The Questions of the Sadducees, Scribes and Phariseesby Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
WE HAVE heard much in the story, of the Pharisees, who were looked upon as leaders of the people in religion, because they regularly went to church, paid the church dues and obeyed all the rules, foolish as some of those rules seemed. These Pharisees, as you know, were bitter enemies nof Jesus, and everywhere stirred up the people against him.
But there was another party among the Jews, the Sadducees, whom we have not mentioned up to this time. These people were equally opposed to the Pharisees and to Jesus. They were easy-living men, not paying much attention to the church rules; and in fact not going often to the church, which you know was called "the synagogue." But although they cared little for the churches in the different towns, they cared greatly for the Temple in Jerusalem, for most of the priests in the Temple were Sadducees, as also were many of the rulers in the great council of the Jews.
The Sadducees did not believe that there was any soul in man, nor any life after this life, nor any angels, nor any rising from the dead hereafter, nor any heaven or hell. They believed that when a man died and was buried, that was his end forever.
Some of these Sadducees tried to puzzle Jesus with a question. They came to him in the Temple that Tuesday while he was speaking to the people.
"Teacher," they said to him, "you remember that in the law of Moses it is ordered that if a man should die without any children, but leaving a wife, then the man's brother shall take the widow for his wife, and raise a family for his brother. Well, there were living seven brothers.
The oldest of these married a wife, and after a time died, leaving no children. Then the second married her, and he too died without a child. The third took her and died, the fourth also, and all the rest of the seven died, leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died. Now, you have been teaching that there will come a day when the dead shall rise to life. When that day comes, and these seven men rise, all of whom were married to this woman, whose wife out of them all will she be, for every one of them in turn was married to her?"
"You make a mistake," answered Jesus, "because you do not understand the teachings of the Bible; nor do you know how great is the power of God, who can at a word call the dead up to life. In this world men and women marry because they live on earth only for a time, and must have families to live after them. But when the dead are raised up, they do not rise as husbands and wives, nor do they marry in that world to come, for they will have no need to raise up families to take their places. In that land all live forever, like the angels of God.
And as to the resurrection, the rising from the dead, have you not read the words that God spoke to Moses at the burning bush?
"'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.'
"Now God is not the God of dead men, but of living men. For in the sight of God all men are alive, even after they have died on earth."
While Jesus was answering these questions--that of the rulers of the Temple about his right to drive out those that were buying and selling; that of the Pharisees about the paying of taxes; and that of the Sadducees about the resurrection, the rising from the dead--the people were standing around, listening.
Although the rulers were enemies of Jesus, the common people were friendly, and heard him gladly. They saw how ready and how apt his answers were, and they were greatly pleased to find the enemies of Jesus put to confusion before him.
While Jesus was talking in the Temple and answering all these questions, a teacher of the law was standing near and listening. He saw how well Jesus answered all the questions put to him, and coming up to him, said:
"Teacher, what commandment stands first of all?"
We might suppose that he was speaking of the Ten Commandments and asking which of these is the most important. But that was not his purpose.
He was thinking, not of the commandments given by God, but of the rules made by the scribes. One teacher would say that the rules about keeping the Sabbath were the greatest, another that the rules about washing were first; and so on, each scribe or teacher laying stress on one set of rules above another. Jesus looked upon all these little laws made by men as of no importance; and this was his answer to the scribe who had asked the question:
"The first and greatest of all the commandments is this, 'Hear, O ye people of Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.' And the second commandment is this,
'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' There is no other commandment greater than these two."
To love God with all the heart is to do God's will, not because we must do it, but because we love to do it and find joy in doing it. And to love our neighbor means to feel an interest in our fellow-men and to do for them whatever we would wish to have them do for us.
"You are right, Teacher!" said the scribe in answer to Jesus. "It is true, as you say, that there is one God; and there is no other God besides him. And to love God with the whole heart, and with the whole mind, and with the whole strength; and to love one's fellow-man as one's self--this is far beyond all offerings upon the altar!"
Jesus saw that this man's words were true and good and that he had the right thought of our duty to God and to our fellow-man. He said to him:
"You are not far from the kingdom of God."
This was the last question put to Jesus. No one ventured to ask him any more, for they were afraid of his wonderful answers.
The chief priests and the rulers were more and more angry at him, but the common people listened to him willingly.
While Jesus was teaching he in his turn asked a question of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.
"Tell me," he said, "what you think of the Messiah-Christ, the King of Israel, promised to come. Whose son is he?"
They answered at once, "David's son."
"How is it then," asked Jesus again, "that David in one of the psalms calls him 'Lord'?
"The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.'
"If David calls this coming Christ 'my Lord,' how can he be David's son?"
This they could not answer, and they dared not ask Jesus any more questions. But we know, from the words of the New Testament, that while Christ as a man was sprung from David's line, as the Son of God he was David's Lord.