Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection), and they questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother. Luke 20:27–28 (NASB95)
After Jesus answered the questions of the chief priests, elders and scribes, the Sadducees wanted a crack at him. Contrary to the beliefs of the Pharisees, members of this sect believed “there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit.” Acts 23:8
On cue, they laid a head-spinning hypothetical on Jesus, about a childless man who dies and all six of his brothers who dutifully marry the same woman in succession also die childless. They all including the wife end up in heaven, and the question is, whose wife is she? One can imagine the Pharisees in the crowd rolling their eyes at their line of inquiry.
Jesus “undresses” these “sad” men—no pun intended, as is the intention of most preachers—in front of them all.
Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. Luke 20:34-36
Those who are “worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead” must be “sons of God” and “sons of the resurrection.” Jesus essentially implies that the Sadducees were unworthy of heaven because of their refusal to believe in all things immortal, the very basis of belief in God. Therefore, they had no real standing before him.
In his reply he had pushed all their buttons and set the stage for his final conclusion, that those who actually make it to heaven (not them in their current state), “neither marry nor are given in marriage.”
Strategically, Jesus had just created a potential internal squabble within the ranks of this cobbled together alliance of strange bedfellows. Then the scribes, happy to see the Sadducees go down in flames, assumed temporarily the roll of statesmen (Jesus would deal with them later) saying,
“Teacher, You have spoken well.” For they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything. Luke 20:39-40
As did Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (all of Chapter 15, the definitive teaching on the resurrection) Jesus took the opportunity to address the resurrection question. The Sadducees brought up the patriarch Moses, whom they revered, so Jesus recalled the leader’s burning bush experience, when he referenced the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the present tense.
“But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.” Luke 20:37–38
We all, in fact, need to address and answer the resurrection question. This event is the linchpin of Christianity. As such, based on our belief in it (the Lord’s, the patriarchs’ of the Old Testament, Paul’s, our own, and soberly, the dead unto judgment), we will be found worthy in his eyes.
But I confess this to you, that in accordance with the Way, which they call a sect, I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. In view of this I also do my best to maintain a blameless conscience both before God and before other people, always. Acts 24:14-16 (the Apostle Paul)