Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and put this question to him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers…” Mark 12:18–20
And these Sadducees then go on to present to Jesus a long and unlikely hypothetical scenario in which this woman eventually married all seven brothers after each one died. And at the conclusion of their hypothetical situation, the Sadducees ask Jesus, “At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be?” Of course, Jesus offers them the correct answer and then also states something interesting. He tells the Sadducees that they “are greatly misled.” Just prior to this conversation with the Sadducees, the Pharisees had presented their own question to Jesus in an attempt to trap Him. The difference seems to be that the Sadducees had more sincerity in their pursuit of the truth whereas the Pharisees were more obsessed with their own authority and power.
The Sadducees were considered the more traditional of the religious leaders, in that they accepted only the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, as authentically revealed. They also did not accept the afterlife or the resurrection of the dead because they believed that the Torah did not explicitly teach those things. The Pharisees not only accepted the Torah but also the rest of what is contained in the Old Testament. The Pharisees also accepted what was referred to as the “tradition of the elders,” which meant that they paid much attention to the scrupulous multiplication of laws and regulations that other Pharisees devised, and they sought to impose those man-made laws upon the people.
In this Gospel passage, the problem with the Sadducees seems to be scrupulosity and rigidity in their approach to the faith. They clearly relied upon human reason, and they applied their human reason to the Torah. And though human reason and logical deduction are helpful and necessary in life, they attempted to solve every matter of faith by their own effort by narrowly and rigidly interpreting the Torah. They did not allow themselves to be open to the deeper wisdom of God that floods one’s human reason when one is attentive to divine inspiration and revelation. Instead, they were black and white in all of their deductions and practices. This rigidity left them “greatly misled.”
In our own lives, we can also become greatly misled when we use the gift of our human reason in a rigid and narrow way. We must never overly simplify the faith, and we must never think that we will easily be able to arrive at all the answers by our own effort. Our constant goal must be to allow our minds to become fully immersed in the deepest wisdom of God and all that He has revealed. The teachings of the Church will guide us, keeping us on the straight path, but it will be the voice of God, speaking to our minds in a real and personal way, that will help us to understand the depth and breadth of God’s Will, His Truth, and Wisdom.
Reflect, today, upon any tendency you have to be like these Sadducees. Are you rigid? Or narrow minded? Do you allow yourself to be misled into thinking you have all the answers? If so, seek humility. Humble yourself before the awesome mysteries of Heaven. Use your mind to probe the truths that God has revealed and be ready to be drawn deeper and deeper into the life of God Himself.
My Lord of infinite wisdom, You are Truth Itself and You continually reveal Yourself to us. Give me the humility I need to always be open to all divine Truth in my life so that I will come to know You and Your holy will as You desire. Jesus, I trust in You.