Matt Blackwell speaks on Mark 12:18-27
Series: The Gospel of Mark
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4 (ESV)
When you begin with the end in mind, it gives you the strength and power to make it through the life we’re living right now. My hope is we will begin to lean forward, trusting that God is faithful and powerful enough to make good on the promises He’s made. There is coming a day when this Revelation passage will happen, when victory is assured and this all comes to fruition. We will stand in the very presence of God. That is our end.
But how do we live in the mean time? How do we not despair and give up when things are bad? How are we to hope for the future?
Sadducees Question Jesus
18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.” 24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
Mark 12:18-27 (ESV)
The Sadducees come with a hypothetical question for Jesus. An Old Testament law said if a man were to die without any kids, the next single brother in line would marry his wife and so on. In light of this, their question was about which brother would get her as a wife in the resurrection.
It’s interesting to recognize it’s the Sadducees asking the question. They were a civic, political religious group of elite leaders who had a couple of beliefs that played into their question. They were known for two things: not believing in the resurrection and only accepting the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible as holy books. They believed this world was all there was. There was no afterlife.
As I was reading, I began to judge these people harshly for their question of Jesus. Then I asked myself how often I act like a Sadducee. How often do I look at the Bible and think about what parts I want to believe and don’t believe. How often do I wonder if there really is something to come and wonder if this world is all there is? Do I really live more like a Sadducee than anything else?
We often believe like Christians, that there is heaven, but we live like Sadducees, as if this is all there is.
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? Mark 12:24 (ESV)
I love that Jesus is very upfront with them. He says they’re wrong and explains why; they don’t understand the scriptures and don’t trust or know the power of God. He then proved the resurrection to them from their accepted portions of scriptures.
26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? Mark 12:26 (ESV)
Many of the Sadducees had memorized the first five books of the Bible. For Jesus to ask them if they’ve read it was a slap in the face. Jesus said, “Remember when God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham?’” Jesus explained that He was talking to Moses at that point in the book of Exodus. Abraham had been dead for five hundred years, but still He spoke in the present tense. God is the God of these dead, because there is a resurrection that has happened. So He wasn’t the God of them before and no longer is, but He is still their God, the God of the living. Jesus confronts the error of these Sadducees head on.
Why would Jesus do this, question their belief in the Scriptures and their understanding of the power of God?
Jesus was saying to them, “If you don’t believe there is a future, that God has spoken of a future, and that He is powerful enough to bring that future about, of course you don’t believe in an afterlife.”
If you don’t believe in an afterlife, then you will live like this world is all there is.
Most of us are pretty proud of the city we live in, we brag about it. We love the food here. We’ve got the lakes, the hills, kayaking, paddle boarding. We love Austin. So we take this idea that we know, which is our life here in this great city, and we begin to compare that to our understanding of the age to come. Eighty-five percent of Americans believe there is an afterlife, but we get a little hazy on what it’s going to look like. We think heaven is clean, neat, well lit with lots of clouds. There are probably pearly, golden gates where you get a standard issue white robe upon arriving. It’s not that compelling. It’s hard to long for something we don’t really know. We want what we know and already love.
We believe like Christians, but we live like Sadducees. Part of the reason is we don’t trust God’s word or His power to accomplish His word.
Here’s where the error comes. If we think this world is all there is, we find ourselves in one of two errors.
We just want to get as much pleasure and comfort as we possibly can. Carpe Diem, seize the day. This is all we get, so let’s have fun. We’ll find ourselves using the motto, “If it feels good, do it.” Or, “It just makes me happy, so I’ll do it.” There are no consequences, so let’s get all we can now.
We think if this is all there is, there’s no meaning, no value, no point. These are the philosophers and poets who despair and are weighed down by the hopelessness of all there is. There’s no assurance of a future.
We find ourselves battling with this. If this world really is all there is, we either get pleasure or drown in hopelessness.
But Jesus answers it in a unique and different way.
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” Mark 12:24-27 (ESV)
Jesus answered their question of no future in two very specific ways; theologically and relationally.
He makes the profound statement, “for when they rise from the dead.” He is assuming that the resurrection is a reality for the people. There will be a resurrection for humanity. He states that very strongly. Not if, but when.
This is a New Testament teaching. We see that all will rise. Some will rise to eternal life, some to judgment. For those who do not believe in Christ and haven’t come up underneath the grace of Christ, they will have a day of despair. But for those of us who have come up under the banner of the cross, the perspective of death changes. It’s not a day of despair, but rather a day to rejoice in. This idea of a resurrection is discussed over and over again through out the New Testament.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, John 11:25 (ESV)
21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 (ESV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 1 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)
There is coming a day when our bodies will be raised from the dead. Jesus was challenging these Sadducees by stating the claim that there will be a day, when sin is no longer our identity and death will no longer be our destiny, but we will be victorious in Christ.
Theologically He is pointing them to that day.
Is there marriage in heaven?
Our initial thought of not being able to be married in heaven doesn’t sound like heaven to us. But we need to understand a deeper reality of what is going on in eternity. Jesus was saying, “Yes, there will be marriage in heaven, but it won’t be marriage as we know it now.”
Ephesians chapter five discusses how the purpose of marriage is to be a signpost to a greater reality. Our marriages are to make us holy and to point to the loving, kind relationship that humanity has with Jesus. It’s a picture of a greater reality of a love that God has with us. That’s the purpose of marriage; to point us to something greater.
That’s why we don’t need marriage in heaven, because we’ll have the real thing.
What does that mean for human relationships? Will we know one another? Will we recognize one another? Will we even care if others are there, because we’ll be so enamored with God?
I think we’ll know and have enriched relationships with one another. Before the fall in Genesis chapter three, God created Adam. Then God said, “man is not good to be alone, let me create a helper suitable.” He created Eve, before sin ever entered the scene. Human relationships were a part of God’s initial design.
Living with Eternity in Mind
If we live with the picture of now in mind, we’ll find ourselves not hoping for the future. Living with eternity in mind will be the antidote to both hedonism and hopelessness.
If we trifle around with some of the pleasures we can find here on earth, they pale in comparison to that which is eternally ours in Christ in heaven. We settle for the sandbox when there’s the beach available. These things are only pictures of what is to come. So Hedonism is no longer the way we live, because there is a hope for a better joy and pleasure that will last forever, that will be true and right and good.
If we trust there is a better future to come, we won’t be weighed down by the despair thinking there is no hope or point. There is a point, we’re going there, guided by Christ. So we long, wait and hope for it. But knowing that life happens. We know this life is not all there is. There is a hope of a future. So hopelessness is not the way we exist. We live anxiously for the future to come.
“You should seek happiness where you can actually find it, in the person of Jesus and the place of heaven.” – Randy Alcorn
Charles Spurgeon also talked about this idea, “To come to God is to come home from exile. To come to land out of the raging storm. To come to rest after long labor. To come to the goal of our desire and the summit of our wishes.”
There is coming a day where you will walk into the presence of God. The One who has loved you before the foundations of the world will welcome you in. That is our reality. That is our hope and longing. The Scripture says, “the One who is mighty to save will sing over you with loud songs of rejoicing.”
My hope for us is that we don’t waste our lives with trivial pleasures, assuming that this is all there is. Nor do we waste our lives with hopelessness, but rather trust in Christ’s words, “there is a day coming.” We trust that God’s power will accomplish His word.
So we lean forward, longing for that day when God will be the God of the living. We will enter into rest and God will take us home. Until then, let us live in light of this reality.