23 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, 24 saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 25 Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. 26 Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. 27 Last of all the woman died also. 28 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.
34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”
They said to Him, “The Son of David.”
43 He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying:
44‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ’?
45 If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” 46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.
There is a quote that is often wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood for something, sometime in your life.”Jesus has enemies. Yet, almost every depiction of Jesus in television and movies, which has shaped what most people think about Him, shows us a Jesus who is so sweet and nice that it would be impossible for us to imagine Him having enemies. Psalm 110, however, which Jesus quotes is ultimately about Him. David is writing about God the Father, talking to David’s Lord, Jesus, God the Son, telling Him to sit beside Him and rule at His right hand while He piles up Jesus’ enemies to be an Ottoman for Him to rest His feet on. To say that the way the Bible speaks of Jesus is not like the way popular culture understands Jesus would be an understatement of a lifetime.
Jesus has enemies. Jesus has people that hate Him so much they want Him dead. And as we have been making our way through Matthew’s Gospel, we’ve seen Jesus, Israel’s God in human flesh who has come to Israel. The question mockers love to ask, “why did Jesus appear in this unimportant place in the Middle East and not in Rome or China or some place bigger and more important? Why Israel?” The answer, of course, is that Israel was the people whom God chose to be His priests to all the nations of the world. And you would think that means they were really good people, right? But what were they? They were horribly wicked people for most of their history. Most of the time, when God spoke, they as a people would do anything but what He said to do. Now, in Jesus’ day, things had not changed much. Israel was still very wicked, and, in fact, Israel was worse than she ever had been before.
To set the scene for our passage today, Jesus has just spent the last two days in the Temple in Jerusalem during Passover. At Passover, all of Israel was supposed to leave their homes and make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. So, there were tens of thousands of extra people in Jerusalem, and these massive crowds hailed Jesus as the Son of David, which meant they believed Jesus to be the rightful heir to Israel’s throne. Imagine if you had one million people gathered together in Washington, D.C. shouting that you were the rightful president of the US. That is something that would terrify the people in power. And then imagine that person walking into the Capitol, throwing some furniture around, and getting into a massive argument with Congressmen and Senators, of both parties. And in those arguments, which the Congressmen try to lay clever traps to get the million people watching to not like you anymore, you instead turn the tables on them and make them look ridiculous before the entire country.
That is what Jesus has been doing in the Temple. All of this stuff has been happening in public. He has been having huge fights with the leaders of Israel, those who are most responsible for how wicked and evil Israel has become, and most responsible for being the ones who should accept that Jesus is Yahweh in human flesh, yet they uniformly reject Him and want Him dead. And in these fights, which are in front of the multitudes, all of Israel gathered there for Passover, every minute being broadcast on CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, CSPAN, and even ESPN. Everyone is watching this take place. And Jesus is absolutely humiliating these people on their own turf.
Jesus has enemies
Sadducees Mogged By Jesus (v. 23-33)
One group of enemies Jesus has, the Sadducees, who are the liberal party, the party that most of the priesthood was made up of, who only believed the first five books of the Bible were actually Bible, and the rest was not, show up to challenge Jesus. Their biggest issue was they denied that there was a resurrection of the dead. All the Old Testament passages that support the resurrection are outside the first five books. So they think this is their chance not only to silence this Jesus whom they hate, but also for their theology to come out on top in front of the masses. They think they’ve got Him. In the Pentateuch, it was the responsibility of younger brothers to marry their older brother’s widow to have children to be the heir to their deceased older brother. This was called the Levirate Law. Ironically, the word the Sadducees use to “raise up seed” is the exact same word as “resurrect.” And the Sadducees come up with a scenario in which one woman is married to seven brothers, one after the other because they keep dying. Now if there is a resurrection, Jesus, when they are all raised, whose wife is she? They want to pit the Pentateuch against the rest of the Old Testament. But Jesus will have none of that. He tells them “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Now, just stopping here briefly for one second, these are the seminary professors and leading Bible teachers in all of Israel. These are the experts in the Scriptures, and Jesus tells them “You people don’t know anything about the Bible. And you don’t know anything about God’s power.” You could imagine the massive sea of people witnessing this laughing hysterically at them when Jesus says this. Jesus tells the Sadducees when the dead are raised in the resurrection, there is no longer any need for marriage. After all, the point of marriage is to produce new people. In the resurrection, that stops. There are no new people. So there is no need for marriage to exist any longer. And Jesus goes on, to prove the resurrection by appealing to the Pentateuch, which the Sadducees accept. In Exodus, God calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is not the God of the dead. The Sadducees believed you just ceased to exist upon death. The union between Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had with God would end upon their deaths. Yet in Exodus, after the patriarchs have been dead for many years, God says that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This must mean that they continue to exist, that they continue to have life. Jesus shows the Sadducees do not know the Bible, nor do they know the power of God. And the multitudes are completely and utterly amazed by Jesus’ teaching.
Pharisees Mogged By Jesus (v. 34-40)
Now, the other party, the conservatives, the Pharisees, show up again. They try to test Jesus again, they try to trap Him. A lawyer asks Him which is the greatest commandment? This would be like asking Jesus “what do you think the biggest problem in America today is?” The point of the question is to get Him to say one thing to the exclusion of all others, which would divide His support from the multitudes. But Jesus is far too shrew to take the bait. Instead, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5 and reduces the entirety of God’s law to this: You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And He then quotes Leviticus 19:18 “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is how God’s law in the Ten Commandments is broken down. The first four are about loving God. No other Gods, no idolatry, no bearing His name in vain, honoring His sabbath. And the second table of the law is loving other people like you love yourself: honoring your parents, not murdering, not committing adultery, not stealing, not bearing false witness, not coveting. Jesus is showing in just these two commandments all that God requires of us is built out. What does God want us to do? How does He want us to live? He wants us to love Him with everything you have, and love other people like you do yourself.
Pharisees Take Their Ball and Go Home (v. 41-46)
Now, Jesus goes on the offensive. He gets to ask a question. “What do you guys think about the Christ, the Messiah? Whose Son is He? “Everybody knows that one, Jesus, He’s David’s Son.” Oh, interesting. So, why then does David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, call Him ‘Lord”? ‘Yahweh said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Nobody calls their son their Lord. Your offspring are under you in the hierarchy. How can he call his son ‘Lord?’ The answer, of course, is that He is David’s son but also existed eternally before David. But the Pharisees had no answer for this. All they could do was slink away in embarrassment. Jesus has humiliated all of His enemies with all of Israel watching. He has silenced them. But that does not mean the battle is over. It really has just begun.
Jesus has enemies. He has enemies that He humiliates and embarrasses. He is not like the Jesus of popular imagination. He is a man of power, of force, of vitality, of great passion. In His battle with the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and chief priests in the Temple, you can see this on display. He has power and charisma. He is king. He is a man who you would be willing to fight and die for. He is a man men can follow. A man men will fight for. Jesus has enemies.
But some of these enemies, He makes His friends. Among the Pharisees, there were several who became His disciples, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea are two examples. And the greatest example of an enemy of Christ, the Pharisee named Saul became His greatest Apostle, and who wrote the majority of the New Testament. We, too, were His enemies. We were rebels warring against this king, whom He captured, took prisoner, and had every right to execute. But instead, He forgives us for our treason against Him, and actually invites us into His kingdom, to fight on His side, and sit with Him as He rules. That is what the gospel means, the great king is victorious over His enemies, and He even invites His former enemies into His kingdom.
The last and greatest enemy of Christ, the one He has personally triumphed over and will one day forever defeat, is death. He proves from the scriptures just how wrong the Sadducees are, that there is indeed life after death, there is indeed a resurrection from the dead. And in just a few short days, He demonstrates the reality of the resurrection by personally triumphing over death. That is what our faith is in, not just a king who is conquering the world, but one whose kingdom will have victory over death itself.
That is what we must understand, that we belong to this king, that we are united to Him in baptism. That He has enemies He is actively warring against, and we participate in His warfare. We participate most of all, here in worship, making war against the unseen in the heavenly places. And we participate in warfare against His enemies in our daily lives, in our work, in our homes as we seek to be faithful and obedient to what He has called us to do. The Christian life is one of triumphing over the enemies of Jesus Christ. So go, make war, and win the victory. In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!