Luke 20:27-40


Fahling: Only on one occasion had Jesus come into public conflict with the Sadducees, when, characteristically, they had asked of Him a sign from heaven (Matthew 16:1).
Ylvisaker: The Sadducees were aristocratic rationalists and unspiritual materialists who denied the resurrection and the retribution after death, because they refused to believe in the immortality of the soul, even as they also denied the existence of angels and of any spirit.

This debate with the Sadducees took place on Tuesday of Holy Week.

Luke 20:27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question.

"Who say there is no" in the Greek is "Deny that there is not . . . ." or as we would say: "Deny that there is. . . ." They cite Deuteronomy 25:5ff, though not accurately. Perhaps they fabricated this account on the basis of Tobit 3:9.

Luke 20:28  "Teacher," they said,  "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother." 

The word "man" us used three times in this sentence:

  1. The deceased brother;

  2. The surviving brother;

  3. The deceased brother.

Luke 20:29  "Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless." 

This is a hypothetical case.

Luke 20:30-31  "The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children." 

For this we would likely used hypotaxis: "When they died." 

Luke 20:32  "Finally, the woman died too." 

Luke 20:33  "Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?" 

"Since" is "we ask this because." 

Luke 20:34 Jesus replied,  "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage." 

This verse is axiomatic. The principle of "marrying and being given in marriage" is true of all people of this age, be they regenerate or unregenerate. And, it hardly needs to be said that Jesus is stating the rule, not the exception.

Luke 20:35  "But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage," 

"Those who are considered worthy," wherever this verb is used in the New Testament (Luke 20:35; 21:36; Acts 5:41; 2 Thessalonians 1:5) it is always passive voice and the subjects are always God's children. God deems them worthy, not vice versa.

Phillips: But those who are considered worthy of reaching that world, which means rising from the dead, etc.

This verse, of course, is speaking only of people in everlasting life. Evidently the Sadducees who posed this situation assumed that the seven men and the woman went to everlasting life. Jesus says of them that "they neither marry nor are given in marriage." 

Luke 20:36  "and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection." 

This verse begins with to short clauses. The first is causal and the second is explanatory:  "because they can no longer die, you see they are like angels." In other words, IMMORTALITY lies at the heart of the whole matter. Where there is immortality there's no reason for marriage. And the only point of comparison between saints in heaven and angels is their common immortality.

Then follows: "And they are God's people because they are resurrection people." In this one verse Jesus teaches His opponents three lessons:

  1. In heaven people are immortal and, therefore, do no longer marry.

  2. There are angels, in fact, the redeemed in heaven are like the angels in that they are immortal. (Jesus is not saying that angels are sexual or that the redeemed in heaven are no longer male or female.)

  3. The resurrection to life (which Jesus' opponents denied) is proof of being God's child.

Luke 20:37  "But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.'" 

"In the passage about the bush." When Exodus 3:6 was spoken to Moses, we know that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead for centuries, that is, from man's point of view.

Luke 20:38  "He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." 

"God" is not the subject. It is in the predicate. The two genitives are adjectival and genitive of relationship. The use of the adjectival genitive straightens out their wrong thinking on what kind of God God really is. The second genitive, relationship, clearly shows that He is not a dead people's God. "All the redeemed in heaven are alive from His point of view." AAT: "All who are with Him are alive." There are no dead people in heaven.

Luke 20:39 Some of the teachers of the law responded,  "Well said, teacher!" 

Some of the Scribes are gleeful over the way Jesus answered the Sadducees.

Luke 20:40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

This verse explains verse 39. Luke makes an observation. Note how emphatic the negative is. It is doubled. The subject is, of course, the Sadducees. Jesus' answer was so final that they dared ask no more questions.

Lenski: The old trick of playing one word of Scripture (one that seems to suit our error) against some great doctrine of Scripture, buttressed by a number of Scripture statements, was practiced already in the days of the Sadducees. . . . The Sadducees had appealed to the Scriptures (like Satan in 4:10-11),  falsely;  Jesus now crushes this appeal by himself appealing to the Scriptures (as in 4:12),  truly. The Scriptures ARE the true court of appeal.
Ylvisaker: It is evident that Jesus here argues from the point of view that everything in Holy Writ, not only the subject-matter, the content, but also the form, is inspired. If it were not so, He would never place such emphasis on the mere form of tense. Jesus likewise teaches in this passage that 'consequence from Scripture, if rightly deduced, must be received as Scripture.'

On the resurrection in the Old Testament compare Job 19:26; Psalm 16:9,11; Isaiah 26:19; 25:8; Daniel 12:1ff. Then compare Hebrews 11:10,13,14,16,35 and especially verse 19: "Accounting that God was able to raise him (Isaac) up, even from the dead." 

In Eden Adam and Eve were not able to die. Genesis 2:17. Because of the fall, people are no longer able not to die. Romans 5:12. In everlasting life people are no longer able to die. Luke 20:36; 1 Corinthians 15:42-57.

What is harmonious to the believer is contradictory to the unbeliever. Look at Hebrews 11:19. On this entire pericope look at John 5:24-29; 10:27-29; 11:23-27.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Gospel Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 76-78. Used with permission.

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