When You Don't Know the Scriptures

The Gospel of Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Being wrong. Don’t you hate being wrong?
Have you ever been in an argument where you, at one point, are absolutely convinced that you are correct, only then, to realize, you’ve been viewing it all wrong? I have.
It’s especially hard being wrong when you’ve been so convinced that you’re right.
It’s amazing how absolutely convinced one can be about something, and be wrong. I was recently reading about Jim Jones, the leader who convinced all his 918 followers to drink kool-aid laced with cyanide as an act of revolutionary suicide. They were highly confident, and severely wrong.
In 1997, when the Hale-Bopp comet appeared in our skies for several months, Marshall Applewhite and Betty Nettles convinced their followers that a spacecraft was flying behind the comet, and that if they killed themselves, they would be given extraterrestrial bodies that could live forever. 39 people took their lives, confident that the aliens would take them in.
Confidence does not always equal correctness. This morning we are going to see another group - another group of people who seem exude confidence, and who desire to examine and question Jesus from the exalted position of their ultimate certainty.
Jesus has to deal with a group of people who are spectacularly wrong, but who are convinced that they’re right. They’re wrong about one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith: the resurrection. Let’s read the text: Mark 12:18-27.
Here is the third time a group of people are trying to stump Jesus. We saw the chief priest, scribes, and elders try to discredit Jesus with a religious question: “Where do you get your authority to do these things?” We saw the Pharisees and Herodians try to discredit Jesus with a political question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?” And now we see the Sadducees try to discredit Jesus with a theological question: about the resurrection.
The Sadducees. Who are they? They are most famously recognized for being a segment of Jews who did not believe in the future resurrection. All Jews - except these Sadducees, who were small in number but great in influence - believed that every single person who died would, in the end, be raised from the dead. They believed this because this is what a study of the Old Testament Scriptures revealed.
Job 19:26And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”
Ps. 16:9-10Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”
Ps 49:14-15Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me.”
Ps. 73:24You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.”
Daniel 12:2And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
Now it was clear that the Old Testament taught a coming bodily resurrection for all people - some to everlasting glory, of some to everlasting contempt. Even popular Jewish writings in the Talmud demonstrate that nearly all the Jews believed in the resurrection. It would come at the end of the age. It would include Israel’s restoration and kingdom.
The Sadducees, however, didn’t. They were a smaller group, they were in the minority, but they were powerful. They essentially did not recognize the authority of any writings except the Torah - the first five books of the Bible - and since they did not see resurrection there, they rejected it.
They actually believed this life was all there was, that there were no such things as spirits, and that the soul died with the body. In this sense, they’re very modern; pretty materialistic. After the destruction of the temple of Jeruslaem in 70 AD, the Sadducees ceased to exist, so we have limited information about them.
So they too are not fans of Jesus, and they want to take their shot at him in the temple. Remember, this is the last week of Jesus’ life, Sunday is the Triumphal entry, Monday is the clearing of the temple, and Tuesday is essentially teaching and dealing with all kinds of cunning attacks by his enemies and critics.
Tuesday spans from 11:20 all the way to the end of 13. It’s a busy day of teaching.And now it’s a theological question about the resurrection meant to make Jesus’ belief in the end time resurrection seem absurd.
What’s unique about the Sadducees is that they’re not trying to discredit Jesus before the crowds like the others were. Everyone in the temple believed - along with Jesus - that there would be a future bodily resurrection. The Sadducees seem to be using Jesus to make a point, for a publicity stunt; they want Jesus to be their walking billboard for their theological belief that there is no resurrection. They hope that their question to Jesus will demonstrate the absurdity of the idea of the resurrection, and so increase their number of adherents.
Look at their question: 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.”
What in the world is going on here? What they are trying to do, to make a point. The goal of these kinds of questions is to discredit a view by attempting to demonstrate that actually believing it will result in absurdity.
In Deuteronomy 25, there are directions given about brothers. If one is married without children, and he dies, the brother should marry his brother’s wife and have children so as to pass on the family name. This is a civil law given to Israel, and it comes up from time to time, although we have no record of an event like this occurring.
Now the Sadducees imagine a scenario where there is a wife who marries into a family of seven brothers. The one she marries dies, so she marries the next brother, he dies, then the next brother, he dies. If I’m the seventh brother, I’m going, “No thank you!”
It sounds ridiculous. It feels like a question a group of giggling college bros would ask. It’s obviously not sincere. It’s obviously absurd. It seems to be coming with an air of superiority, attempting to point out the absurdity of the doctrine of the resurrection.
“Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?” Remember, they don’t believe in the resurrection, they’re simply trying to prove the insanity of the situation. Is she married to all of them?
We’re going to walk through Jesus' answer in three parts: 1) Why they’re wrong about the resurrection, 2) What exactly they’ve gotten wrong, and 3) Scriptural proof they’re wrong.
First, why they’re wrong about the resurrection. Verse 24: “Is this not the reason you are wrong.” Let’s pause there. The Sadducees were highly confident, severely wrong.
It is possible for us to be highly confident, and severely wrong. The measure of your sincerity in believing something does not mean that what you’re believing is true. Whether we join a cult, whether we believe a lie, whether we adopt false doctrines - it matters not how sincere you are holding those beliefs, sincerity doesn’t make it true. We often hear people say, “I believe with all my heart..” and then they go spouting off something that is completely out of touch with reality.
These highly educated, intellectual elites; these Sadducees were wrong. Church: scholars can be wrong. Scientists can be wrong. Experts can be wrong. Authors can be wrong. Pastors and preachers can be wrong. These Sadducees were wrong.
Why are we so susceptible to error? If we had a surefire way to protect ourselves from being completely wrong, wouldn’t we avail ourselves of it?
Jesus tells them why they got it wrong, and we can learn from this. They are wrong about the resurrection - wrong about this critical doctrine - because they don’t know the Scriptures and they don’t know the power of God.
They don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God. These two things are related. They didn’t know the power of God because they didn’t know the Scriptures. The first thing the Scriptures reveal, literally, Genesis 1:1, is that God is the all-powerful creator of all things. They could not conceive of an end-time resurrection because they missed the most fundamental Scriptural reality about God: that he is infinite in his power. Scripture makes that abundantly clear!
God is a God of truth. God never lies. The Scriptures say he cannot lie. The Scriptures are God’s revelation. In Scripture God reveals himself, his works, his creation, his redemption. Because God is true, and because Scripture is from God, then all of Scripture is true.
If the Sadducees would be protected from their damnable error, they needed to have a better knowledge of the Scripture.
It is incredible how much error exists in our lives because of our lack of knowledge of Scripture. We think wrongly about God, we think wrongly about ourselves, we think wrongly about the nature of sin and temptation, we think wrongly about angels, about demons, about heaven, about hell, about church, about relationships, about marriage, about parenting, about neighbors, about love, about humility, about wealth, about time, about leisure, about hobbies, about rest, about suffering, about pain, about pleasure.
And we find ourselves in challenging situations: in our families, with our children, with our coworkers, with our clients, with our in-laws, with our friends. We face complexities, and we are ignorant of Scripture principles that would guide us through them.
We are deeply influenced by the errors that our parents passed down to us, the errors of our present secular age, the errors of our present non-theological age. We hold tightly to quotes we’ve read on the internet, reposting them as if gospel truth; we cling to cliches passed down to us from those we’ve admired.
But then, in addition to that, in general we’re not very motivated to correct our errors. Kenneth Berding wrote, “Christians used to be known as ‘people of one book...they memorized it, meditated on it, talked about it and taught it to others...We don’t do that anymore, and in a very real sense we’re starving ourselves to death.”
Mark Noll, who wrote The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, started his book with this sentence: “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” R.C. Sproul’s statement might be the most jarring: “we live in what may be the most anti-intellectual period in the history of Western civilization.”
The Sadducees were in grave error, and were confident about it, and it was because they were ignorant of the Scriptures and the power of God.
The Christian who reads, thinks, studies, meditates, analyzes, assesses, and assimilates knowledge into life, applying it to how he lives - that is a rarity.
How much error would be avoided by a firm and thorough grasp of the Scriptures?
Jesus’ response here underlines the urgency of gaining Scriptural knowledge. We cannot worship a God we do not know. And we cannot know God unless we study his word.
I wonder how much you value the Scriptures? William Tyndale was burnt at the stake defending it. John Wycliffe devoted his life to translating it. John Calvin shaped the modern world by simply preaching it. John Newton, author of Pilgrim’s Progress apparently poured over it with such attention his writings were dripping with it. George Muller read it close to 200 times in his lifetime. I have never met a godly man or a godly woman who does not cherish the Scriptures, read the Scriptures, meditate on the Scriptures, study the Scriptures. They do not exist.
Are you committed to learning the Bible? Do you have any margin to ensure you can study your Bible? Do you have any sort of plan to study your Bible? 2021 is coming to a close, I wonder how many of you should make a fresh commitment to study the Bible in 2022. Get a reading plan, a few friends to hold you accountable, and dive in!
And Fathers, if you want to bless your children, read Scripture with them. Read it to them around the dinner table. Quote to them before they go to sleep. Familiarize them with the Old and New Testaments. Use a catechism to teach them theology.
Mothers, sing great hymns of the faith to your children. Recite verses to them. Pray biblical prayers with them. Let’s not raise biblically illiterate children - who are misled because of their ignorance of Scripture!
The Sadducees failed to grasp the truth of the resurrection because they did not know the Scriptures or the power of God. I wonder if you are failing to grasp critical truths because you do not know the Scriptures?
Second, what they’ve gotten wrong. “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”
Their question was based on the assumption that in the resurrection, human relationships would continue just as they had on earth. Marriages that were broken by death would be reunited in glory. This is why they thought their question carried so much weight. But what they got wrong is that in the resurrection there is no longer marriage.
Notice that marriage is temporary. No marriage is eternally permanent. No marriage lasts through death. In this vapor of a life, God gives to some marriage, but not all. To some he gives children, but not all. Those who are given marriage must understand that their marriage is temporary preparation for eternity.
In Genesis, two reasons for marriage come to the center. First, to solve the problem of loneliness. And second, to allow human procreation.
In the resurrection, there will be no problem of loneliness. Matthew 13:43 says that “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” We will be glorious, we will be sinless, we will perfected. Whatever unity we know in this world is only a faint shadow of the unity and closeness we all will feel with one another in the next. Your closest, most intimate relationship here, your spouse, your best friend - is pointing to the more glorious reality of the perfect relationships we’ll experience after the resurrection. Marriage is God’s temporary solution to loneliness, and in the resurrection marriage will be no longer necessary.
God also instituted marriage for procreation, but in the resurrection, there will no longer be any procreation either. No one will have any more children; the full number of the redeemed will be complete, and we will all live undying forever - like angels.
As Christians, the vast majority of our lives will be lived not married. You could be married for 70 years in this life, but for 70 billion years into eternity you will not be married. This is hard for us to grasp.
It does not mean that we will love our spouse less, since we’re not married. No, we will love them more perfectly, and our relationship will be closer and more intimate in heaven. But so will our love and fellowship with all our brothers and sisters.
What this means, of course, is enjoy marriage, but don’t make an idol out of marriage. Did you know that one of the most common struggles with singles and marrieds is that they make an idol out of marriage?
The singles sometimes are tempted to think that marriage will meet all their needs, satisfy all their longings, and relieve all their aches. Now it’s okay to desire marriage - marriage is a good gift. But marriage is not ultimate, and it will never satisfy.
The couples who are married are tempted to think the same thing: their spouse should meet all their needs, satisfy all their longings, and relieve all their aches. And guess what? They get disappointed, they feel duped, and they can’t believe how broken their spouse is. They need to stop trying to extract from their marriage they can only get from Christ.
Marriage is a good gift, but Jesus reminds us that it’s not ultimate. The most important marriage is our marriage to Christ - the church is Christ’s bride, and our relationship with him is our source of joy, satisfaction, and relief, and rest. There is no marriage in heaven.
Third, proof that they’re wrong about the resurrection. Verse 26: “And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses,
Now, remember: the Sadducees rejected all of Scripture outside of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. So look how Jesus is going to make a case for the resurrection. He’s going to go straight to the Pentateuch to show them what they missed.
“in the passage about the bush,” Jesus is talking about the burning bush, Exodus 3, when God is calling Moses to go to Egypt and lead Israel out of bondage.
“how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?
Okay, Jesus wants to make a case for the reality of a future resurrection. More specifically, he wants to make a case from the Pentateuch. What verse does he choose? Exodus 3:6I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
What does that have to do with the resurrection? Look at what Jesus says next:
“He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
Here’s Jesus’ logic. When God revealed himself to Moses, he said, “I am the God of Abrham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Not I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The present tense indicates a current reality.
In other words, when God said that to Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead for hundreds of years, but God was speaking in the present tense that he was their God. From this, Jesus extrapolates that they were actually still alive in Moses time, though not in the body, and that is further evidence that one day their bodies would be raised up on the last day!
It would be unthinkable that God would call himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, if these were eternally dead men for whom his promises mean nothing. If that were true, he would be the “God of the dead.” But he is not God of the dead.
There will be a future resurrection of the dead. For all.
Jesus knew there would be a resurrection for 3 reasons:
First, because he knew the Old Testament taught it.
Second, because he knew this because he knew that he would rise from the dead. Remember, Jesus has been foretelling not only his death, but his resurrection. 10:34And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” He knows he will die, he knows he will rise from the dead.
Jesus knows he will die because he knows what he was sent by the Father to do. Mark 10:45 he says, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He would give his life as a ransom, as a payment, as an atonement for sin, as a propitiation, as a wrath-bearing sacrifice. Jesus came to be the sin-bearer. All the sins of God’s elect would be imputed to him. He would suffer the divine wrath those sins deserved.
Third, he knew there would be a future resurrection because he is the one who will call the dead to life. Have you ever marvelled at this? At the command of Jesus, Lazarus rose from the dead. But 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”
What power! What authority! All hail the power of King Jesus, who will call forth all the dead of all the ages through all human history. Even in death you cannot escape him. All will rise to give an account before him.
In death our spirits are separated from our bodies. But sometime in the future, we will be united to our bodies in a glorious resurrection. All nations and peoples will be gathered before the throne of Jesus Christ, all will recognize his Lordship, and those who trusted him will be brought into his everlasting kingdom, and those who rejected him will be cast out into utter darkness.
How do you know this is true? Look at what Paul said about Jesus’ resurrection: 1 Corinthians 15:20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Friends, reality is more like fantasy than you realize. We are not materialists, like the Sadducees. God exists. Spirits are real. Angels and demons abound. There is an afterlife. There is a resurrection. There is a heaven and hell. Don’t let this modern world fool you. Live like it’s all true: know the Scriptures and the power of God.
But we will live like materialists, like practical atheists, or like Sadducees, if we do not know the Scripture or the power of God.
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