Sundays in Mark (41) 12:18-27 Marriage at the resurrection

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark. This week Jesus’ dialogue with the Sadducees about marriage at the resurrection.

The atmosphere of conflict in Jerusalem continues to intensify with a further attempt to discredit Jesus, this time by the Sadducees with a contrived hypothetical scenario of one woman marrying 7 brothers (possibly taken from a similiar story in the book of Tobit). Their point is that the Mosaic law has been literally fulfilled, their implication that the idea of resurrection is thus proved absurd.

Jesus responds in a stunning way.

Quoting from the Sadducee’s accepted Scriptures, the Pentateuch, Jesus takes Exodus 3:6 to show how the resurrection fulfils God’s covenant promises to his people. He is the redeeming God of the living Patriarchs. The context in Exodus is God’s saving action and covenant faithfulness to his chosen people.

Jesus’ astonishing point is that God saving action continues to be worked out. Far from the resurrection being a nonsense, it is the climax and completion of God’s redemptive action in the world.  If death is the last word for the Patriarchs, God has not kept his promises and is shown to be powerless and the Scriptures are unfulfilled.

But the story of the Scriptures ends in glorious resurrection and depends on the mighty power of God. The Sadducees were ‘badly mistaken’ – utterly wrong – because they rejected both.

Here is hope! The completion of God’s saving purposes that will result in renewed creation. It does not rest in us or our plans or achievements. It rests in the power of God to fulfil his promises and complete his story.

Marriage at the Resurrection

18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 “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 raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”

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6 thoughts on “Sundays in Mark (41) 12:18-27 Marriage at the resurrection

  1. I love that last bit…”you are badly mistaken!” God has had to say much the same to me at time, but somehow it seems it would have more punch if God in the flesh were literally saying it to my face. Ouch!
    I have always wondered at Jesus’ statement about marriage in the resurrection and his reference to the angels. His overall point seems to be that it is an ignorant question, fueled by false motives and a gross misunderstanding of God’s purposes.
    Does it necessarily mean there are no special, marriage-like relationships at all in the resurrection, or is it fair to say he might be communicating that the conventions of the current order of things won’t apply? After all, we don’t really know what “like the angels” refers to specifically. Do you think we have grounds, other than assumptions about Jesus statement here, to say that exclusive relationships (like marriages) will completely disappear–that their only purpose is pleasure for this life, the population of the earth, and sort of metaphor for God’s relationship to his bride, the church–or his wife, Israel? (This is what is typically offered in commentaries.)

  2. Hi Crystal. Good questions! The text does seem pretty explicit that marriage as such is for this age. But when it comes to pressing details of the new creation we very quickly end up in speculation and guesswork – as you say, this text (and others) just don’t fill in the picture. I’m convinced that there is strong biblical evidence for some sort of continuity of this world (not discontinuity = total destruction / new beginning). But even then, when it comes to what form that will take (what sorts of things from this life will continue? Bach? Books? Buildings?) I think we have to say ‘We don’t know’ but we do know love will be at the heart of it all (1 Cor 13:13)

  3. Well said. True about the continuity and the lack of details. Unless we understand the references to be completely symbolic, we’d have to say books for sure, though, wouldn’t we? 😉
    You must think in alliterations. You’ve got the “B” questions here…and I saw your “D” musings post as well.
    Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful reply and for allowing me to exploit your post to pick your brain.

  4. I always skip over these sunday reflections.. Prefer to read bloggy stuff. Must be something wrong there. Happy new year to you Patrick.

  5. In case anyone is still reading, a positive (though possibly speculative) case can be made that male-female relationships similar to marital bonds can continue between the redeemed into the next life. This may then also imply a romantic, physical or even sexual aspect in such a relationship. You are welcome to check out the rezfamilies website (go to google and type ‘rezfamilies’, or http://sites.google.com/site/rezfamilies) for more information.

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