Gospel of Matthew

Matthew - Lesson 22C

Chapter 22:23-33

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  • Welcome to our virtual observance of Easter, the day we remember our Lord raised from the dead

    • The Bible says Jesus was raised before dawn on the first day of the week, which is Sunday on the Jewish calendar just as it is for us today

      • For that reason Christians everywhere celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on the first Sunday after the Jewish Passover 

      • This year Passover occurred this past Thursday, which was the same day Passover fell upon during the week Jesus died

      • So as it turns out, this week is following the same pattern as the original Passion week

      • We will continue studying more about the events of that week as we progress through Matthew

    • But today is Easter, and typically I take a break from the verse-by-verse study I’m currently moving through on this day to acknowledge the day

      • I usually pause to preach a message on the significance of the resurrection of Jesus

      • Because Easter is all about resurrection, about Jesus’ dead body returning to life and walking out of the tomb

    • But in the providence of God, we happen to find ourselves today in a passage in Matthew that fits the topic of Easter perfectly

      • So instead of venturing away from our regular study, I’m going to  continue forward with our study exactly as God planned

      • Because the topic the Lord prepared for us in Chapter 22 of Matthew today is…resurrection

  • Let’s return to the scene in Matthew 22, on the Tuesday before Jesus dies, Jesus is teaching in the temple and being challenged by various religious leaders

    • They are intent on discrediting Him and they’ve been coming at Jesus in waves, one group after another trying to trap Him 

      • Last week we studied a trap set by the Pharisees and Herodians who brought a question about paying the poll tax to Caesar

      • They tried to lead Jesus to say that either Jews shouldn’t pay the tax, which would have upset the Romans

      • Or else Jesus might say that Jews should pay the tribute to Caesar, in which case the people would have been upset at Him 

    • But Jesus sidesteps the trap by explaining that the tax could be paid without risk of idolatry because the denarius was worthless to Jews

      • Since the Roman coin had no value to Pharisees and only had value to Caesar, Jesus said give back to Caesar what is his

      • Giving something away that you don’t value can’t be considered a tribute because you aren’t making a sacrifice 

    • But then Jesus added that these men should also give God what is His, meaning they had been missing the forest for the trees 

      • They were worried about giving Caesar too much honor, meanwhile they weren’t honoring God at all

      • When their Messiah came to them, they conspired to kill Him

  • So Jesus won Round 2 in this battle, and now it’s time for Round 3, and the topic for Round 3 on this Easter morning is…resurrection 

Matt. 22:23  On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him,
Matt. 22:25 “Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother;
Matt. 22:26 so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh.
Matt. 22:27 “Last of all, the woman died.
Matt. 22:28 “In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.”
  • The Sadducees have returned to take a second shot at Jesus and Matthew introduces them with a parenthetical comment

    • In v.23 Matthew explains that the Sadducees were those who said there was no resurrection 

      • The Sadducees taught that the notion of a future bodily resurrection was nothing more than a fairy tale

      • And to understand what they said specifically, we first need to understand what resurrection is and what it is not

    • Resurrection is NOT the spirit of a person rising up from their dead body into Heaven like a ghost in a cartoon

      • Resurrection is a dead body returning to life, as when Jesus' body came back to life after 3 days

      • Or in the case of Lazarus in John 11 when Jesus raised his dead body back to life after 3 days in the tomb

    • But in the case of our resurrection, we won’t receive back our original bodies

      • When we die our physical bodies go into the grave and eventually return to dust never to be seen again

      • From that moment, we exist in Heaven in the form of spirit only waiting for our resurrection day

      • Then in a day to come the Bible says the Lord will give to all saints a new eternal body for our life in the Kingdom 

      • That is resurrection, when we will live again on this earth in a new glorified body

  • Now the Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection, which means they didn’t believe that God gives saints new physical bodies 

    • Instead, Sadducees taught that the saints remain eternally, in spirit form only, in Heaven with the God

      • And for that reason, they also didn’t believe in a literal physical  Kingdom on earth 

      • For Sadducees, this life on earth was the only one we receive, and afterward we live in an etherial state with God

    • This view was very different than the Pharisees, who taught a literal resurrection and a literal physical Kingdom to come

      • So this question had become a major debate between the two parties in Israel

      • Sadducees maintained there was no resurrection in our future, while Pharisees taught that there was a literal resurrection 

    • So to prove their point and embarrass Jesus, the Sadducees contrived this ridiculous scenario to make the idea of resurrection seem foolish 

      • Their scenario was built upon a provision in the Law of Moses (Deut 25:5) for a childless widow to carry on the family name 

      • The law said if a woman’s husband died before she produced a male heir, then one of his unmarried brothers must marry her

      • And the first son born to that couple would be considered the son of the dead man, thus continuing his family name

      • And Sadducees viewed this requirement in the Law as proof that the concept of resurrection was unworkable in practice 

  • In their example, they imagine a woman who is widowed and then enters into a Levirate marriage with the dead man’s brother

    • But then her second husband dies also, so she marries another brother and this continues a total of six times

      • Each time the next brother in the family steps up to marry her and later dies, resulting in seven marriages altogether

      • Eventually she dies and all are reunited in physical bodies after the resurrection

    • So then the Sadducees ask Jesus, which of those brothers would be her true husband after the resurrection?

      • They were mocking the idea that people returned to physical bodies and picked up life again where they left off

      • Under such circumstances, we would inevitably encounter serious problems, they assumed, especially in the area of marriage

    • They expected to see resurrected ex-spouses together in the Kingdom trying to figure out who was married to whom…it would be chaos!

      • For the Sadducees, such a scenario seemed to make the reality of a literal, physical resurrection impossible

      • And they assumed this scenario would make Jesus look foolish as He tried to untangle the conflicts

      • They then could turn to the crowds and say Jesus was teaching  wrong and silly ideas about God and Heaven 

      • And as a bonus, they could embarrass their rivals, the Pharisees, who also believed in resurrection 

  • Now before we look at Jesus’ response, we might be tempted to ask what’s the big deal here? This sounds like an academic debate 

    • It’s like theologians sitting around asking how many angels fit on the head of a pin, or can God make a rock so large that He can’t lift it?

      • But in reality this was a critically important question

      • And in fact there is no single issue in all the New Testament more important than the topic of resurrection

      • Your entire faith and salvation depends on this question, depends on the literal truth of resurrection 

      • Or as the Bible often calls it, our “hope”

    • You have no doubt read in the New Testament about the Christian hope?

      • Paul uses the word hope 44 times in his letters, including telling us that in hope we’ve been saved and hope doesn’t disappoint

      • Consider these other statements by Paul:

Gal. 5:5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.
Col. 1:27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
1Th. 4:13  But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
  • Did you know in all these cases and many more, when Paul refers to our “hope” he’s speaking specifically of our hope of resurrection

    • The hope of the Christian faith is our expectation that we will rise from the dead into a new physical body and live on earth again

    • In Galatians 5:5 Paul calls resurrection the hope of righteousness, because it is the outcome for those who are righteous by faith  

    • In Colossians 1:27 Paul says that resurrection is our hope of glory, because at our resurrection we receive a new glorified body

    • And in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 Paul says we ought not grieve for dead believers as those who have no expectation of resurrection 

  • Your faith is in Jesus Christ, and that faith leads to your hope for resurrection

    • We are not yet in our eternal, glorified bodies, which is why it’s called a hope, but we anticipate that day

      • And our expectation for resurrection is not a senseless hope

      • On the contrary, our hope in a future resurrection is sensible, rational and well-founded

    • Why so? Because of Jesus’ own resurrection on the first Easter

      • When you place your faith in Jesus Christ, you testify that you believe His claims, and what did He claim?

John 5:21 “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.
John 6:40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
  • In these two quotes, Jesus claims to have the power to raise people from the dead, meaning to give people new living bodies

    • Jesus promised that those who place their faith in Him would be resurrected on the last day

    • So in a time to come Jesus says He will perform a mass resurrection for all His followers just prior to the Kingdom

  • Now those are bold claims, and words are cheap, so how do we know Jesus truly has the power He claimed?

    • First, during His earthly ministry Jesus performed several resurrections including Lazarus, which I mentioned earlier

    • But His ultimate proof came when He foretold His own resurrection

Luke 9:22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”
  • Jesus said He would die and later be resurrected, but if Jesus dies, who will resurrect Him? 

John 10:17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.
John 10:18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
  • Jesus promised He would resurrect Himself, which He referred to as taking His life up again

    • Now that’s an audacious claim! Many people over the centuries have claimed to have the power to raise others from the dead

      • And a few have truly possessed that power, include the apostles who were granted power to raise the dead at times

      • But no one to my knowledge has ever promised to raise himself from the dead and then actually performed it…except Jesus

      • Jesus promised to have this power, and He settled all doubts when He walked out of the grave before dawn on Sunday 

    • Now why is this so important? Because the hope of the Christian faith is knowing we live again in a body on this earth, that death is not the end

      • Death is merely a transition, and when that “day” of resurrection comes, we will have put death behind us forever

      • You will one day live inside a new body, one similar to the one you have now except this new one will never die again

      • And it will never get sick, never suffer, never know disappointment or heartache…and most of all it has no sin

    • In that day when you receive your new body and again walk on this earth, you will enjoy all the things you once knew

      • You will hold someone’s hand again, you will see your face in the mirror and this time it will never age again

      • You will go for a walk, swim in the ocean, eat a meal, sing a song, and you will never worry that things will be taken from you again

      • That’s our hope…it’s a hope in resurrection, a hope of escaping the fleeting life we know now to embrace an eternal life with Jesus

  • And that hope is based in something real and rational…it’s not a hope in a fairy tale

    • And we know this because Jesus raised Himself from the dead to give us confidence

      • His resurrection is perhaps the best documented event of ancient history

      • Jesus’ crucifixion was witnessed by hundreds so there was no doubt He died

      • And His resurrection appearances were witnessed by hundreds more over weeks of time 

      • The four Gospels are accounts written by men who lived at that time and witnessed the risen Lord and testified to what they saw

    • And if Jesus had not proven His claims…if He had died and stayed dead, then there would be no reason to place faith in Him

      • If someone says they can give us the gift of eternal life but they can’t even give that gift to themselves, don’t believe it 

      • Why place your hope for resurrection in someone who can’t even resurrect himself?

    • Or as Paul says:

1Cor. 15:19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
1Cor. 15:20  But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
  • Paul says if Christianity was merely a hope that Christ would give us our best life now, then Paul says we are a sad bunch

  • We should be pitied more than anyone else, because we denied ourselves the pleasures of this world with nothing to show for it

  • No, Paul says that’s not our situation, because Christ was raised from the dead, and the fact of His resurrection means our hope is justified

    • He does have the power to give us a new living body after this one is gone, and because we trust Him to do it, we will have it

    • That’s why Jesus’ resurrection is so important, and it’s why this question posed by the Sadducees is so important to us 

    • If the Sadducees were right and resurrection was just a joke, our faith is a cruel joke and our hope is a farce 

  • So how does Jesus deal with this question? He shows how these religious leaders had again misunderstood Scripture

Matt. 22:29  But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.
Matt. 22:30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
Matt. 22:31 “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God:
Matt. 22:32 ‘I AM 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.”
Matt. 22:33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.
  • Jesus states plainly that these men were mistaken, because they assumed too much about life in the Kingdom and assumed too little about the power of God

    • First, they misunderstood how resurrection worked because they assumed too much about what life in the Kingdom will be like

      • The Sadducees assumed that after we are resurrected we will just pick up in the Kingdom life right where we left off in this life

      • They thought our present world was the pattern for how life in the Kingdom will go, and in many ways it is a pattern

      • We still have our identity and enjoy daily life in similar ways, the Bible says

    • But many details of life will be different in the resurrected life in the Kingdom, not the least of which will be the complete absence of sin in us

      • By the way, we’re studying those differences now in Revelation and I encourage every believer to learn about their future 

      • That’s why God told us so much about it in His word, so that we would anticipate it and give Him thanks for it

    • But Jesus says one of the key difference between life now and life in the Kingdom will be the elimination of the institution of marriage

      • In the Kingdom, we will no longer have husband-wife relationships nor desire such attachments

      • We will be like angels Jesus says, and we know God created angels to live and serve Him without other attachments

      • Angels are all devoted to the Lord, and they are completely satisfied in that relationship as we will be too

    • So the Sadducees’ trick question was just nonsense, because they had imagined a problem that simply won’t exist in the Kingdom

      • That woman and all those men in their scenario will simply be brothers and sister in Christ after the resurrection

      • Their marriage relationships will be a thing of the past and so their scenario was not proof that resurrection was foolish

      • It was proof that the Sadducees were foolish 

  • Isn’t it amazing how wrong assumptions about God and the Bible can lead us to ridiculous conclusions?

    • These men assumed marriage existed in the Kingdom, and on that basis alone they dismissed with one of the most important truths in the Bible

      • That’s a good example of the danger of interpreting the Bible based on our assumptions and failing to take it for what it says

      • The scriptures said that resurrection was coming, but they said it couldn’t be true because they couldn’t imagine how it worked

    • But here’s a simple rule of Bible study: when what the Bible tells you is something you don’t understand, accept it without understanding it

      • It’s ok to know that something is true even if you don’t know why or how it’s true

      • Don’t dismiss it and certainly don’t change it just so you can feel better that you understand it…let God be God

  • Which leads us to the second mistake the Sadducees made: they didn’t understand the power of God

    • God has the power to do literally anything you can imagine and a whole lot of things you can’t even imagine

      • So when the Bible says that there is a Kingdom coming for us with a real and amazing life, you can believe it

      • And in the meantime, we will have questions about how and why and when and what will it be like, etc. 

      • One day those questions will be answered, and many of those answers will amaze us as we see the power of God on display

    • But never underestimate what God can do, because when you underestimate God you will eventually misunderstand the Bible

      • Like the Sadducees you will assume that the rules we live under are rules that limit God too

      • But remember, God wrote the laws of the Universe, and He can change them whenever He wants

    • The rules of our world say a man can’t walk on water, but Jesus did

      • And our rules say you can’t make water turn to wine or multiply fishes and loaves, but Jesus did

      • And in our world dead things don’t come back to life, but in Jesus’ power dead things are raised again

    • And we know these things because the word of God tells us these things

      • The Bible says an ark saved man and animals, the Red Sea was parted, the sun stood still in the sky for hours, a virgin gave birth

      • To understand the Bible properly, we have to acknowledge God’s power to do anything, especially things that aren’t possible for us

      • So you can’t force God to operate according to the limits of this world, because He was the One Who established those limits

      • And therefore He can break them when He desires, and knowing that means we can take His word at face value

  • But the Sadducees interpreted the Bible according to what they already understood or could imagine, and so they didn’t understand God

    • In v.31 Jesus concludes by saying even Moses testified that resurrection was true

      • Jesus then quotes from Exodus 3:6 where the Lord identifies Himself to Moses as the God of three men

      • The Lord said He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the patriarchs of Israel

    • By that time, those three men had long since passed away, yet God said He “is” the God of these men, not that He “was” their God

      • So Jesus says God is a God of the living, not the dead

      • So if God was still calling Himself the God of these three men after they died, then clearly those men had not ceased to exist

      • They continued to live even after their bodies died, and so God was still calling Himself their God even in Moses’ day

    • But how does God’s claim to be their God prove the reality of resurrection?

      • We know those men weren’t resurrected by Moses’ time, and they haven’t even been resurrected today 

      • The answer comes from the special meaning that Jews attached to those three names together

      • Whenever Jews say “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” together, they are in reference to a covenant God gave those men

    • We call this covenant the Abrahamic Covenant, because it was given to Abraham first and later repeated to Isaac and Jacob

      • This covenant is the basis for all of Israel’s blessings, and in this covenant there are promises to Abraham and his descendants 

      • And in particular, the Lord promised Abraham he and his descendants would live securely in an inheritance of land 

Gen. 17:8 “I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
  • So Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all received this promise, and yet none of these men ever saw that promise fulfilled in their lifetimes

    • They died without having received that promised inheritance of land, so if God is to be faithful to His promise, then He must resurrect them

      • They must live again if they are ever to receive the land that God promised to give them

      • And not only will they need to be resurrected, but so will all Jews who are of faith for they too were all promised the inheritance

    • So Jesus points back to these men and the covenant they received to show the Sadducees that even Moses knew that resurrection was true

      • For in his day God said that He was the God who promised to bring those men back from the dead to enjoy their promises

      • And the writer of Hebrews reminds us of that truth

Heb. 11:13  All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
  • So with that Jesus not only proves the truth of resurrection, but He also showed the foolishness of the Sadducees

    • They didn’t understand Scripture and they didn’t understand the power of God

    • Scripture shows that God has planned from the beginning to keep His promises to Israel and to us in the Kingdom

    • And if so, then it means we all must be there together in physical bodies so we can enjoy our inheritance

  • It means that resurrection is true and necessary, and Jesus’ own death and resurrection is your proof that these things will happen

    • Easter is God’s annual reminder that He will raise you from the dead and He will keep His promises to you 

    • Easter is your proof that Jesus wasn’t lying and your faith isn’t in a fairy tale

    • Easter is the assurance of your hope, the Christian hope of our coming resurrection 

  • How do you receive this hope? How can you know that your death will not be the end of your joy and life on this earth?

    • It’s very simple…all that God asks of anyone is that we believe in His Son

      • Believe that Jesus is your Savior, the One Who paid for your sin by dying in your place

      • Believe Jesus’ death on a cross was a payment for your sin, and if you believe that and accept the payment, God forgives you of all your sins…all of them

    • Paul says it this way:

Rom. 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
Rom. 10:10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation
  • Believing in Jesus is all about believing in His resurrection

  • Because it’s the difference between believing in fairy tales and believing in the Living God