HE IS THE GOD OF THE LIVING
Key Verse: 20:38
"He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him
all are alive."
1. What was the purpose of those who came to question Jesus? Who sent
them? How did they flatter Jesus? What did they ask him? Why was
this question a trap?
2. What was Jesus' answer and how did it silence them? What do citizens
owe "Caesar"? What do we owe God? (Dt 6:5; Mk 16:15)
3. How are the Sadducees described and what was the intent of their
question? What was the sad story they invented and what was their
question? What does this reveal about their thought world and their
philosophy of life? (27-33; 1Jn 2:15-17)
4. What truth did Jesus teach about the difference between this world
and heaven? What does it mean to be like angels? How does the
passage from Exodus (37; Ex 3) reveal that there is no death in the
5. What question did Jesus ask them to open their spiritual eyes? Who
is Jesus? What warning does he give those who hope only in this
There are three questions in this passage. The first question to Jesus
was raised by the Jewish leaders about whether the Jews should pay
taxes to Caesar or not (20-26). The second question to Jesus was from
the Sadducees about "whose wife will she be" (27-40). The third
question was made by Jesus, about how a descendant of David, the
Christ, could be David's Lord and Christ. Today's passage is as it
could be. But through the religious leaders' questions and Jesus'
answers we learn several precious spiritual truths.
First, our obligation to Caesar and to God (20-26).
The religious leaders determined to trap Jesus so as to hand him
over to the power and au- thority of the Roman governor (20). They sent
spies, who pretended to be honest. They asked him, "Teacher, we know
that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show
partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it
right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
The Jews did not complain about the burden of this tax, for it was
less than $5. Nevertheless, taxation was a boiling question among the
Jews, and it had been the cause of incessant riot and rebellion against
the Roman imperialists. At that time, the Jews claimed that they had no
king but God, and that paying taxes to Caesar was treachery to God. So
their question to Jesus could be a trap to Jesus. If Jesus said that
this tax should not be paid, the Pharisees would report at once to
Pilate so that Jesus would be arrested. If Jesus said that this tax be
paid, the frantic Jews would stone him to death.
What could Jesus do in this situation? Look at verses 23-25a. "He
saw through their duplicity and said to them, 'Show me a denarius.
Whose portrait and inscription are on it?' 'Caesar's,' they replied."
He said to them in verse 25b, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's,
and to God what is God's." It was indeed their tricky question. But
when Jesus answered them on the basis of the truth of God, they were
unable to find a basis to trap Jesus in what he had said there in
public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent (26).
When Jesus said, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God
what is God's," he was speaking to them about man's basic obligation as
a citizen of a nation, as well as a citizen of the kingdom of God. If a
man lives in a country and enjoys all its privileges, he must fulfill
four basic obligations: the obligation of paying taxes, the obligation
of national defense, the obligation of excellent elementary education,
and the obligation of labor. In a time of war, all eligible men in
their twenties are obliged to be drafted and go to the front lines of
battle and fight against the enemy at the cost of their lives.
Likewise, we, the children of God, have basic obligations to God.
First, we must love God. Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us, "Love the Lord your
God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
strength." When we love God, we can love our parents. If we honor God,
we can honor brothers and sisters. Second, we must stand clearly on the
side of God. This world is a battleground between God and Satan. So
we, the children of God, must stand on the side of God. We children of
God should be the soldiers of Jesus Christ. We must equip ourselves
with the truth of God so that we can defend the gospel of Jesus against
the schemes of the devil (Eph 6:11). Third, we must obey Jesus' world
mission command (Mk 16:15). It is to obey the ultimate purpose of God
for world salvation.
Second, "Whose wife will she be?" (27-33)
After the Pharisees' spies left Jesus speechlessly, the Sadducees
came to Jesus with a question. At that time, they held the political
power of the Jews. Ironically, they controlled the high priesthood,
though they did not believe in the resurrection. They were extremely
nervous that someone might disturb their wealth and established
position in the world. What was worse, they were political
collaborators with Rome. In order to rule the religious world, they
adopted the five books of Moses' Law, but set no stock in the prophetic
books, which urged them to repent. They believed in free will.
Their question to Jesus was based on the Law of Moses. For example,
when Er, the first son of Judah, died with no heir, Onan his younger
brother married Tamar, who had been his older brother's wife. When Onan
also died, Tamar had to wait for Shelah, the youngest son of Judah, to
grow up and become her husband (Ge 38:1-11). Their question was as
follows, "'Teacher,' they said, 'Moses wrote for us that if a man's
brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the
widow and have children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers.
The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then
the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no
children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection
whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?'" (28-33)
The Sadducees were the object of aspiration to all the people of the
time. But when we analyze their question, they were tragic in their
thought world and were under the power of death.
In this story we see the wealthy Sadducees' tragic thought world. In
verses 29-32 they talked about the death of seven brothers. All of them
died young and childless. This is also a story of a most sorrowful
woman, who had married these seven brothers, and then she died too,
unable to fulfill her duty of bearing an heir to the family. The
Sadducees were only thinking about tragic death--the first brother's
death, the second brother's death, and all the seven brothers' deaths,
and the death of a woman who had watched seven husbands' deaths. Their
thought world was tragedy because they had no resurrection faith.
The Sadducees' integrity was nothing but greed. The gist of their
question was, "At the resurrection, whose wife will she be, since the
seven were married to her?"; in other words, "Who among the seven
brothers will grab her as his wife?" The picture of this scene is
exactly a demons' carnival. The Sadducees had grabbed money; they had
scrambled for political power; they had obtained the places of honor in
society. Even though they had worldly wealth and honor, they were under
the power of sin and death because they had no resurrection faith.
They were similar to Nicodemus. He had a golden chariot, a sash around
his chest as a Sanhedrin member. But he came to Jesus to beg heavenly
sunlight. Because they did not have resurrection faith, their agony of
life was, "whose wife will she be?" among the seven brothers.
The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, so they had no
spiritual eyes to see the kingdom of God. So the Sadducees saw only the
things of the world. They also heard only the things of the world. When
they rejected the resurrection of Jesus, they were confined in the
things of the world. As we see, the Sadducees had no fear of God in
their hearts. The Sadducees had no absolutes of God in their hearts. As
a result, they were relativistic. A relativistic mentality made them
scatterbrains and the servants of Satan, eager to kill Jesus. Leo
Tolstoy wrote so many good humanitarian novels. Among them,
"Resurrection" seems to be the best. But he was too proud to believe in
the resurrection of Jesus. So, at the moment of his death, he rose from
his bed, came out on the street near a railroad station, and cried out,
"Tragedies, tragedies!" These days, we see so many Sadducee-like
Americans. They say that they are Christians but they don't believe
Jesus' resurrection. When they do not believe the resurrection of
Jesus, they become ungodly people. Ungodly people seek physical
pleasure such as several days of vacation with their hard-earned money.
They not only indulge in the sin of sexual immorality, they also
condone their children to enjoy the sin of sexual immorality. Some
people strongly encourage their children to be "normal" persons. It
means they must follow the trend of the world. But the sin of sexual
immorality brings forth a high divorce rate and the sin of sexual
immorality discourages young students not to study diligently but to
enjoy the sin of sexual immorality. As a result, they become ungodly
The Sadducees' tragic question reminds us of 1 John 2:15-17. It
says, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves
the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the
world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the
boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from
the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does
the will of God lives forever."
The Sadducees were tragic because they were spiritually blind, and
they could not digest the tragic things of the world with spiritual
meaning. On the other hand, those who have spiritual eyes are not
tragic, even though they live in the midst of the tragic world. Milton
was blinded when he was young. In the midst of his suffering, he
thought of God. Then God opened his spiritual eyes. As a result, he
could write "Paradise Lost," one of the most excellent classics. Paul,
who suffered for the sake of Christ more than one can say, said in
Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of
those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Those who have opened their spiritual eyes can see the deep meaning of
human sufferings and agonies and can grow in the image of God, like
Joseph in the Old Testament.
Third, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (34-40)
Jesus knew that the Sadducees had no spiritual eyes to see beyond
terrestrial phenomena. With great compassion Jesus taught them a Bible
Look at verse 34. "Jesus replied, 'The people of this age marry and
are given in marriage.'" Jesus knew what people of the world are mainly
eager to do. To mankind, birth, marriage and death are the three main
events of life. Men do their best to grow up to get married, and then
die. Most women devote a great deal of time to solving their marriage
problems. One lady spent 13 years of her life trying to solve her
marriage problem and became a mental patient. Since Adam's Fall, women
were cursed only to desire a husband day and night. The people of the
world seem to be doing many great things. But they are doing the same
things as the people in the time of Noah. They are eating and drinking;
they marry and are given in marriage; they are cheating and being
cheated. Those who are enslaved by money-making and marriage problem
cannot see the glorious Risen Christ.
Look at verse 35. "But those who are considered worthy of taking
part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither
marry nor be given in marriage..." Through Jesus' death and
resurrection God gave us a new birth into a living hope in the kingdom
of God (1Pe 1:3,4). Through Jesus' death and resurrection God gave us
the grace of forgiveness, eternal life, and the kingdom of God as our
inheritance. In the kingdom of God, there will be no more marriage
problems or broken family problems. There will be no procreation and no
death. Those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and
in the resurrection from the dead will be like angels. They will look
most beautiful. They will look like Jesus (1Co 15:49). They are happy
all the time. Here, Jesus is explaining the spiritual world through
resurrection faith. Read verses 35,36.
The Sadducees, however, insisted that they could not believe the
resurrection of the body because there was no precedent for it, still
less any proof of it in the books of the Law. But Jesus gave them an
answer from the book of Exodus. Look at verses 37,38. "But in the
account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls
the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of
Jacob.' He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him
all are alive." This phrase, "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and
the God of Jacob," is an important Bible truth and is repeated over and
over again in the Bible. It is repeated to emphasize that our God is
the living God. It is repeated to emphasize that in the living God we
are all alive. Thank God that we are all alive in the living God
through his resurrection.
"The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob" means
that man is immortal. "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God
of Jacob" means that God is not only the Father of Abraham, but also
the Father of Isaac and of Jacob. It also means that before the living
God, the three of them are all alive, not dead, even though they died a
long time ago. Contrary to what the Sadducees thought, that death is
the end of everything, we are born to be the immortal children of God
through his Son's resurrection. "The God of Abraham and the God of
Isaac and the God of Jacob" means that our God is the God of the
living. Horizontally, God is the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac
and the God of Jacob. Vertically, God is the God of Abraham and the God
of David and the God of Jesus Christ. God is not the God of the dead,
but of the living. There is no death to those who believe in his Son's
resurrection. But the Sadducees could not believe, because they loved
money more than they loved God.
Fourth, "Whose Son is the Christ?" (41-47)
Look at verse 41. "Then Jesus said to them, 'How is it that they say
the Christ is the Son of David?'" If the Messiah was supposed to be a
descendant of David, how could David refer to one of his own offspring
as his Lord and Christ? Jesus' question was logically paradoxical, but
spiritual, and it is based on the promise of God. They knew the Bible,
so they understood what Jesus was saying. But in their stubbornness
they could not believe. Jesus rebuked them for their spiritual
blindness. Look at verses 45-47. "While all the people were listening,
Jesus said to his disciples, 'Beware of the teachers of the law. They
like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the
marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and
the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses and for a
show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.'"
They do so many anointed comedies because they do not believe in the
resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We admit that the American Dream
itself is good. We see that the people of the former U.S.S.R. and many
other nations are eager to pursue the American Dream. But if we only
pursue the American Dream, which is similar to Sadducism, we will be as
tragic as the Sadducees.
When we believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will be clothed
in the likeness of Jesus Christ, all beautiful and handsome. May God
richly bless you to believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ.