Gather all the evidence

We almost all agree, whether Sadducee or believer, that science is the acquisition, through observation and experimentation, of knowledge in an evidentiary world. Jesus told the Sadducees that they did not know the scriptures, or God. They didn’t include all the evidence in their study of the world. They had dismissed, or better distanced, a critical portion of the evidence before them. In order to observe the world, one needs to know how we should see, and what and who we are looking at. 

You are greatly misled
Tobit 3:1-11, 16-17
Mark 12:18-27

According to Jesus, the question posed by the Sadducees in Mark comes from a narrow understanding of science, described as a veiled pursuit of knowledge, primarily due to a limited grasp of divine power. A fog of misunderstanding confuses those who subscribe to the way of the Sadducee. They are misled.

The New Jerusalem Bible translates verse 24 in Chapter 12 as, “Surely the reason why you are wrong is that you understand neither the scriptures nor the power of God.”

The Sadducees observed the world they could see, blurred by the fog of dust that they kicked up by their stamping feet. They operated from a basis very familiar to many of us today. Self-sufficiency and world acclaim identified the successful person. We understand this kind of thinking. Success is paramount and its measure is wealth and applause. God doesn’t bother with everyday things, nor does he relate personally to his creation, so the world must be satisfied in order to excel. Eventually, life ends when our lives end. Due to the short time of our existence, wealth, stature and power constitute the primary objectives of a worthwhile journey from cradle to grave.

We almost all agree, whether Sadducee or believer, that science is the acquisition, through observation and experimentation, of knowledge in an evidentiary world. Jesus told the Sadducees that they did not know the scriptures, or God. They didn’t include all the evidence in their study of the world. They had dismissed, or better distanced, a critical portion of the evidence before them. In order to observe the world, one needs to know how we should see, and what and who we are looking at. 

An important effect of absorbing scripture provides us with insight into both God and the powers that move and shape the universe. 

In fact, scripture provides the key to all observation. Using every literary tool known to humankind, God explains who he is, his creation, sin and corruption, redemption, and the coming kingdom. God surpasses the notion of scripture as a fascinating collection of words. He called himself the very Word itself. We ingest the Word into our hearts upon receiving him. Jesus, then, assists us in seeing the meaning and purpose of the Word — his own self. We cannot do this on our own. We must invite God to live in us, and to lead us. The invited Holy Spirit, then, gathers us as a body to correct each other, from one point of view; and to enlighten us to the wonders of who God is and how he lives among us, from another point of view. Both views are symbiotic, physically and spiritually weaving us into one Body that belongs to him.

When we read the scriptures only through our own eyes, we ignore the lens that God offers us. God’s telescope, microscope, and reading glasses provide a unique focus upon the Word. Our eyes see as through a glass darkly, a dirty window. So veiled, we resort to imagining what we think lies beyond the drapes and blinds before us. Without the guidance of God's Holy Spirit, our imaginations get off track due to streaks in the glass and the desires of our physical environment. All we need do is step outside our confines, leave the glass house and its stores of stuff, and allow God to show us through his aperture what’s really going on and what will actually fulfill our deepest desires.

The knowledge of the scriptures requires that we surrender to the author of the universe. We must acknowledge that all power and authority comes from God, and then allow God to take charge. The power of God, by almost any definition, cannot be reigned in and bound by our limitations. In truth, we are asked to hold onto the hand of God and be taken to places our imaginations cannot fathom.

The Sadducees did not have a hands on relationship with God. They, consequently, were misled by their own premise for scientific understanding. Also, they were plugged into a spiritless power rife with blackouts and insufficient amperage.

Their misled state did not allow them to recognize the picture of resurrection that Jesus painted. Jesus called this life temporary, a reflection of what we will live later. In addition, the Sadducees did not allow for the reordering of the universe by a loving creator. It was what it was, and that’s all that it was, to paraphrase Popeye. 

So, to the Sadducees, a seven-time married woman in this life would still be a seven-time married woman in any subsequent existence. A further life, in fact, could not exist simply because of the framework provided by the only life they could see. Everything dies.

Angels, demons, indeed any spiritual world creatures, do not exist to these misled folks. Resurrection was absurd, because life ended. The body slumped into a heap at its final hour, and disintegrated before the next year’s season returned. There’s nothing left to resurrect.

Some commentators surmise that the Sadducees snickered when they challenged Jesus with their question. I imagine them putting "air quotes" around the word resurrection. “Now then, at the 'Resurrection',” they posited, “whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

Like so many non-religious people in our modern societies today, the Sadducees could not accept a contradiction. Death cannot be reversed. If in fact, any possible life after death happened it would have to take place within a spiritual, non-bodily existence. The body is gone. 

Similarly, like so many religiously tolerant folks of today, the Sadducee could allow for a possible spirit afterlife, but necessarily invisible and ethereal, and consequently impossible to articulate in earthly, physical terms. 

If someone could theoretically be resurrected -- which would mean choosing fantasy over logic -- the Sadducees assumed that such a restored body would return here, on earth, with all the same relationships, mental capacities, physical deficiencies, and social order of their earlier life intact. 

Like all flaky theories, the absurdity of resurrection cannot stand up against the certainties of failures and flaws in life, say the Sadducees. If you lost your reputation, it was gone. When you turned into a man or woman, your childhood was gone. When you contracted leprosy, your health was gone.

Interestingly, their assumption that earth would be the place for resurrection was correct. That the earth would not also be resurrected, or restored, however, narrowed their perspective.

To them, life cannot restore such things as lost capabilities and character. A resurrected life would simply return a person to the same messes and muddles they had left behind. Seven men, married in their first life to the same woman, points out the ultimate chaos for resurrection. Who would call her their wife in the next life?

The Sadducees were partially correct. Resurrection requires both a life after death, and a life with a restored body. Their concept of restoration, however, left out the initial design of creation, a perfect world populated by eternal beings. The initial creation chose death over life, not God. 

The Sadducees also left out the ultimate conquering of death through the resurrected Body of Christ. The Sadducees only knew a world where sin ruled the day.

Jesus preached about the promise for a resurrected existence. One where he would die, and then return to life in a resurrected body. Jesus promised to end death’s hold on creation, conquering both sin and its consequences.

At the time of Jesus, the evidence of his life, death and resurrection, indeed the evidence of the coming Kingdom, sat hidden in the Talmud and writings of the Prophets. Jesus did not condemn the Sadducees. He said they had been misled. Theirs was a condition of a constrained, tightly packaged quasi-reality. Misled folks travel in a high-stepping dust-blinded herd, following the lead of those whose senses are dimmed.

Jesus stood as the contradiction to everything the Sadducees held true about God and the scriptures. He read it differently, and claimed that every word on the scrolls spoke of him. A man to be ridiculed turned into a dangerous harbinger of blasphemy and revolt.

The largest number of the 72 members in the Sanhedrin, the ruling authority, the political leaders of the Jewish people, were Sadducees. The angry Pharisees easily convinced the Sadducees and the rest of Sanhedrin that Jesus must die. 

Following Jesus’ subsequent and remarkable resurrection and ascension, an irascible band of believers in both Jesus' deity and his message of redemption and restoration intimately followed the Holy Spirit that the Sadducees had rejected. Over the next 40 years the Sadducees disappeared, and were all but erased from history by 74 AD. In essence, the Sadducees died as they had lived. There would be no afterlife, no resurrection, no calling out to God, and no angels would come to their aid. In their fog, they fell off a cliff.

Over and over, though, century by century, foggy leaders have recreated the Sadducee parade. On our secular world stages it appears the Sadducee keep returning to power. The titles and Jewish roots have changed, but the blinders and dark glasses of the misled have been dredged up from the dung heap. The evidence presented to the world through the modern Sadducee eyes reflects a limited God, incapable of restoring the universe or accepting the coming Kingdom. He is angry with his creation, and has abandoned the world to its own devices. Jesus' words have been symbolized and reversed to actually support ancient, faulty Sadducee thinking.

To the modern Sadducee, scripture barely holds sway, relegated to librarians, etymology and linguists. It remains among the elite as a mystery of parables and a series of unbelievable tales, mined primarily for proverbs, financial advice and the development of effective leadership. The Word is a dusty book, and the one who died and rose again stands as an emblem of sacrifice and compassion, but ultimately a warning to those who challenge the successful elites.

On this falsely elevated stage, watched by a herd on parade, elites climb over each other to position themselves like the long gone Sadducees. They have poorly fabricated a pavilion which creaks on top of a wooden pyre, illogically painted and draped with flammable coverings.

Meanwhile, Jesus lives among those of us who follow him. Our irrelevance upon the eventual pyre of the burning man should not bother our hearts. It may not feel OK to be ridiculed by the misled, but the love of God is preferable to the applause from elites and their audience. In fact, our contradictory fearlessness in the face of their rage may well lift the veil for those (few or many?) who will ultimately be won over by God. We are the evidence of the Word written upon our hearts. We are not misled by a dusty fog of corralled science and a boxed in God.

At this very time, the prayer of the supplicants among the believers is heard by the glorious presence of the Almighty God, Tobit assures us. The angels are sent to heal us, removing the darkness in our eyes so we again can see God’s sunlight. We are free to join together, because the same angels are driving the wicked from us. We, and everything in the universe, including our own earth, are already being restored by a God who loves us.

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