Faithlife Sermons

God is the God of the Living

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If you have your Bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of Mark chapter 12.
As you are turning their let me remind you of what is happening at this point in the story.
Jesus has made it to Jerusalem.... the place where he has very clearly said he will face rejection and death.
Mark 10:33–34 ESV
33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
On Jesus’ first full day in Jerusalem he entered into the temple
The temple was God’s design.
It was his plan for his glory among all the nations.
It was the place where his people could draw near to God in prayer.
It was the place of worship.
It was the place where the nations might come to know the one true God.
But when Jesus entered this place…
He found a very different scene.
Religious people worshipped themselves in the name of God.
In the place built for drawing near to God...
God’s name was being defiled.
In the place built to draw in the nations,
the nations were being exploited.
The religious leaders were not shepherding the people.
They were getting rich off of the people by a corrupt money exchange system.
God’s temple was home of the hypocrites… all in the name of God.
and Jesus was enraged.
He flipped tables,
He drove people out,
and He exclaimed for all to hear…
“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations, but you have made it a den of robbers.”
Jesus by no means entered Jerusalem quietly trying to avoid the death he predicted.
And what follows in the story are a series of 7 confrontations between Jesus and the religious groups there in the temple.
In chapter 11:27-33 they challenge Jesus by questioning his authority.
Last week Drew showed us In chapter 12:13 the Pharisees and the Herodians trying to trap Jesus with a trick question about whether people should pay taxes to Rome.
Jesus handled the question and his opponents had to go back to the drawing board.
This morning we find another attempt to trap Jesus from a different group with in the temple.
This time its the Sadducees.
In contrast to other groups, the Sadducees rejected certain doctrines as well as a large potion of the Old Testament.
They only viewed the first five books of the Old Testament as authoritative, but rejected the prophets.
They rejected any concept of eternal life.
They taught that the soul died with the body.
They also rejected the sovereignty of God .
They taught that all of life was a matter of doing good or evil and reaping the effects of those choices in this temporal life.
They rejected most supernatural things. They did not believe in angels.
As the old children’s church song goes… the Sadducees were Sad you see.
They lived their life with no hope of the eternal promises of God.
All of this stands in contrast to another group in the temple called the Pharisees.
The Pharisees believed in an after life and a future resurrection of God’s people.
They believed in God’s sovereignty over history
And they believed in the inspiration of the whole Old Testament including the prophets.
The Pharisees simply put an over-emphasis on good works to bolster their own pride and position.
So there was a great debate between these two groups.
But again… the thing that united the Sadducees to the Pharisees was their hatred for Jesus.
Jesus contradicted their view of the world and their way of life.
Jesus had to go.
So lets read how they try to trap Jesus this time and then lets pray for understanding.
Mark 12:18–27 ESV
18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.” 24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
Lets Pray
The Sadducees think they have it figured out.
They are going to ask Jesus a question that will both make Jesus look foolish and make the Pharisees look foolish as well.
Either Jesus will reject that there is a future resurrection, and the Pharisees will hate him even more.
Or he will be stumped by the question and thus be discredited.
Either way, the Sadducees come out on top, and both the Pharisee group and the Jesus group look foolish.
The question is a simple one but the Sadducees take it to the extreme just to drive home the point.
They don’t believe in life after death.
But if there were life after death.
What about people who get married multiple times in this life?
Whose spouse will they be in the next life?
The question isn’t really supposed to be answerable… The Sadducees are trying to say that life after death… is a ridiculous concept.
This question is meant to make their point.
What say you Jesus?
Woman is widowed 7 times and marries 7 times, whose wife will she be in the resurrection when they all rise again on the last day?
Here is at least the beginning of Jesus’ answer.
Mark 12:24 ESV
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?
Jesus' position is pretty clear.
“you are wrong...”
But before providing an argument for how they are wrong.....
before providing any logical debate for how the Scriptures actually teach a future resurrection.
Jesus actually addresses the heart of the issue first.
He addresses why they have missed all this in the Scriptures in the first place.
“you neither know the Scripture nor the power of God”
Why did they have no hope for eternal life?
Why did they refuse to believe in future resurrection?
Why were they refusing Jesus, God in the flesh, right before their eyes?
It is not that they had never read the Scriptures,
It is not that they never spoke of God,
It is not that they never performed religious acts,
They were very serious about obeying particular commands found in Torah, the first five books of the bible.,
But despite all of their reading,
despite all of their religion…,
their reading yielded no fruit,
their religion, though about God in theory, had nothing to do with God in reality.
Remember that each of these confrontations with Jesus really have speak to two realities.
In Jesus’ responses we will learn a lot about Jesus, his promises, and plan.
But in Jesus’ opponents, we see glimpses of the sinful heart into which every one of us is prone to wonder
So this morning, we will see two warnings and two truths.

Warning#1 : Beware of Godless Religion

These Sadducees were religious.... but somewhere along the way their religion became more about them then God.
Perhaps if they were to have read the fullness of their Bibles, they would have seen this pitfall in Old Testament Israel.
The Sadducees rejected the prophecies of Isaiah....
but maybe they should have read his warnings.
Listen to Isaiah’s primary indictment of Israel in the very first chapter.
Isaiah 1:2–3 ESV
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. 3 The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”
Isaiah 1:10–15 ESV
10 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
God is wearied with religious practice performed by people who do not know God and do not seek to know him.
God had commanded sacrifices,
he had commanded feasts of remembrance.
He had commanded the holy assembly of God’s people in Israel...
But in Isaiah…, God says “my soul hates” these things. They are a “burden to me”
What a frightening thing.
Perhaps you have heard me state once before that 2 Timothy 3:5 is one of the scariest verses in the Bible for me.
Because among many other sins Paul describes one particularly scary sin that I think can go unnoticed in church life.
2 Timothy 3:1–5 ESV
1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
There is a way to appear godly, all the while denying the power of God himself.
There is a way to do godly things, without God as your motivation.
There is a way to use God as simply a means to some other end that you love more than God.
These Sadducees are speaking face to face with God in the flesh.
They are dressed in “godly” ways.
They speak in “godly” ways about “godly” things.
But they don’t know God.
Let me ask you
Do you know the power of God?
Do you know the sweet relief of his forgiveness of your sins?
Do you know the joy of his presence and of serving his purposes above your own?
Or are you just a somewhat moral person who goes to church for reasons other than meeting with God and hearing his word.
The Sadducees would have been faithful attenders… but they did not know God.
And one of the very obvious signs that they did not no God according to Jesus.... was that they did not know the Scriptures.
Now that was kind of a crazy accusation because these Sadducees spent many hours studying the Scriptures…
The problem, however, was that there reading was selective.
They only believed and accepted some of the Scriptures
In fact, they rejected massive portions of God’s inspired word…, and Jesus says this is why you are wrong.
This is why you don’t get it.
This should serve as yet another warning to us.

Warning #2 Beware of Selective Reading.

There is a way to read God’s Word accepting only parts that you like…
There is a way to read God’s Word and to use God’s Word for your own purposes…
That is no way to read God’s Word...
Half truths are no truths at all.
Half truths lead to a whole hell.
If we accept some of God’s word but reject and ignore God’s word at other places…
we have not made God our Lord… we have made ourselves Lord over his words.
We have made ourselves the authority and have simply found some of his words useful to us.
But God’s word is not simply useful to us to accomplish our purposes....
God’s Word is the authority under which we submit our lives so that God might accomplish his purposes.
2 Timothy 3:16 ESV
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
When God speaks it is important.
Maybe your hear this morning and its not that you just outright and intentionally reject whole books of the Bible like the Sadducees did....
But its just particular doctrines that you don’t like or that would have difficult implications for your life.
Maybe your hear this morning and its not that you even reject anything in God’s word...
But you practically do by simply choosing to stay ignorant of the whole counsel of God’s word.
For many, there is a false dichotomy which wants to paint Biblical study and deep meditation as the cold and spiritless side of Christianity....
Do not be deceived by the many schemes of the devil.
God is an unfathomable being unless God speaks to us.
He is unknowable unless he speaks.
And the God of the universe has chosen to speak most clearly in written language for us to read, meditate upon, and obey.
The Spirit of God never works separate from the Word of God being rightly understood and responded to in some way. This is the work of the Spirit and the work of the Word is the same work.
Beware of selective reading.... Beware of caring about and cherishing only some of God’s words that you can fit on a coffee cup or a bumper sticker...
Beware of nibbling on baby food… when God has prepared for you a feast of which you can enjoy but never be full.
Hebrews 5:12–14 ESV
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Why couldn’t the Sadducees see Jesus?
Why were they so wrong?
Godless religion and
Selective reading
Mark 12:24 ESV
24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?
So now we know why they were wrong....
Lets look at how they were wrong according to Jesus.
the Sadducees ask about who will be married to who after the resurrection of God’s people.
Jesus answers.
Mark 12:25 ESV
25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
Jesus teaches… that when all history is brought to its final act,
and his people are resurrected to live forever… the institution of marriage will no longer exist.
Jesus doesn’t elaborate on this much.
He Actually moves quickly to the crux of the issues which was their disbelief in the future resurrection.
The question was never really about marriage, it was always an attempt to discredit Jesus and the belief in eternal life Which Jesus had taught openly…
But we should pause briefly to do some reflecting on Jesus‘ teaching here
Human marriages entered into here on earth will not be a part of eternal life.
To the singles in the room, your thinking well praise the Lord I wont have to deal with being the only single in a group any more.
To the marrieds you are are either horrified at the thought of no longer being married to your spouse…
......or maybe you are relieved and this verse functions for you like a glorious promise of the gospel.
Before continuing with the argument of the text…, The question I want to ask as kind of a side note is “why?”
If I was one of the disciples there that day, I would have pulled Jesus aside and asked… why won’t their be marriage in heaven?
Well we can’t pull Jesus aside, but we can look at the rest of Scripture…Scriptures the Sadducees rejected.... And when we do this we find a beautiful reality.
this brings us to truth #1

Truth #1 Marriage is Fulfilled in Christ’s Return for His Church.

Marriage is a beautiful gift in this world.
It is precious in the sight of God.
And its one of our greatest responsibilities. We are to pour out our lives for our marriages to the end of our lives here on earth.
But marriage, as beautiful as it is, points beyond itself.
Much like the physical temple in Jerusalem, the institution of marriage points beyond itself to a greater reality.
Though all of my love, and affection, and my oneness to my wife is precious to me and to God… it is but a shadow of the deep, love, affection, and spiritual oneness to be experienced between God and his people at the end of all things.
The relationship that I have with my wife in the healthiest and happiest moments of our marriage is but a glimpse of a deeper relationship we will have with our God for eternity.
The story of the Bible is a story of redeeming sacrificial love that bridegroom has for his bride…
the bridegroom being Jesus
the bride being the church.
though the bride was unfaithful to Jesus
Though the bride was adulterous and idolatrous…
though the bridegroom gave his own blood for her.
The bridegroom promised to purchase her for himself.
This is one of those passages the Sadducees missed all together.
Hosea 2:16–20 ESV
16 “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.
This is what Jesus came to accomplish.
Ephesians 5:25–27 ESV
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Through Jesus’ sacrifice he made us holy and without blemish.
He cleansed us of our guilt..
But in Jesus’ return on the last day… God’s people will be fully and finally united to God in perfect relationship with one another.
Revelation actually uses marriage language for that last day.
We are invited to a wedding feast of celebration on the last day where we the church are the bride and God is our forever companion and friend.
Revelation 19:7–8 ESV
7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
Listen to Jonathan Edwards meditations on this reality,
“Christ obtaining this spouse is the great end of all the great things that have been done from the beginning of the world; it was that the Son of God might obtain his chosen spouse that the world was created… and that he came into the world… and when this end shall be fully obtained, the world will come to an end.” - Jonathan Edwards
Church.... this earthly institution of marriage serves a purpose according to the Scriptures.
It conveys to us God’s love for his precious church and his plan to be reconciled to her in the end.
Truth #1 Marriage is Fulfilled in Christ’s Return for His Church
This is our glorious present and this is our glorious future.
And it was a concept totally missed by the Sadducees.
They missed the point of marriage.
and they missed the hope of eternal life because they rejected much of the Bible or they simply failed to read what they did accept very closely.
Jesus now turns to the crux of the issue which was their unbelief in the resurrection…
and he actually uses a passage from one of the books that they understand to be authoritative.
He quotes from Exodus 3.
Mark 12:26–27 ESV
26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
Again… notice Jesus’ accusation...., “Have you not read in the book?”
the thing is…, they had read.
They had read the passage Jesus goes on to quote…
But they did not read with eyes to see..
They did not read in order to hear from God.
They did not read in order to know God so they missed massive theological realities that God himself was teaching in the words they were reading.
The Sadducees rejected eternal life partially because they didn’t see explicit teaching on eternal life in the first five books of the Old Testament....
but what you find in the first five books of the Old Testament are massive promises.
God makes massive promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.... that all the families of the earth would be blessed through their offspring.
God makes promises that do not come to fruition in the first five books of the Bible.
In fact, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, die never to see the fulfillment of the promises made to them…
But here Jesus makes and important point from Exodus 3.
In Exodus 3, Moses asks God who he is and God answers in this way.
Here it is in Exodus 3:6
Exodus 3:6 ESV
6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
God defined himself by a relationship to people whom had physically died. never seeing the fulfillment of promises God made to them.
God says, “I presently am the father” of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.
In the biggest moment of God’s self-revelation in the Old Testament, the burning bush and the calling of Moses… God defines himself in association with three dead guys....
Jesus’ argument is simple in verse 27.
Mark 12:27 ESV
27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

Truth #2 God is the God of the Living

Even the first five books of the Old Testament teach this clearly.
Death is not the end of God’s promises....
Death is not the end for God’s people....
Death was not the end for Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob…
Even hundreds of years later.... God considered himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
It is a brilliant argument from Jesus.
The Sadducees deny all other parts of Scripture.... so Jesus cuts right to the Scripture they new by heart, and probably new better than anyone else
He cut straight to the self-revelation of God… and he said see… God is the kind of God who keeps his promises beyond death.
He is the kind of God who is still present with his people in a glorious afterlife.
If there is no future resurrection...
If there is no eternal life… then God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are forever unfulfilled.
If there is not eternal life, then relationship with an eternal God means very little for a very short time.
Jesus says again very clearly at the end of verse 27… “You are quite wrong”
And they did not yet know just how wrong they were.
They were not just talking about future resurrection to a man named Jesus...
They were talking to THE resurrection that was promised.
They were speaking with the one who would make resurrection possible.
They were speaking to the one who would fulfill promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
They were speaking to the first fruits of resurrection…the down payment to our own resurrection…
In John, Jesus says these words when Lazarus dies.
John 11:21–27 ESV
21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
Jesus is the resurrection.
He is the answer to the curse of death.
He is the fulfillment of very old promises.
He took the curse of death on himself.
He shed his own blood as the purchase price for a rebellious bride.
He died for you…
Though you should die because of your own sins against God.
Though you should stay dead…
Jesus died… and he did not stay dead as a substitute for you.
You no longer have to die and stay dead.... because God made a way through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:1–3 ESV
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
1 Corinthians 15:14–24 ESV
14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
1 Corinthians 15:50–58 ESV
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Truth #2 God is the God of the Living.
What do you do with this passage and these truths.
Allow me to leave you with two responses.

Response #1 Repent of Godless Religion and Selective Reading.

Ask God to search your heart for Sadducee like tendencies.
Ask him to help you put God at the center of all your religious activity.
Ask him to help you hunger for God’s word.
Ask him to help you understand God’s word.
Seek out a small community of people who will stir you toward that end.

Response #2 Rejoice in God’s Promise of Resurrection and Reconciliation to God

Sometimes you just need to respond to a sermon with joy..
Sometimes you just need to celebrate the promises that are present in the text.
I encourage you to do that this morning.
No matter what is going on in your life this week… you have this promise from a resurrected Jesus.... one day you will know God like you have never known him before.
One day…
God will gather us together
in his arms of endless grace
as his bride forever...we will see his face.
Lets Pray and respond together.
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