On that busy Tuesday, Jesus came under assault first by the chief Priest, then by the Pharisees, and now the third wave of attacks, this time from the Sadducees and then the teachers of the law. First, the Sadducees:
The Sadducees don’t believe in a resurrection, so their trap is designed to get Jesus to either side with them, or wander into some kind of legal mistake, and frankly they ask a better question than the Pharisees did earlier. The flaw in their logic is this: If a man has several wives during his lifetime, and then rises from the grave at the last day and has multiple wives in heaven, that is one thing, but for a woman to have had multiple husbands, as can happen without any impropriety, as they demonstrate, the thought of a woman with multiple husbands is just too shocking… so it must prove that there is no resurrection.
As a note, the Pharisees were the ones who believed in a resurrection, and their rivals were the Sadducees. Actually, the Pharisees were about the only ones in authority who believed in a general resurrection in the Jewish community at the time; it isn’t one of the promises of the Law as we have seen many times in previous posts. Could it be that the Sadducees secretly hoped to use Jesus’ popularity against the Pharisees?
In verses 24-25, Jesus disarms their presupposition about marriage in heaven… their straw man, really… and then in the remaining verses, blows their no resurrection views out of the water by simply observing that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a God of the living and not a God of the dead; sorry boys.
The Sadducees retreat and the teachers of the law advance in attack:
Parallel Texts: Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 20:40
The teacher of the law who asked Jesus the next question had noticed that Jesus gave the Sadducees a good answer to their question, so he asked Jesus which of the commandments is most important, and it seems to me from Mark’s account that the man was actually asking an honest question; not to trick or trap Jesus but to find out what He would say. Of course we all know the answer that Jesus gave in verses 29-31
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
What happens next is really interesting. The teacher speaks to Jesus as though Jesus were a bright pupil and compliments Him on His answer, and goes on to teach Jesus in verses 32-33
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Jesus told the man that he had answered wisely and that he wasn’t far from the Kingdom of God, for the man had told Jesus that the two greatest commandments were more important than all of the sacrifices.
The tide begins to turn in this battle, and Jesus is poised to take the offensive when we get together next time and He has one more observation for His disciples that will just about put the day into context.