Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a question, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her." Jesus said to them, "Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."
Both the first reading and the Gospel touch on the question of resurrection.
The background of the first reading from 2 Maccabees (7:1-2, 9-14) is about martyrdom of a mother and her seven sons against the oppression of Jewish faith practiced by successors of Alexander the Great in the 2nd century BC. Their strong faith in the resurrection can be sensed in the passage, “And when he was at his last breath, he said, ‘You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws’ (7:9) .” Also, “When he was near death, he said, ‘One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!’ (7:14)”
It was commonly believed among ancient peoples of different civilizations that although mankind died but not the spirit. The Holy Scriptures tell us that the almighty God give us eternal life. Christians believe not only the eternality of spirit but also the resurrection of body and the life everlasting through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Sadducees formed the second largest group after the Pharisees at the time of Jesus in Palestine. Being rational and practical in politics and religion, they took the stance of appeasement with the occupying Romans and did not believe resurrection and life after. So they made up the story trying to embarrass Jesus. Nowadays, people who have no belief still use the same trick to question Christians about our faith.
Jesus’ reply to their question shows that it is about faith and mystery and not human reasoning. They thought that life after resurrection would be just life as usual of this age. But Jesus pointed out to them, “Those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.”
St. Paul also talked about resurrection. The whole chapter 15 of his first letter to the Church at Corinth is about resurrection, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain (1 Corinthians 15:12-14)... For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ (15:21-22).”
Jesus knew that his resurrection is through his death on the cross. He shared our death so that we can share his resurrection. We should not be bothered by reasoning of Sadducees. We should be joyful about the hope of eternal life brought by Jesus to us. Amen.