Jesus confronts religious arrogance

Edith Hamilton (1867-1963) had an ability to get underneath a story, to capture it as a real and human moment. Such was her rendering of the story of the Sadducees confronting Jesus about the after-life. She captured the authority with which Jesus spoke.

Here is her telling of the story, but I have inserted a more contemporary version of Scripture to make it read easier today, and I’ve inserted some paragraph breaks for the same purpose. Ms. Hamilton:

Jesus’ “mastery was felt by all who confronted him. Some Sadducees, of the powerful priestly party, came to him–by that time he had a certain notoriety as an itinerant preacher–and they planned to put a question to him in such a way that it would make him ridiculous in the eyes in the eyes of the crowd. They did not believe in immortality and they told him a story about a woman who had seven husbands.”

“In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her” (Mark 12:23, NRSV).

“From the experience of all their life they [the Sadducees] thought they were invulnerable in their armour of power and pride, and they were ready for their laugh at the travel-worn wayfarer who faced them.

“But, strangely, as they looked at him it was somehow conveyed to them that their scorn and ridicule did not touch him, did not reach him. He [Jesus] answered them very gravely. Laughter suddenly became impossible. He told them their question was one only ignorance could ask. They were ignorant of the very matters which as priests they professed to know.

Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong” (Mark 12:24-27, NRSV)

“They answered answered him nothing, not a word to oppose the stern rebuke. They were convicted of error before all the crowd and they did not even try to regain their ascendency. They had felt penetrating their panoply of arrogance an authority so commanding that they were helpless to question it, and they went silently away (Hamilton, Witness to the Truth, 140-142).

It is wise to be wary of the arrogance, including the religious arrogance, that leads us to think we understand everything perfectly. Jesus guides us, and we have His Spirit available to us, but we are not Him.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s