During presidential election seasons, I love tuning in to watch candidates on the debate stage, especially if it’s a town-hall-style forum with questions from the audience. At rallies and in speeches, would-be presidents can deliver canned remarks and offer vague promises, but in an open forum, the voters are free to ask almost anything. At these events, the novices are easily separated from the seasoned politicians. The professionals know how to turn the answer to a difficult question into a great television moment.
In politics, this can be a terrible thing, as style can overtake substance pretty quickly. But the art of answering tough questions well doesn’t need to be an effort in deception. In fact, there has never been anyone better at answering tough questions than Jesus. Whatever trap the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, or scribes tried to set for Him, Jesus avoided the snare and turned their own words against them.
Take, for example, the scene in Luke 20. Jesus was in Jerusalem, knowing He had come to town to die. His enemies among the religious elite were eager to oblige, looking for a way to turn the crowds against Him or get Him to incriminate Himself. As part of this effort, a group of Sadducees approached Jesus with a ridiculous, almost comical, scenario based on a minor point of the Mosaic Law.
The particular law concerned a man who dies without having children. In order for his widow be cared for and his line perpetuated, the dead man’s brother was to marry his wife and produce a child to be the man’s heir (see Deuteronomy 25:5). But in the minds of the Sadducees, this passage poked a gaping hole in the doctrine of the future resurrection. Their question was: If seven brothers, in keeping this law, all married the same woman, whose wife would she be at the resurrection?
Jesus’s response came in two parts. First, He said that marriage is only needed for this age, for in the age to come, people will no longer die, so they won’t need children to keep their legacy alive (v.36). The whole premise of the Sadducees’ question was faulty. Then, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter: the resurrection.
The Sadducees had hoped to stump Jesus, so that it might appear to the watching crowds that Jesus was at odds with the universally revered Law of Moses. But Jesus used Moses to show the Pharisees that it was they—and not Him—who were out of step with the Law.
Generations after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died and were buried, God was still speaking about His friends in the present tense. That’s because they were—and are—alive and present with the Lord, awaiting the final resurrection when they will be forever united with their transformed bodies on a renewed earth. This is our “living hope,” as Peter put it (1 Peter 1:3), and it is secure because Jesus defeated the power of sin and death on the cross.
As Jesus illustrated in His answer to the Sadducees’ question, this hope was never a “plan B,” an afterthought from God. It was woven into the story of redemption from the beginning. And with each passing day, this hope we share with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob draws nearer and nearer. Thanks be to God!
Written by John Greco