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The Pharisees and the Herodians, having been put to silence, had left our Lord, marvelling at his wisdom. Then came on the Sadducees, bringing with them their best arguments to shew that the doctrine of a life after death was impossible. Very shallow reasoning is enough for men who are glad not to believe. The Sadducees strove to content themselves with the pleasures they could make or find in this world. They did not wish to believe that there was another ; for if there were, something within them told them, that they could not carry on there the manner of life they had done here. They brought forward the supposed case of a woman who had been seven times married in the same family. By this they tried to show that the doctrine of the resurrection was absurd, for if all rose again from the dead, what was the woman to do with her seven husbands? The absurdity was their own, since they had not sense enough to see that those laws which were given for the needs of this world must cease with it.
Jesus spake not to them as sternly as He had done to the Pharisees ; for, though unprincipled triflers, and would be unbelievers, there seems to have been in them a far greater willingness to be taught. He said unto them,
MATTHEW xxii. 29. MARK xii. 24. “Ye do err, because ye know not the Scripture, nor the power of God; for when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven."
LUKE xx. 34–37. “ The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage : but they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage : Neither can they die any more : for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”
heritance allotted to them, when the land of Canaan was divided among the tribes of Israel. So also the laws regarding the marriage of heiresses to their kinsmen. By these arrangements it was nearly impossible for a man's name to go out in Israel—for the first-born of his nearest of kin was looked upon as his heir.
Thus our Lord reproved the folly, and the sinful ignorance of the Sadducees. The Scriptures were before them, why had they not learnt from them that this life is only a time of preparation for the life that is to come? The marriage tie is needful here where children are to be brought up to take their places in time and in eternity. Sad gaps are here made by the hand of death, and the new-born must fill them up, or the earth would soon be desolate. But in the bright world beyond, there is no need of this. The whole and completed family of God shall meet in their Father's happy home to part no more. There no helpless infancy shall need a mother's care. Death cannot enter, and no empty place shall look mournfully for a successor to fill it up. All shall be complete and lasting ;- for by the power of God, men and women shall be “as the angels which are in heaven,"_" the children of the resurrection.”
Oh what a rest there is to the longing heart, in this assurance spoken by our Lord. Love, undying love, never sees the grave, but with the parting spirit rises straight to heaven its native place, where only its true character can be known.
Here it is but a yearning after a deeper, truer feeling, for all earthly love has in it something still wanting. “Not even the tenderest heart and next our own, knows half the reason why we smile or sigh.”* There it shall not be so : there love shall fill and satisfy each soul, for we shall be as the angels of God.
As in adoration of God, so in our love to each other, there is, even in the most devoted heart, some hindrance ever rising from our weak mortal nature. We cannot love as we would love, with an affection that knows no change ; still less can we feel that we are thus loved ; for our perfect trust is marred by our sense of our unworthiness; but after death it shall not be so with those "who are counted worthy to obtain that world,” " the children of the resurrection.”
* Christian Year.
By God's command the grave is made the great refiner. Each sinful particle gone, the glorious body restored to its Creator's image shall be a fit dwelling for the glorious spirit. Then shall each one spring forth to meet his best beloved. Oh what blissful unions shall be then! The names of husband and of wife, of mother; and of child may be heard no more; but the love that made them all we had of happiness on earth, shall glow in heaven, pure, lasting, intense, and holy; all-satisfying, for the smile of God shall rest upon it, and “God is love."
Our Lord having shewn the Sadducees the folly of their ar. gument against the rising of the dead, went on with persevering kindness to teach them further. He shewed them that if they had given a thoughtful attention to those Scriptures which they believed, they would have seen in them the doctrine of eternal life. They denied the truth of every part of Scripture, except the five books of Moses at the beginning of the Bible.* Our Lord did not lose time in arguing with them on this their unbelief. Had He done so, it would most likely only have roused them into a stronger opposition ; but, setting us an example of heavenly wisdom, He chose that part which they did believe, and in simple words showed them from it the truth, He said
* Called the Pentateuch.
MARK xii. 26, 27. “ And as touching the dead, that they rise : have ye not read in the book of Moses : how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob! He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living ; ye therefore do greatly err.”
Or as St. Luke gives His words,
LUKE XX. 37, 38. “ Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live unto him.”
When God spake to Moses in the burning bush, many hundred years had passed away since the time that Abraham and his son and his son's son had died, and had been buried in the Cave of Machpelah. Yet God did not say "I was the God of Abraham,” but “I am the God of Abraham, and of Isaac and of Jacob.” Words full of sacred meaning, I am their God, they still live, and serve, and worship me, for I am their God. “He is not a God of the dead but of the living, for all live unto Him." What is death ? and what is life? What made the dust-formed body of Adam live? God breathed into it the breath of life,—thus man became a living soul. The beasts and the birds lived by God's command, but the life of man is the breath of God. God withdraws it again and the body of man lies down in death ; and his spirit, still living, because formed of the breath of life, returns to God. But the body must rise again, for without it man would be incomplete.
“All live unto Him” that is, union with Him is life. Separation from Him is death. They who live apart from God are “ dead while they live," and shall never know eternal life; but Abraham and Isaac and Jacob while in the body lived unto
God, in union with Him, therefore they live still, God is still their God, and at the appointed hour the Cave of Machpelah shall yield its sacred dust, and each living Spirit shall be clothed again. The body shall die no more, for, restored to the presence of God, it also shall live unto Him.
Are our souls now much in communion with God ? our wills and affections in union with His ? Then the life that is in us is eternal. Death to our human feelings may seem an awful passage, the grave shrouded with gloom ; but in truth the one is the gate opening into our Father's home by which our souls shall pass to Him, the other the bed of rest, in which the wearied body throws off the great illness of mortal life, and from which it shall arise refreshed, strengthened, and beautified in the morning of the resurrection, fully able for the life of the Spirit.
Our Lord's answer, clear, simple, and full of deep meaning, had a great effect upon the listening crowd. The Pharisees seeing the Sadducees thus put to silence, "gathered together.” The words of Jesus beautifully and strongly expressed their own belief. One of their number is so struck by His wisdom that he would be further taught. If, as St. Matthew seems to say, he was still in doubt of the real character of Jesus, and would try Him by puzzling questions, we see clearly by the more exact account of St. Mark that he was not so prejudiced against Him as to refuse to be convinced by Him. St. Matthew says MATTHEW xxii. 35, 36.
. “ Then one of them, which was a Lawyer, asked him a question tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law ?"
St. Mark writes
Mark xii. 28. “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them (that is the Pharisees and Sadducees) well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all ?”