Jesus and the Sadducees

Daily Lenten Devotional for Tuesday, April 4, 2023 from Rev. Robert Johnson

The Bible, as we have it, can seem dry, sometimes. The jokes go by us or the satire is likely to go right over our heads as well because we don’t share the culture and background. We can’t understand when someone is being snide or dismissive. However, if you know what to look for, jokes, jibes and slights are everywhere.

Take the encounter Jesus had on this day with a group of Sadducees. The Sadducees were the wealthy, powerful,  sophisticated – and cynical – citizens of their day. They held people with “normal” religious sentiments in contempt for believing in things like the possibility of a life after death, resurrection of the dead or even of life on a spiritual plane. For them Jesus was not just a threat to their comfortable lifestyle and truce with the Romans but an object of ridicule – an up-country bumpkin who needed to be put in his place.

So when they told him an absurd story (in Matthew 22:23-33) about a woman who marries, is widowed by and then marries the next of seven brothers in turn (what was in the coffee?) you can hear the sneer in their voices and see the smirks as they wait for Jesus’ answer. Whose wife would she be? Get it – one bride for seven brothers in the resurrection. Ha-Ha, what a rube!!

Jesus didn’t bat an eye. Time was short now… only two days before a Thursday passover meal would turn into a betrayal and crucifixion. He spoke directly and succinctly: the only reason you would ask such a mindless question is because you neither know the Scriptures or the power of God.

Jesus did not get suckered into a long dispute and debate. Instead he pointed everyone (including the huge crowd that was listening) back to the real issue: God. It was not about marriage, or about tragic-comic negotiations with seven brothers and one wife. No, death does not dump us back into yet another temporal life. When we are raised, says Jesus, we stand before God alone and all those needs that plagued us for so long are finally fulfilled.

How often do we find ourselves doubting the power of God because of our own limited experience and lack of faith. Two days to go. We cannot afford to get sidetracked. To believe in God is to trust beyond what we can see. We will need that confidence in what is to come.


About the Author
Robert Johnson is the pastor of the New Hanover Presbyterian Church - and feels blessed to be there! “New Hanover is a uniquely caring and close community” said Dr. Johnson. “Serving here has been a great privilege for me, and has given me a real sense of joy in ministry!” Robert has been at NHPC since 2015. Before serving this congregation, he was a parish pastor in Ohio and Virginia, a theologian in the Office of Theology and Worship of the PC(USA), and a missionary in Pakistan where he was a college and seminary professor. Originally from the Great State of Texas, he has degrees from Austin College, Princeton Theological Seminary and holds the Ph.D. from Union Seminary in Virginia. Robert enjoys cooking, travel, reading up in World and National affairs and playing at singing, guitar, bass guitar and trombone. His wife of 36 years, Marianne Vermeer, is the Chief Administrative and Financial Officer for the Medicines for All Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University. They have two adult sons, Nathan and Peter and an elderly dog named Cinnamon.