by Father Mike Stubbs
Long ago, I learned a saying: “The Sadducees were sad, because they did not believe in the resurrection.” That is an easy way to remember an important fact about them, but there is more to it than that.
The Sadducees were a religious/political party at the time of Jesus. Members of the Jewish aristocracy belonged to it, as well as the priests who controlled the Jerusalem Temple.
Because of their wealth, they tended to ally themselves with the ruling Romans. They also held to a very literal interpretation of Scripture.
Their narrow reading of Scripture meant that they rejected the doctrines of the resurrection and of angels, since these concepts were not clearly attested to in the Scriptures at the time, which would correspond to the Old Testament.
The Sadducees considered them new-fangled notions of the Pharisees, their principal opponents. The Pharisees were the innovators, while the Sadducees were the conservatives.
The Sadducees’ rejection of the resurrection explains the question they put to Jesus in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Lk 20: 27-38. They wish to trap him through the impossibility of reconciling the current Jewish practice of marriage with life in the resurrection.
Jesus responds with a teaching on the resurrection. He affirms it by referring to Scripture in a way which goes beyond the narrow interpretation of the Sadducees. He also clarifies the meaning of life in the resurrection. Marriage will no longer be necessary, since procreation will no longer be needed. Children will no longer be needed to replace the dead.
Jesus affirmed the doctrine of the resurrection by this teaching. Later, he would demonstrate it through his own resurrection on Easter Sunday. Jesus’ resurrection would validate his message, as well as offer us hope through the promise of the resurrection.
The Sadducees disappeared long ago, when the Romans squelched the Jewish Revolt in A.D. 70
Now, though, others have arisen to challenge the doctrine of the resurrection. They go beyond the Sadducees, by rejecting the very concept of God. Once again, Jesus would respond by affirming belief in God: “He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
Our belief in the resurrection is founded on our belief in a loving God, the God of life. Belief in God is fundamental. Even the Sadducees, who rejected the resurrection, believed in God.
Our belief in the resurrection is strengthened through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the living proof, to confirm what he taught.