Yesterday I preached from Mark 12:18-27. In this text, Jesus was in His final week of His earthly life prior to the crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. As He arrived in Jerusalem during the week of Passover, the city was filled with a buzz of activity. Jesus’ presence intensified this buzz as He collided with the religious establishment.
In Mark 11:27-12:12, we see that a group of chief priests, scribes, and elders approached Jesus in the temple and asked Him for an explanation regarding authority. By whose authority was Jesus operating in His ministry of miracles and teaching? In Mark 12:13-17, a group of Pharisees and Herodians came to Jesus and sought to trap Him with a political question regarding taxation. In this text, the Sadducees approached Jesus with a theological question. They wanted to know Jesus’ position on the marriage law mentioned in Deuteronomy 25:5-6 – or did they? Actually they were setting a trap for Jesus regarding His position on the resurrection of the dead. That was their real issue. Their question wasn’t exactly sincere, it was more of a theological trap.
The Sadducees: The Sadducees were a sect of the Jews who were considered the elites of the day. They were fewer in number than the Pharisees, but considered to be more powerful and influential. They were the group given oversight responsibilities for the temple and from this group the high priest was chosen. They prided themselves on their defense of the Law of God and were champions of Moses’ teachings as they looked to His writings as the authoritative written body of the Old Testament. They rejected all miracles and the supernatural power of God.
- Denied the supernatural
- Denied the existence of angels
- Denied the existence of the soul
- Denied the existence of spirits
- Denied the resurrection of the dead
- Denied the existence of an after life
Jesus played along with their game just as He had done with the previous two groups. However, if this were a chess match, Jesus called checkmate from His very first move. Jesus’ response was clearly a rebuke. He said, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Mark 12:24)? Jesus pointed out several dangerous points of ignorance of the Sadducees.
- Ignorant of the Scripture
- Ignorant of the Power of God
- Ignorant of the After Life
- Ignorant of Moses’ Writings
In essence, as Jesus pointed out their ignorance step by step, they were exposed as religious fools. Like whitewashed tombs, they approached Jesus to have a theological debate. Without wasting a moment of time, Jesus called their bluff. Jesus pointed out their errors and humiliated them. Jesus’ final statement to this group was clear – “You are quite wrong” (Mark 12:27).
All of their ignorance related to Jesus and their hatred of Jesus was rooted in their ignorance of Scripture. It’s one thing to be ignorant of facts, but it’s quite another thing to remain willfully ignorant. That is where the Sadducees were as a whole. They rejected the after life and the resurrection because they wanted to avoid the fact that one day all people will have a day of reckoning with God. As J. I. Packer makes clear, “All the language that strikes terror into our hearts – weeping and gnashing of teeth, outer darkness, the worm, the fire, gehenna, the great gulf fixed – is all directly taken from our Lord’s teaching. It is from Jesus Christ that we learn the doctrine of eternal punishment.”  Jesus’ preaching and His doctrine of eternal punishment was offensive. They had heard of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and that recent miracle was likely offensive to their theological position. If they could prove Jesus wrong, they could beat Jesus and the Pharisees at the same time.
In the end, the Sadducees rejected Jesus and eventually supported His brutal crucifixion. They would go on to kill James, the brother of Jesus as well. Not only did they refuse to heed the warning of Jesus regarding their ignorance, it’s likely that many of them pressed on and found themselves in hell upon death. They learned that they were wrong about the existence of heaven and hell. They learned they were wrong about the after life. They learned they were wrong about the power of God. In their case, they experienced the overwhelming power of God in judgment.
What about you today? Are you like the Sadducees? Are you full of religion, but confused regarding who Jesus actually is? Don’t remain ignorant. Don’t die in your ignorance.
Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
- James I Packer, All Men Won’t Be Saved, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1965), 156.