March 24, 2024

God's Power, Word, & Son

Speaker: Bret Rogers Series: The Gospel According to Matthew Topic: Resurrection

We’re going backwards a bit, since Henry preached verses 34-40 last Sunday. We’re also going to leap forward to verses 41-46 and finish out chapter 22 today. Not the most ideal way to break up the passage, but the schedule got thrown off when I was ill a few weeks ago; this will get us back on track. So, we’ll start with Matthew 22:23-33 and then jump to verse 41.

Today is what many Christian traditions call Palm Sunday. It anticipates Resurrection Sunday and gets its name from the day Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, while many took palm branches and cried, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” In that moment, Jesus enacted a sign to reveal his identity. Just as the prophets foretold, Jesus is the righteous, humble King. He comes to bring peace to the nations, to cover the earth with God’s rule, and to establish a new covenant.

But not everybody recognized Jesus this way. Some sang him praises that Sunday. But others plotted against Jesus; and that’s where our story picks up today, just a few days later. Religious leaders of all stripes are seeking to entangle Jesus in his words. They set political traps. They set theological traps. They want to trip Jesus and make him fall. But what we find again and again and again is that those who seek to trip Jesus wind up beneath the feet of Jesus. Let’s read about this together starting in verse 23…

23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” 29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching…[now jump to verse 41—this is after the Pharisees question Jesus about the Law] 41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? 45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

With those last few words, Matthew shows where he’s been heading all along. Three times the religious leaders seek to trip Jesus in his words. First, they ask about taxes. Then they ask about resurrection. Last, they ask about the Law. But by the end, when Jesus is finished, we’re told that “no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” In stating things this way, Matthew not only shows Jesus’ innocence when it comes to his teaching; he also shows that Jesus is immovable. He really does have authority like no other. He really is that Cornerstone, which you try kicking aside but find yourself broken to pieces. Or, to use the words of verse 43, those who seek to trip Jesus wind up beneath the feet of Jesus.

Which poses a question for all of us: if Jesus is the innocent, immovable one, who’s side are you on? That’s why Matthew records these faceoffs between Jesus and the religious authorities. Matthew forces you to decide. Are you plotting against Jesus? Or are you with Jesus, the one who proves immovable in his authority?

From our texts today, Jesus gives us a few more reasons to side with him. First, we’ll see that Jesus reveals God’s power. Then we’ll see that Jesus reveals God’s word. Lastly, we’ll see that Jesus reveals God’s Christ—he is David’s son and Lord.

Jesus Reveals God’s Power

First, let’s see how Jesus reveals God’s power. In verse 23, Sadducees come to Jesus, but not to sit at his feet and learn. No, like the Pharisees and Herodians did before, they mean to trip Jesus in his words. This time it’s about resurrection. When you hear “resurrection,” don’t think mere life after death. Think re-embodied life at the end of the age. Matthew tells us that Sadducees didn’t believe that sort of thing. They say, “There is no resurrection.” Such a notion, they thought, was ridiculous; and they want to make Jesus look ridiculous. So, they pose a scenario, which they believe will trip Jesus.

“Teacher,” they say in verse 24, “Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’” They’ve just summarized Deuteronomy 25:5-10, the law of levirate marriage. Basically, God made provisions for widows without an heir to perpetuate the family line. The law existed for occasions where death threatened the loss of name and inheritance.

The Sadducees take that law and corner Jesus in verse 25: “Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” Their question assumes that, after the resurrection, life continues as it is now. Does that mean this woman will have seven husbands? Or would she be randomly assigned to only one? The question is meant to mock resurrection. For them, it was ridiculous to imagine a world where this command of Moses didn’t work anymore.

Well, Jesus has an answer with two parts. He says in verse 29, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” He deals with the power of God first. Look at verse 30: “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” That phrase, “like angels in heaven,” doesn’t mean that people become what angels are. Nor is it meant to suggest that we’ll all just fly away to heaven. Jesus’ point is functional: we’ll be like them in that angels don’t marry; and the reason they don’t marry is that they are immortal.

When Luke’s Gospel records this same account, it includes more of Jesus’ teaching. In Luke 20:34-36 Jesus says, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” To be a child of the resurrection means that you cannot die anymore. As sons of God, you will be gifted the same life that he has, immortality.

This is where the Sadducees have gone sideways. They haven’t accounted for the power of God to change the way things are in this world; and that assumption drives how they read and apply the Law of Moses. They don’t comprehend that the law of levirate marriage is pointless in a world without death. Death threatened the loss of name and inheritance. But in the resurrection death threatens nobody. There’s no need for procreation anymore because nobody will die in the new creation. Meaning, not just the law of levirate marriage, but marriage itself won’t be necessary anymore.

Let’s not get Jesus wrong. Marriage is still a special union—he established that already in 19:5. God created marriage to be a pointer to something far greater, Christ’s love and union with his people. But once that final union occurs, the lesser parables of marriage in this age will be superseded by the true marriage of all—Christ with his corporate Bride in New Jerusalem. The pleasures of marriage now will be replaced by a greater union, a deeper love, and higher joys. In this life, marriage is a special union, but it isn’t everything. After the resurrection, we’ll neither marry nor be given in marriage. You should love being married, but not as an end. Marriage in this life can’t replace the Marriage to Christ in the age to come. Our marriages will be healthier the more we see them pointing to our final union with Jesus in the resurrection.

But we must also not forget the power of God. We live in a culture that often operates by what some have called the “principle of analogy.” The principle of analogy says that all knowledge stems from the similarity of all historical events as we have experienced them. The past is only like our present experience. The nature of reality is uniform, and the way we understand and see the world work is the way it always works. What are the results? You get to set the parameters and determine what’s probable and improbable based on your present historical experiences.

So, if your experience is that people don’t rise from the dead, well, you’ll read the Scriptures and dismiss ideas like resurrection. You’ll explain them away as some kind of primitive thinking. You will side with the Sadducees instead of with Jesus, saying, “There is no resurrection…He didn’t walk on water. He didn’t multiply the bread and fish. He didn’t raise Lazarus from death.” The disciples were embellishing things.

But Jesus’ word to us is, “You know not the power of God.” God is able to bring into existence things that didn’t exist. God is able to give life to the dead. God is able to make all things new; and we know this because God already raised Jesus from the dead. God raised Jesus as our assurance of new creation. God’s power gave Jesus the re-embodied life of the new age; and he did it to reassure us that more of that life will be ours at his return. [If you doubt his resurrection, I’d encourage you to come next Sunday and hear a defense of Jesus’ resurrection from our brother, Jesse.]

So much for the first way the Sadducees are wrong—they don’t know the power of God. And that causes them to misapply the Law and fail to see its temporary provisions until a greater age comes; and that age has actually started in the person of Jesus, who’s answering them and revealing God’s power to them.

Jesus Reveals God’s Word

But Jesus also reveals how they don’t know God’s word either. Look at verse 31: “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God…” Notice how he puts that: “what was said to you by God.” Not simply words written by Moses, but words God himself speaks. Also, he speaks to you—that is, to the Sadducees, even though written many centuries before.

Likewise, God here speaks to you in the Scriptures. What does he say to you in verse 32? “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Jesus then draws the conclusion, “He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

Jesus could’ve gone to several places to defend the resurrection. Job 19:26, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” Or Isaiah 25:7-8, the Lord “will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces.” Or Daniel 12:2, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

But Jesus doesn’t draw from any of these places. The Sadducees wouldn’t have accepted it anyway. They held only to the five books of Moses as Scripture. Still, Jesus meets them there; and he draws from Exodus 3:6. God meets Moses at the burning bush. There, God sets Moses apart as his special leader. God has heard the cries of his people; he intends to deliver them. And in the process, he reveals himself to Moses: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

How many of you would’ve read these words and thought, “Resurrection! There it is! God’s going to raise dead!” I’m guessing most of us wouldn’t have read it that way, at least without Jesus’ help. We all need Jesus to reveal God’s word to us. Otherwise, we’re lost and in no different state than these Sadducees. We understand the Scriptures rightly and fully only by sitting at the feet of Jesus to learn them.

He tells us that Exodus 3:6 reveals something of God’s nature: “he is not God of the dead, but of the living,” referring to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Well, that’s interesting. Genesis 25:8 says, “Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age.” Genesis 35:29 says, “Isaac breathed his last, and he died.” Genesis 49:33 says, “[Jacob] breathed his last and was gathered to his people.” The testimony of Scripture is clear: these patriarchs died. What, then, does Jesus mean that God is “God of the living”?

Many will say that primary attention should go to the present tense verb in verse 31: “I am the God of Abraham” instead of “I was.” Meaning, God speaks like they’re still living. Their bodies might lie in the grave, but in some sense they’re still alive in God’s presence. But many times, that’s where people stop. God speaks of them here as still alive; so, what must be meant is spiritual resurrection and not a bodily one.

But that’s not taking Jesus’ argument far enough. Jesus’ point is that “If they’re still alive in God’s presence, they will be raised in the future.”[i] That comes out more explicitly in Luke’s account. Jesus says, “But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed.” The patriarchs live to God in a way that anticipates God raising their bodies from the grave on the last day. That’s why we must go further than grammar and think in terms of covenant. God so bound himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that not even death would undermine his promises to them.

How else was Abraham to experience life in a true promised land on earth? How else was he to inherit the earth, as God promised? The resurrection of the body is the only answer. That’s why Hebrews tells us that Abraham lived in tents with Isaac and Jacob—he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. They all desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. What city? The New Jerusalem. But they will only enjoy that city fully with new bodies. He is so committed to them in covenant, that not even death separates them from God; and that means one day God will also give them immortal bodies to enjoy the new world.

I wonder, do you know the Scriptures this way? Are you sitting at Jesus’ feet to learn how he reads the Bible? There is good news for you here, beloved. God speaks to you here and reveals that he is “God of the living”?

Physical death isn’t the end, for us. I’ve attended funerals where pastors have said things like, “He’ll never be more whole than he is now.” I know intentions are good, but that’s false. We’re not whole until we receive our resurrection bodies. The bodily resurrection at the end of the age is a central teaching of the Christian faith. Think of how many times the apostles bring it up—to warn of future judgment (Acts 17:31), to describe the value of our physical bodies (1 Cor 6:13), to show how our labors in the Lord are not in vain (1 Cor 15:58), to comfort saints when they’re despairing of life (2 Cor 1:9), to embolden saints facing death (Rev 14:13), to give hope to those grieving the loss of loved ones (1 Thess 4:14). The future bodily resurrection comes up all over the place.

But what a comfort it is to know right now that God is God of the living. No one could speak of resurrection life more accurately and more authoritatively than Jesus. You see, Jesus had come to bring a far greater deliverance to God’s people than what Moses heard about at the burning bush. Jesus came to bring to pass all those promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—he is the true seed of Abraham in whom all the nations would be blessed. Jesus came to face death itself on the cross for our sake, and then he came out the other side immortal and invincible and immovable.

Matthew hasn’t gotten there yet. But he will. These Sadducees don’t know who they’re up against when they ask about resurrection. They just challenged the Resurrection and the Life himself. They try tripping Jesus, but only to find themselves falling. Jesus reveals the power of God and the word of God.

Jesus Reveals God’s Christ: David’s Son and Lord

A similar situation occurs with the Pharisees in verses 34-40. Henry covered that last Sunday. They seek to trip Jesus, and Jesus doesn’t budge. He comprehends the Law. Jesus embodies its coherent fullness—loving God and loving neighbor. So, Jesus uses the opportunity to ask the Pharisees a question. And it’s here we see our last reason to side with Jesus: Jesus reveals God’s Christ.

In verse 42 Jesus asks, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They say, “The son of David.” And they’re right about that. But Jesus then asks, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him [i.e., the Christ, David’s son] Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word.

Jesus quotes here from Psalm 110. Jesus’ question hinges on David being its author. But David isn’t the only author. Jesus says, “David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord.” The Spirit inspires the words David writes; and God the Spirit reveals something unique in Psalm 110 about his Christ, his Messiah, our Savior.

Psalm 110 begins in a startling way, “The LORD [i.e., Yahweh] says to my Lord.” David is speaking about the Christ, the future son, the heir to his throne. Kingly father’s don’t normally call their sons “my lord,” but the other way around. Yet here David speaks of a future son who would also be his Lord. How can this be?

Well, unlike David, God would give this unique son absolute rule. That’s what it means to “sit at God’s right hand.” To sit at a king’s right hand was to sit in the place of honor. Applied to Yahweh, it’s the place of absolute honor, absolute authority.

We also see his authority in the way God describes the king’s victory. God puts all his enemies beneath the king’s feet. Verse 5 says, “he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.” In other words, he will so decimate his enemies that afterwards he will drink peacefully from a brook in his kingdom.

So, in Psalm 110 we see the majesty of the greatest Warrior-King ever. God’s Christ would be both the Son of David and the Lord who shares Yahweh’s throne. Jesus presses them to consider whether they have room in their theology for the Messiah to be more than just Son of David, but also Lord of David. Why? Because that’s who Jesus is. He’s not only David’s son—see chapter 1 for the genealogy—he’s also David’s Lord. He is Immanuel, God with us. Those who refuse to acknowledge this about Jesus—that he is both Son of David and Son of God—they will end up beneath Jesus’ feet.

Those who seek to trip Jesus will wind up beneath the feet of Jesus. So, going back to the question I asked before, whose side are you on. Are you plotting against Jesus? Are you pushing him away? When I was a kid, I remember walking along the Frio River collecting rocks. I saw what appeared to be a smaller rock and gave it a good kick only to find myself falling over it. The rock was bigger than I perceived. The rest of it was settled beneath the ground. As hard as I kicked against it, it wasn’t budging; and it left me in the dust. Are you kicking against Jesus, thinking he’s small, manageable?

Chapter 22 shows he ain’t going anywhere. He’s immovable. He isn’t small. The problem is your perception, your blindness to his glory, your moral resistance to acknowledging his lordship. Like these religious leaders, you can’t see his true greatness. But as Psalm 110 tells us, Jesus will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. Jesus will execute judgment among the nations. All who oppose Jesus will not stand. God will put them beneath the feet of Jesus. Far better is to side with Jesus.

You know, Psalm 110 also speaks of another group of people. Not all will end up beneath the feet of Jesus. Some will gladly serve him in his kingdom. Psalm 110:3 says that the King has a people who gladly serve him. Like youth, they’re full of vigor. Like dew on the grass, they’re too numerous to count. And they’re all robed in the beauties of holiness. But the question is, how’d they get there? How do these people join the King and reign with him—especially when we know they’re no different than us. We know from other places in Scripture that they must have had sin too. So, how’d they get there? What happened to make them beautiful in holiness?

The answer comes in Psalm 110:4, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You [i.e., this same King who sits at God’s right hand] are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.’” God makes them holy by making this Warrior-King into a Priest who saves a people for himself. God makes them beautiful by sending this King, not to shed the blood of others but first to shed his own blood for others.

Yes, Jesus proved immovable when challenged by these religious authorities. But all of this was to show that when he goes to the cross, he goes willingly of his own accord. His life isn’t taken from him; he willingly lays it down. Jesus chose to become our high priest. Jesus chose to let the religious leaders’ opposition prevail, so that he might go to a cross and take away our sins.

The writer of Hebrews learned how to read the Bible from Jesus. He too applies Psalm 110 to Jesus’ kingly role and his priestly role; and towards the end of his argument in Hebrews 7:25 he says, “Consequently, [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives [as Priest] to make intercession for them.” Those who seek to trip Jesus wind up beneath the feet of Jesus. But those who draw near to God through Jesus, he will save to the uttermost.


[i] N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Philadelphia: Fortress, 2003), 425.

other sermons in this series