will doubtless make the wife of even seven brothers (vv. 24-27) capable of loving all and the object of the love of all–as a good mother today loves all her children and is loved by them.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 461-2)


Rationalism always leads to absurd positions.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 427)


The saved will be like the angels in this one respect; yes, like the angels whose very existence the Sadducees also deny (Acts 23:8), and this in spite of the fact that the Pentateuch, accepted by them, teaches their existence (Gn 19:1, 15; 28:12; 32:1)!  Does not verse 30, taken in its entirety, and in connection with what is known of the beliefs of the Sadducees, prove that these men know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 806)


Jesus’ acclamation as the Son of David during His triumphal entry also no doubt had them worried, because any claim to kingship would evoke immediate and harsh repression by the Romans, who would not tolerate the smallest hint of rebellion.  Any action against the Jews in general would necessarily threaten the Sadducees’ own privileged position and power under the Romans, who expected those leaders to keep Jewish nationalism and resistance in check.  Only a few days earlier, “the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, ‘What are we doing?  For this man is performing many signs.  If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.’  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 329)


After Pentecost, the Sadducees continued their strong opposition against Jesus by persecuting His followers.  As the apostles “were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:1-2).  According to Josephus, it was the Sadducees who murdered James, the brother of the Lord.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 330)


If you are baffled by events, circumstances or by reality itself, then you must confess ignorance in at least one part of your knowledge.   If you ever ask, “How did that happen?” or “How could that take place?” you need to come to confess your ignorance and your need for God’s wisdom and understanding.  Or at least come to see your need to trust in the Lord.  — Pastor Keith


Worship Point:  You cannot worship God and yourself.   You will either serve one or the other (Mt 6:24).  What is deceiving you and thus keeping you from giving yourself wholly to Jesus?


Nothing is easier than self-deceit.  For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.  —Demosthenes  (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 286)


This, then, is the essence of sin; man’s rebellion against recognizing his dependence on God in everything and the assumption of his ability to be independent of God.   (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 29)


The essential issue is between the authority of autonomous man and of the Sovereign God.  To allow God into the universe, provided that we open the door, is to say that the universe is our universe, and that our categories are decisive in human thinking.  We can accept the Scriptures as inerrant and infallible on our terms, as satisfactory to our reason, but we have only established ourselves as god and judge thereby and have given more assent to ourselves than to God.  But, if God be God, then the universe and man are His creation, understandable only in terms of Himself, and no meaning can be established except in terms of God’s given meaning.  To accept miracles or Scripture on any other ground is in effect to deny their essential meaning and to give them a pagan import.

Thus, the consistent Christian position must be this:  no God, no knowledge.  Since the universe is a created universe, no true knowledge of it is possible except in terms of thinking God’s thoughts after Him.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 17)


Here too the crowds express amazement at Jesus’ profundity in responding to the Sadducees, but this is not the same as faith.  The crowds will soon be swayed by the religious leaders to ask for Jesus’ death (27:20-25).  Astonishment is not faith; faith comes from conviction, not emotion.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 724)


In like fashion, the potentiality of a philosophy cannot exceed its presupposition.  What a philosophy assumes to begin with, ultimately determines all that it can be or can know.  Greek philosophy assumed, or had as its “given,” the physical world and its structure as ultimate.  As a result, it could not account for those things which were not included in its “given” or presupposition.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 2)


But a philosophy which begins with matter, structure or change as its ultimate and starting point can never result in a delineation of the ways of the self-contained Creator of nature.  Christian thought has consistently gone astray, throughout most of its history, by seeking to answer the world in terms of the world’s own categories.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 3)


To deny God as ultimate means to affirm man as ultimate.  To make nature the container of God is finally to make man God’s container.  Whenever Christian philosophy has had any other starting point than the self-contained God, it has led despite its protestations, to a man-contained God.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 4)


When Descatres began by asking, “How do we know?” and answered by declaring his point of origin to be ‘cogito ergo sum.’  I think, therefore I am, he had already presupposed what he knew.  The orthodox Christian, who begins with the doctrine of the Triune God as taken from the infallible Scriptures, is assumed to be prejudiced and ignorant, in that he has already assumed all that supposedly needs proof.  But the modern man who begins with his own autonomous nature and establishes his reason as the unprejudiced and valid interpreter of God and the world has in fact assumed far more.  If God did indeed create heaven and earth and all things therein, then nothing can have any meaning or interpretation apart from God.  Inasmuch as all things came into being by virtue of His sovereign decree, all things have meaning only in terms of His eternal counsel.  The only true interpretation of any fact, including man, is in terms therefore of God the Creator and providential Controller.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 9)


Gospel Application:  Jesus Christ understood both the Scriptures and the power of God.   That is why Jesus had the life-giving, radically powerful life that He did.  He invites us to be “In Christ” so we can be like Him.  (Jn 1:1-14; Rom 8:29-30; 1 Jn 3:1-2)


“You do not know” implies on the lips of Jesus, “I do know.”  His appeal was at the core an appeal to his own experience and knowledge of God.  He gave no comfort to those who hoped for a (mercenary) revival of national glories.  Heaven is a different and more wonderful place than earth.  The resurrection is not a “natural immortality”:  it is the gift of God and the deed of his power.  This whole issue is so important that two following expositions are offered.  Meanwhile we may note that death, according to Jesus, is God’s chance–at the last limit of human power:  to man death is tragic finality, but to God it is an opening for his resurrection grace.  The resurrection is no poor replica of earth:  it is angels and heaven.   (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 521)


Spiritual Challenge:  What are you allowing Satan to use against you to deceive yourself?


Tragically, Jesus had not convinced them (Sadducees), because they would not be convinced.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 334)


Politically, the Sadducees were pro-Roman, because it was only by Roman permission that they exercised not only their religious but their considerable political control over the people.  Because they were valuable in helping keep the people under control, the Sadducees were delegated limited authority by Rome, even to the extent of having their own police force in the form of a Temple guard.  Because of their complete dependence on Rome for their power, they were understandably strongly supportive of their pagan rulers.  And for that they were also hated by the people.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 328)


The fact that He was popular with the people, believed in resurrection, and was opposed by the Pharisees was of little consequence to them as long as what He said and did had no direct, practical effect on them or their activities.  Jesus’ cleansing the Temple, however, immediately got their attention, because the merchants and moneychangers He drove out of the court of the Gentiles were the financial mainstay of Sadducee power.  Jesus had now invaded their territory with a vengeance, disrupting their operation at the most lucrative time of the year, when all the Passover offerings and sacrifices were made.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 329)


To be a Christian is to have left behind the time of straying . . .and to have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer . . . of souls . . . (Gerhard Kittel ed; NDNT: Vol VI, 243)


So What?:  You want to live life in all of its abundance?  Stop deceiving yourself and messing it up by living in ignorance of the Scriptures and the power of God(Jn 10:10; Heb 12:1-2)




We human beings have the amazing ability to deceive ourselves.  We rationalize, make up excuses, and say we will change tomorrow.  God brought circumstances into the life of the prodigal son that woke him up.  Suddenly he realized what had happened to him.  That awakening was the most critical event in his life.  (R. C. Sproul; Before the Face of God: Book Two, 364)


When we rely on self, and when we trust in ourselves instead of God, then our natural default is going to be to look to ourselves to find our salvation and our righteousness.  And if we think we can achieve or merit God’s favor and blessing, then what do we need grace, forgiveness or mercy for?

Jesus spoke about this same subject when he told the parable of the two men who had come to pray.

     To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:  ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

”    “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

”     I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”   (Lk 18:9-14).

The first thing that we need to come to terms with, in order for us to be saved, in order to us to grow in Christ, in order for us to mature, in order for us to be effective in the Kingdom of God; is for us to understand that WE ARE THE PROBLEM!  And if we are the problem, we are not going to be the solution.  We must forget about “doing” or “being” something on our own to solve our own problems and to save us from our sins. It is our sinful nature, our deceitfully wicked hearts that trick us into believing we are OK and that everything will be OK if we simply do our best.  That is where we go wrong.  And it is only when we come to repent of our sinful self, that we will ever have a chance of becoming all that God desires for us to be.  Likewise, the church must come to a point of corporate repenting of her sinful nature if she is ever going to grow and mature in Christ.  Therefore, we desperately are in need of God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy if we are to be saved and mature as Christians.  — Pastor Keith




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