On one occasion, Jesus was questioned by a group of religious leaders known as the Sadducees. Generally, this group was made up of influential and wealthy people. Some of their beliefs included holding only the first five books of Moses as their authority and not regarding what we would call the rest of the Old Testament as authoritative. They also didn’t believe in the resurrection, but that the only way one might live on would be through their lineage. So, when this group confronts Jesus, they are already at odds with much of what he has been teaching, and this would have been obvious to him.
The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, but, in Mark 12:18-27 they are asking a question about it. They don’t care about the answer; they are just trying to cause Jesus to stumble in his words. Their question is based on a law out of Deuteronomy 25 that said if a man dies without children, his brother, or close relative, would take his wife as their wife and have children to carry on the family name. So, Jesus is asked a hypothetical question about how to apply this law in relation to the resurrection.
Jesus’ answer teaches us about both marriage and resurrection. First, in verse 25, he says there won’t be marriage in heaven because we will be like the angels. This doesn’t mean that we turn into angels, by the way. Marriage is an earthly institution, not an eternal one. The intimacy we will experience with God in heaven is much deeper than that of even a husband and wife relationship. We’ll experience life differently and fully. The marriage relationship is an indicator of some of the characteristics of life to come, but doesn’t continue in it. The belief that marriage is an eternal institution has no scriptural foundation. In fact, Jesus teaches the opposite here. This is a belief of Mormonism, but is unfounded in biblical, historical, and orthodox Christianity. Some people wish it were so because of the love they have for their spouse. But, the love that will be experienced in eternity, will be deeper and more profound than we can even imagine. This is why marriage is so important. It’s the most profound way we can conceive of love, yet compared to what we will experience in the presence of God eternally, it is merely temporary. Marital love is a sign pointing to the way we will love when Jesus returns to set everything right and we love God and one another the way in which we were intended.
In this passage we also learn a bit about the resurrection. Jesus says God is the God of the living, and since he is, those who are his followers must be living. Jesus refers to Exodus 3, where Moses is confronted by God. Exodus 3 would have been an authoritative text for the Sadducees, so when Jesus argues for the resurrection from it, he proves that they don’t know the Scriptures as well as they presume they do. This was something they boasted in and Jesus accusation would have not been well received by them.
The Bible only gives us glimpses into what happens after death at times describing it as “sleep” until we are awakened at the resurrection. Hebrews 12 says the believers who’ve gone before us are a “cloud of witnesses” who have fully experienced God’s faithfulness to those who live and die for him. But Jesus asserts here in this passage, that God is the God of the living. He gives life, sustains life, takes life, and can certainly give it again. He doesn’t cease to be our God at death. Our relationship with him continues and deepens eternally because he is eternal. This is why Jesus’ resurrection is our hope and peace. It’s the indicator of our final state for eternity as well. The in-between time may be grey and confusing, but God will raise those who believe in him.