God’s Guide to a Well-Lived Life: Mark 12:18-27
God’s Guide to a Well-Lived Life:
I had a professor at Freed-Hardeman, named Stan Mitchell, who commented in a class: “Don’t underestimate the power of loneliness.” You and I, as humans, are social creatures. Even those of us who are naturally introverted still need some love and support and contact with other people. Loneliness is very powerful.
In fact, it might be one of the most powerful forces that lead us to engage in sinful practices. Loneliness, or isolation, can be a motivating factor in engaging in pornography. It leads men and women to engage in premarital sexual relationships - they don’t want to be alone. It can lead men and women who ought not to be in a married relationship into a relationship that is not authorized by God. Why? Because they don’t want to be alone. It leads some individuals to engage in homosexual relationships; they don’t find immediate support in people of the opposite gender, so they seek support, even improper intimate support, from people of the same gender. Why? Loneliness. Alcoholism is often the product of loneliness as is suicide.
The point is: We can’t sacrifice a permanent home in heaven with God - the ultimate fulfillment of our need for relationship - for the temporary excitement we might get out of these earthly relationships, if they are not authorized by God.
The Jews, before Jesus came, were beginning to draw some conclusions based on a handful of verses from the OT that there was a life after death. In fact, in the period of time between the Old and New Testaments, a period Cody has called in his Sunday morning class the period of “400 years of silence” - the Jews were actually writing lots and lots of books, as they tried to understand, apply, and wrestle with certain OT texts. One of those books, which the Jews did not accept as having the authority of Scripture, was the book of Tobit.
Scholars believe the book of Tobit was written about 200 years before Jesus came to earth. The story is not about the resurrection, but there is a woman in the story, named Sarah, who had seven husbands (they were not brothers as in this text) and they were all killed by a demon named Asmodeus. We do not know if the story of Tobit was the impetus behind the Sadducees’ question, but it was a legitimate question if the questioner was sincere.
We are in the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. Jesus is in the temple; this is probably Tuesday. He gave a parable at the beginning of the chapter to tell the Jews that their nation was going to be destroyed. The Pharisees, especially, are mad and want to silence Jesus permanently. Unfortunately for them, Jesus silences them (12:13-17)!
So the second major denomination of Jews, the Sadducees, approach Jesus with their own question. And His answer gives us some important insights into how we need to live our lives today.
THE QUESTION THAT SETS UP JESUS’ TEACHING - 12:18-23:
This is the only place in Mark where the Sadducees are mentioned. They accepted only the Law of Moses as the word of God and they rejected a belief in a spiritual world, in a resurrection and a belief in angels (Acts 23:8). The priests were mainly Sadducees and they were generally rich.
The question was based on the passage in Deuteronomy 25:7-10. This law, which is illustrated in Genesis 38 and the book of Ruth, is called the “levirate marriage,” from the Latin translation for “brother.” This law was designed to protect a widow who might not have anyone else to help her, provide for her, and to inherit her property.
So the Sadducees thought they had this scenario that was ridiculous and, in itself, proved there was no resurrection. Atheists and skeptics today like to create a caricature of some biblical doctrine, destroy the caricature of Christianity, and insist they have destroyed Christianity. In truth, all they’ve done is proven: their bias and their ignorance. That’s what happens with the Sadducees and Jesus shows their ignorance, both of the power of God, and their ignorance of Scripture, of which they claimed to be the proper interpreters.
The underlying (false) assumption the Sadducees were making was that life-after-death had to be the same kind or type of life as the physical life. That was the error of their assumption and they ignored obvious teachings of Scripture in order to hold on to their false assumption.
WE ARE OFTEN IGNORANT OF THE POWER OF GOD - 12:24-25:
First, Jesus tells the Sadducees, “You are mistaken.” The Greek verb means to “wander off track” or to “be led astray.” Jesus will repeat Himself in verse 27, but emphasize they were “greatly mistaken.”
Resurrection is not a restoration to life as we know it. It is the beginning of a new and different life: 1 Cor. 15:35-41.
Jesus does not say that humans become angels. There is no biblical teaching that supports the idea that humans become angels. Rather, angels and humans are two different types of created beings. Jesus says we become like angels.
Rather, in heaven, there will be no reason for procreation; therefore, there will be no reason for marriage. There will be no death in heaven; therefore there will be no reason to recreate life.
Notice Jesus assumes the existence of angels, which implies in itself the existence of a spiritual world.
WE ARE OFTEN IGNORANT OF THE TRUTH OF SCRIPTURE - 12:26-27:
The Sadducees claimed and thought they understood Scripture but they were more ignorant of Scripture than they realized. They only accepted the first five books of the Bible, but Moses himself taught the continuity of life after death.
Jesus always, as we should, pointed people back to the Bible. In the gospel of Mark, He has done so in 2:25; 10:19 and 12:10.
Jesus refers, notice, to the “book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush…” We have our Bibles divided up into chapters and verses, so we know Jesus is referring to Exodus 3 (specifically verse 6). God did not tell Moses that He was (past tense) the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God uses the present tense: “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” We point out that God intended mankind - Moses and everyone after him who would ever read His writings, both Jew and Christian - to use their reasoning skills, their ability to think logically and draw the obvious conclusion: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were still alive (somewhere!); therefore, there is life after death.
God is the God of the living. All true life flows from God, both in this world and in the world to come. Jesus came to give us an abundant life (John 10:10) and that abundant life is never going to be found in living sinfully, in living a life contrary to the teachings of Christ. We might deceive ourselves into finding happiness in a life that is sinful by God’s standards, but God is also the God of the spiritual life and He has the ability to give spiritual life and to take it away. There is the motivation for living a holy life in this physical world. Jesus told Mary and Martha in John 11:25 that He was the “resurrection and the life.”
Eventually the life of Jesus will prove the Sadducees wrong and silence them. Once the teaching and proof of the resurrection of Christ began to spread, the Sadducees began losing considerable influence and, once the temple was destroyed in A. D. 70 by the Romans (remember the Sadducees were largely priests), then the sect of the Sadducees faded out of existence. They were fundamentally wrong. In fact, it is ironic that in light of the Sadducees’ position, it is an angel who declares the resurrection of Christ (16:9)!
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR OUR WELL-LIVED LIFE:
We wish to note four important points here. First, if we are to follow Jesus’ example, we will have a high regard for the OT (as well as the NT) as being the words of God. It might have been Moses or Ezra or Isaiah who wrote the words, but it was God, through His Spirit, who guided their writings (see 2 Peter 1:20-21).
Secondly, even today, we often have questions about the after-life which perplex us. We should, first of all know the Scriptures. Secondly, we should never question the power of God. For example, if a loved one does not become a Christian or dies unfaithfully to Christ, will that not diminish our own joy in being in heaven? Well, the Scriptures say there will be no tears in heaven: Revelation 7:17; 21:4. Additionally, God has the power to either: cause us to forget the emotional pain of our loved one being in hell (cf. John 16:21) or He has the power to overwhelm us with the glories of heaven to such a degree that our loss is simply not felt emotionally. Let us know the Scriptures and let us trust the power of God! A smilier answer would be given to one who questions if a mutilated body (even one cremated) can be whole in heaven: don’t forget the power of God!
Third, which we have already indicated, is the idea that humans do not become angels. In heaven we will be like angels in the sense that we will not be married. We will not need a “husband” or “wife” once we arrive in heaven. Angels and humans are two different classes of created being and one does not become the other.
Fourth, the text we have studied this morning dealt with life after death and among the lessons it teaches us is that the relationships we have here on this earth, are given to us by God to sustain our lives, enrich our lives while we are on earth. This is a point I make in almost every funeral eulogy I do. I understand the Bible to teach that we will know one another in heaven; we will keep our unique personalities. But our earthly relationships are just that - earthly. We will not need human relationships to sustain us in heaven - not when we’ll be in the very presence of God. These relationships are for this life - to teach us how to love; to teach us how to give; to share the good times and to lift the burdens in bad times.
Because this point is true, we need to strengthen our spirit in Christ to such a degree that loneliness does not motivate us to engage in sinful behavior or behavior that will lead us away from God and get us distracted from living for heaven.
Think about a baby is who newly born. She was warm and safe in her mother’s womb but then, all of a sudden, she enters this harsh, bright, cold world of reality. Maybe death is like that, only in reverse. Yes, God sustains our lives in this physical world, but He is still invisible. When we wake up to the resurrection, the new life might be a shock to our system, but then we’ll see God as He is and we’ll experience spiritual life as God has planned for us.
John writes: “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).
Take home message: With our hearts set on heaven, let us not get distracted by the temporary allure of this physical world.