“Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a ridiculous question” (Mark 12:18). Well, the text doesn’t say “ridiculous.” I’m using a bit of artistic license. They pose the scenario envisioned in the law of Moses: “if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.” The idea is that the man who died will still have an heir. There’s no word of the woman going along with the plan!
Now we’re entering ridiculous ground, as they concoct this totally believable story. We have seven brothers, and we begin with the first brother dying. However, the second brother also dies, leaving no children. We move on to the third. The same thing happens—or rather, doesn’t happen. Then to the fourth, then to the fifth, then to the sixth, then to the seventh. Surely lucky number seven has success. No, he meets his Maker, sans offspring.
After running through all seven brothers (or maybe I should say, being forced to run through all of them), they end the story by simply saying, “Last of all the woman herself died.” Couldn’t they tell the story by allowing the poor woman a few years of peace and quiet?
Remember, these fellows don’t believe there is resurrection, so this question makes perfect sense: “In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”
Every year People magazine names its sexiest man alive. (I suppose “alive” is better than the alternative.) Last year, it was Michael B. Jordan. Who is next? Here’s a question which makes perfect sense: “After James Moore is named People’s sexiest man alive, how will he use his newfound fame?” It is a perfectly plausible possibility, or perhaps, probability.
Long story short, Jesus knows they aren’t really searching for truth. He points out several things they are unaware of and/or ignore. He finishes on this note: “you are quite wrong.” The Greek (πλαναω, planaō) can be read, “you are very much deceived.” And it works both ways. You have strayed from the path, and you would cause others to stray.
As Dante lamented, “Midway through the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood, for I had strayed from the straight pathway to this tangled ground.”
How often are we duplicitous, even in a ridiculous fashion? In what ways do we engage in willful ignorance? We stray, and we cause others to stray. Whether it is the Sadducees and their stupid question and absurd story or my firm expectation to be anointed as sexiest man alive—we can be willfully ignorant.
Fortunately, there is a cure for our ridiculous duplicity! Jesus would remind us that ours is a God, not of the dead, but of the living. Willful ignorance and dissemination of the absurd do not enhance life, but as with Dante, we find ourselves lost in a dark wood.
And best of all, we can use our imagination for creative purposes.