Sunday 06 November 2022

Bible Book:

'Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living.' (v. 38)

Luke 20:27-38 Sunday 6 November 2022

Psalm 17:1-9


Today’s passage records an encounter in the days immediately after Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-40). Jesus is teaching in the great Temple every day, holding his listeners 'spellbound', much to the fury of his enemies (Luke 19:47-48).

On this occasion, Jesus is approached by people called ‘Sadducees’. Although this is the only recorded encounter with them in the gospel, Luke refers to them in Acts (4:1, 5:17 and 23:6-8) and we know more about them from sources outside the Bible. They were a powerful, and conservative ‘establishment’ in Jerusalem. They had managed to retain their wealth and power in Judean society, despite changes of regime, and were arguably the natural opponents of Jesus’ radical teaching.

Crucially, the Sadducees were also marked by a firm opposition to belief in any sort of meaningful afterlife. While many Jews at the time of Jesus seemed to believe in some form of resurrection (as found in later texts such as Daniel 12:2), others adhered to the traditional belief found in scriptures like Ezekiel (31:15-18) and Psalms (49:13-15) that the dead were separated from the living forever in 'Sheol', a gloomy and lifeless realm.

Without any sort of resurrection, the only meaningful way that people could ‘live on’, therefore, was through their children, who would bear their name. Childlessness ended this hope and was regarded as a curse. To help prevent this, the tradition of Levirate marriage had developed (Deuteronomy 25:5; Genesis 38:8), whereby a childless widow would marry her husband’s brother to ensure the continuation of his line. (It also ensured that wealth and property remained within the family.)

By Jesus’ time, monogamy had become the norm and it is unlikely that Levirate marriage was still practised to any great extent. We can, therefore, understand the Sadducees’ query in at least two possible ways. Is it a hostile question, designed to trick or humiliate Jesus (as the question about paying taxes in vs 20-26 almost certainly was)? Or it is a genuine enquiry, typical of the debates about theology and practice that we know took place in Jewish society at this time?

To Ponder:

  • How do you read this approach to Jesus from the Sadducees? Is it is hostile one, or a genuine desire for knowledge?
  • What vision of the afterlife does Jesus give in his response to the Sadducees? How does it challenge some of the ways that Christians and others imagine life after death?
  • What role and voice do women have in this passage? How does that make you feel?


God of the living, as we face the mysteries of death, help us to hold onto your radical vision of life, and life in all its fullness, in this world and the next. Amen.

Next Page Monday 07 November 2022