Luke 20:27-40


Jesus Under Surveillance
Luke 20:27-40
Intro: Is there life after death? Most people hope there is, but many doubt. How can we know about something no one living has ever experienced or visited? According to worldview of secular humanism and Darwinian evolution, our biology is our destiny. When our hearts stop beating, our minds cease to exist; when our minds cease to exist, there is nothing left of us. “Human destiny,” writes the philosopher Ernest Nagel, is only “an episode between two oblivions.”

There were some people who said basically the same thing in the time of Christ. Did they speak of biological organisms or social contexts? No. But they did say that there was no life after death. Some even tried to prove it to Jesus...

Luke 20:27 Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him,

The Pharisees and Sadducees were established in the time between the OT & NT. Despite their common origin, they differed radically in outlook and beliefs. Pharisees believed in divine sovereignty, while Sadducees affirmed free will alone; Pharisees believed in angels and demons, Sadducees denied both; Pharisees affirmed all the distinct Scripture categories (Law, Prophets, Writings) and the oral traditions, whereas Sadducees accepted only the Law/Torah; finally, as this text indicates, Pharisees affirmed the resurrection of the dead, which Sadducees expressly denied.

Sadducees denied angels, demons, and the afterlife because they exclusively relied on the first 5 books of the OT as their source of truth. The Torah does not specifically address those supernatural realities.

In addition to doctrinal matters, Sadducees and Pharisees also differed on social and political issues. 

Sadducees were temple-men. They were non-clergy leaders who were dedicated to the temple in Jerusalem. Josephus said they were marked by “wealth” and were “men of rank.”

Luke 20:28 saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.

One of the best ways to start an argument in those days was to tell the Sadducees that you believed in resurrection of the dead.

There is a notable example in Acts 23, where Paul is on trial before the Sanhedrin. 

Acts 23:6 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”
Acts 23:7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided.
Acts 23:8 For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection — and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.

Sadducees believed that at death the soul perished along with the body.

Why is it sad to be a Sadducee?
(a)    no angels/demons
(b)    no life after death
(c)    no future rewards for the righteous nor punishments for the wicked

It should not surprise us that the Sadducees denied life after death because it was likely something they seldom if ever thought about. The reason? They were wealthy men who enjoyed almost all the material comforts that this life has to offer. 

Why contemplate a future world when this one was treating them so well? Who needs eternal life if you can get everything you really want right now?

“Whoever denies the resurrection of the dead has no share in the world to come.” (Mishnah, Sanh. 10:1)

Some Sadducees seek to make Jesus’ belief in resurrection look ridiculous. 

Levirate marriage or “brother-in-law” marriage was a way of keeping a man’s name from dying out. It wasn’t invented for the purpose of allowing a man to have more than one wife for legal promiscuity. 

Rather, it was a compensatory social custom designed to prevent intermarriage between Jews/Gentiles and to preserve the honor and property within a family line.

Deut 25:5 If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband's brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her.
Deut 25:6 And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.

The whole idea was suspect to the Sadducees. It amounted to a tangled web of confusion for those who tried it, especially if they believed in a mythical world beyond death.

To discredit the idea of resurrection, the Sadducees pose a far-fetched example of a woman who married seven brothers. The favorite technique of skeptics is the hypothetical situation.

Luke 20:29 Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children.
Luke 20:30 And the second took her as wife, and he died childless.
Luke 20:31 Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. 
Luke 20:32 Last of all the woman died also.

In the minds of the Sadducees, the only things needed to the defeat the superstitious notion of a resurrection/afterlife was common sense and a witty question.

Luke 20:33 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.”

If the resurrection comes, whose wife will this lady be? Do you flip a coin or pull a number out of a hat?

They knew that Jesus would not have answered “all seven men would be a husband to her,” so they felt confident that the whole doctrine of resurrection had to be rejected as illogical.

Their question presumes that the next world (if there was one) would have essentially the same conditions and look/feel of this present world. It would be a materialistic extension of the earthly life we already know, including the marital state. 

Why would it be so important to carry a man’s name on earth after his death if there was an afterlife?

According to their logic there would not be rules like this for the present life if that same life were to go on after death through some form of resurrection.

Since they believe that any afterlife would be an extension of this world, in their view it would be impossible for a woman to be married to seven men in heaven at the same time. 

This was the Latin concept of “reductio ad absurdum” whereby an idea is carried to absurd extreme.

If Jesus were to accept the assumption that the afterlife stands in unbroken continuity with the present life, He must argue on technical grounds that the 1st husband had rights to the woman in heaven, or else He would have to concede to the Sadducees.

Our Lord had an answer for their riddle.

Luke 20:34 Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage.
Luke 20:35 But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage;
Luke 20:36 nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.


Their focus on marriage involved a perspective bounded by the horizons/limits of this present world.

Marriage is in an institution for this world, but for those whom God deems worthy of the resurrection life, there is a glorious new mode of existence. There is another life in another world to come. 

Resurrection life is in a realm without death. Since no one dies there, no one’s name dies out. There is then no need for the marriage relationship since no procreation is needed.

We won’t marry each other in heaven. Jesus marries His bride in that place!

Rev 19:7 “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”
Rev 19:8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 
Rev 19:9 Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”

“equal to the angels” does not mean ethereal (spirits without bodies). Instead, it suggests that resurrection life carries a certain kind of heavenly glory. It has the dignity of being free from disease, decline or accident. 

“sons of God” is more clearly defined by the phrase that follows – “sons of the resurrection.”

There are several senses in which we may be called the “sons of God”: (1) new birth (2) adoption (3) creation.

Through resurrection, the sons of God are transformed into that glorious condition fitting for the next world.

Where does the OT teach a doctrine of afterlife/resurrection?

Job 19:25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth;
Job 19:26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God

Dan 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. 

How Jesus defeats dangerous assumptions:
(a)    No marriage in heaven – “neither marry nor are given in marriage”
(b)    Not everyone goes to heaven – “those who are counted worthy”
(c)    No death after resurrection – “nor can they die anymore”

“counted worthy” or “made worthy” is not something we do, but something that is done to us by God.

God declares us “righteous” because of Jesus’ death/resurrection after we believe. Jesus is worthy and His righteousness applied to our accounts make us worthy of the next world. In light of this truth, obey the Gospel!

Immortality is an essential part of the joy of resurrection life. 

The joy of our present existence is always muted by the painful reality of death. Even if we try not to think about it, we know that someday we will die – probably someday sooner than we hope.

We also know that the people we love will die if they have not already. Our mortality inevitably makes this life a tragedy. 

But there is no sorrow in heaven. In the next world, you cannot apply to work at a funeral home since they would have no clientele! 

After resurrection, no one will ever die again.

Christ points His interrogators to a Bible text from Moses himself (Ex. 3:6, 15).

Luke 20:37 But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’
Luke 20:38 For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”

The question is, “In what sense can God be the God of the Patriarchs long after they are dead and gone from the earth?

Christ argues that the promises of God are not made to the dead but to the living.

Centuries after these men died, God was still claiming to be their God, which means there had to be an Abraham, an Isaac, and a Jacob for Him to claim!

If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are dead, as the Sadducees believe, then God’s promise to them was limited to the duration of their earthly lives. 

God’s word is not bound by human limitations, though. Nor would God make a pledge to the living that would be terminated by death. 

For Jesus, the call of God establishes a relationship with God. And once a relationship with God is established, it bears the promise of God that cannot be ended. 

Indeed, God’s promise and His power conquer the last enemy – death itself. 

Jesus has already provided insight into the nature of resurrection life when He referred to Lazarus, who was carried away by angels who is still alive!

Luke 16:22 So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom.

God preserves the righteous dead in a place of glory, where they await resurrection.

One commentator wrote, “Dead things can have a Creator…only living beings can have a God. If Abraham or any of the patriarchs had ceased to exist when he died, God would have ceased to His God.”

God will not have continued to advertise Himself as God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob if He had long ago finished with them and abandoned them to the grave!

Would a first century Jew say that it was good enough for God simply to walk alongside the heroes of the faith, protecting them up until the point of their deaths? Would a good, long life and numerous offspring fulfill His promises? Surely not!

Matt 8:11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

“for all live to Him” = “for Him all are alive” & “all who are resurrected by God live by Him and live for Him”

Once God binds Himself to you to be your God, there is no circumstance, no opponent, that can sever that relationship.

Even in death He is still the God who holds you, and at the right time He will raise you to life!

Acts 17:28 for in Him we live and move and have our being



Luke 20:39 Then some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.”

“That was a fine answer!”

The rare approval of these scribes, who were likely Pharisees, can easily be explained by the fact that Jesus had silenced their archrivals!

Luke 20:40 But after that they dared not question Him anymore. 

The Sadducees question will only be answered by the empty tomb of Jesus since He is the resurrection (John 11:25).

Special note: There is a practical concern that forms in the minds of those believers who are happily married in this life and hear this teaching from our Lord. Simply put, we do not want the God-given union with our spouses to end with death, even though that was our vow – “till death do us part.” 

The NT assumes our need for love, fellowship, and whatever is necessary for joy and blessedness will be provided for us in the age to come. In the next world, in the kingdom of heaven, we will lack no good thing. 

There will be no despair, no sense of loss, nothing lacking. 

Somethings will end. We will no longer need faith; it will be sight. We will no longer need hope; it will be fulfilled. So too the sexual experience as we know it; it’s primary purpose – procreation – will no longer be needed.

Yet by faith, the believer understands that if anything good in this age is not carried over in the age to come, it is because it will be replaced by something far better!