Lectio Divina: Mark 12:18-27
1) Opening prayer
Your love never fails.
Hear our call.
Keep us from danger
and provide for all our needs.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 12:18-27
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. The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants. So the second brother married her and died, leaving no descendants, and the third likewise. And the seven left no descendants. Last of all the woman also died. At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her." Jesus said to them, "Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven. As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled."
• In today’s Gospel the confrontation between Jesus and the authorities continues. After the priests, the elders and the scribes (Mk 12:1-12) and the Pharisees and the Herodians (Mk 12:13-17), now the Sadducees appear who ask a question about resurrection. It is a controversial theme, which caused argument and discussion among the Sadducees and the Pharisees (Mk 12:18-27; cf. Acts 23:6-1).
• In the Christian communities of the years seventy, the time when Mark wrote his Gospel, there were some Christians who, in order to not be persecuted, tried to reconcile the teaching of Jesus with the ideas of the Roman Emperor. The others who resisted the Empire were persecuted, accused and questioned by the authority due to neighbors who felt annoyed, bothered by their witness. The description of the conflicts of Jesus with the authority was a very great help for the Christians so as not to allow themselves to be manipulated by the ideology of the Empire. In reading these episodes of conflict of Jesus with the authorities, the persecuted Christians were encouraged to continue on this road.
• Mark 12:18-23. The Sadducees: The Sadducees were the aristocratic elite of land owners and traders. They were willing to borrow from Hellenism and believed in written, but not oral, law. They did not accept faith in the Resurrection. At that time, this faith was beginning to be challenged by the Pharisees and popular piety. It urged the resistance of the people against the dominion of the Romans, and of the priests, of the elders and of the Sadducees themselves. For the Sadducees, the Messianic Kingdom was already present in the situation of well-being in which they were living. They may have followed what we call today as the “Theology of Retribution,” which distorted reality. According to this theology, God rewards with richness and well-being those who observe the Law of God, and He punishes with suffering and poverty those who do evil. A variation of this today in some independent Christian communities is called “Prosperity Theology”. It is also related to the concept of Deuteronomist Theology, which refers to the agenda of the Deuteronomic authors. This explains why the Sadducees did not want change. They wanted religion to remain as it was, immutable like God Himself in the written law. This is why they did not accept faith in the Resurrection and in the help of angels, who sustained the struggle of those who sought changes and liberation.
• Mark 12:19-23. The question of the Sadducees: They go to Jesus to criticize and to ridicule faith in the Resurrection, to tell about the fictitious case of the woman who got married seven times and at the end she died without having any children. The so-called law of the levirate obliged the widow who had no children to marry the brother of the deceased husband. The son who would have been born from this new marriage would be considered the son of the deceased husband. Thus he would have a descendant. But in the case proposed by the Sadducees, the woman, in spite of having had seven husbands, remained without a son. They asked Jesus: “In the Resurrection, when they will rise, to whom will the woman belong? Because seven had her as wife!” This was in order to say that to believe in the resurrection was absurd.
• Mark 12:24-27: The response of Jesus. Jesus responds harshly: “Surely, the reason why you are wrong is that you understand neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Jesus explains that the condition of persons after death will be totally different from the present condition. After death there will be no marriage, but all will be as the angels in Heaven. The Sadducees imagined life in Heaven as life on earth. And at the end Jesus concludes: “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living! You are in great error.” The disciples are warned: those who are on the side of these Sadducees will be on the side opposite to God.
4) Personal questions
• What is the Church’s teaching of Heaven, and what is my own view?
• We in the Church have written laws, doctrine, authoritative teaching (in writing, as in Encyclicals), and the writing of the saints. We also have oral stories, Catholic culture, devotions, and ‘popular’ personal interpretations. Do I know the difference between these and do I have a grasp on what is firm truth and what is personal opinion?
• Do I also believe in the resurrection? What does the following mean for me: “I believe in the resurrection of the body and in life everlasting?”
• Have you heard or met anyone who believes in the theology of retribution or prosperity theology?
5) Concluding Prayer
Lord, I lift up my eyes to You who are enthroned in heaven.
Just as the eyes of slaves are on their masters' hand,
or the eyes of a slave-girl on the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes are on Yahweh our God,
for Him to take pity on us. (Ps 123:1-2)