December 4 – Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week after Pentecost (12th of Luke) Luke 20:27-44
Denying Resurrection: Saint Luke 20:27-44, especially vs. 27: “Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that
there is a resurrection, came to Him . . .” An unusual double negative appears in this passage in the original Greek.
Saint Luke uses the word antilegontes to indicate “those who deny” – literally, “those who speak against” – and
then adds a second negative “there is no resurrection.” This double negative, which is largely lost in translation,
underscores the strict opposition of the Sadducees to belief in resurrection. Many other Jews did believe in a
resurrection at the end of time (see Jn 11:23-24) and thus some of the scribes hasten to say, “Teacher, You have
spoken well” (Lk 20:39).
In our day, the Sadducees find their equivalent in the pundits who reject any reality except the tangible
world. Both the Sadducees and modern materialists deny resurrection. They drink deeply from an objectivist
wellspring. Saint Cyril of Alexandria aptly characterizes such secularists when he describes the Sadducees as
persons who “attach great importance to their wretched fancies” and “imagine themselves possessed of such
knowledge as no man can gainsay” (Homily 136, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, p. 540). Thus, when the
Lord challenges the fanciful tale of the woman married to seven brothers (vss. 29-32), He is exposing the faulty
assumptions of all who deny resurrection in every age.
First, the Lord addresses the materialistic bias of those who deny resurrection. Those who reject the
spiritual dimension of existence think solely in terms of the physical realm and cannot imagine any condition or
state beyond what can be measured and tested objectively. The Lord Jesus begins His correction of this fallacy
by pointing out that although “the sons of this age marry and are given in marriage” (vs. 34), those in the age to
come do not marry, “nor can they die anymore” (vs. 36). Saint Theophylact explains: “Here, there is marriage
because there is death . . . There, where death has been abolished, what need is there of marriage?” (Explanation
of the Holy Gospel According to Saint Luke, p. 266).
Second, the Lord Jesus shows that every materialist, from Sadducees to down to the contemporary
secularists, consistently excludes God. Western societies prefer the separation of Church and state, allowing little
or no public mention of God. Note how the Lord speaks about “those who are counted worthy to attain that age”
(vs. 35): they are “sons of God” (vs. 36). Our Lord acts supremely as the One who counts men worthy of that age,
for by Him “the dead are raised” (vs. 37). Yet in their challenge (vss. 28-33) the Sadducees never even once
Of course, once we thrust God out of the picture, every event and problem must be calculated in terms of
tangible objects and relationships. The Mosaic Law serves as the Sadducees’ objective measure for everything.
They reason that there is no resurrection because Moses does not mention it in the Law. (Moses’ teaching provides
the framework for the problem of the seven brothers in verse 28; see Dt 25:5-10.)
The Lord Jesus replies by referring to God’s first appearance to Moses (Lk 20:35-38). The very basis of
our knowledge of the resurrection stems from the revelation in the burning bush (Ex 3:1-6). At that time, God
declares Himself to be “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’” (Lk 20:37). Christ uses
this statement to argue that our God “is not the God of the dead but of the living” (vs. 38).
Today, the Church relies on recorded revelation when she declares to all: “Christ is risen!” To believe in
resurrection is to affirm that there exists a realm beyond tangible measures of output – one that is known to the
O how noble! O how dear! O how sweet is Thy voice, O Christ; for Thou hast verily made us a true
promise, that Thou shalt be with us to the end of time, an anchor for our hopes. – Ninth Ode of the Paschal Canon