"Are you not misled
because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?
The Sadducees, who challenge Jesus in today's gospel, did not survive the catastrophes of the next century. Of the several Jewish sects that appear in the New Testament, including the Herodians and Essenes, only the Pharisees survived the razing of the Temple and the destruction of Jerusalem.
In today's gospel Jesus challenges the Sadducees refusal to accept the Pharisaic teaching about life after death.
During the Maccabean Revolt of the second century before Christ, helpless Jews had suffered dreadful persecution, torture and death under their Greek overlords. There are several graphic stories in the First Book of Maccabees, which appear in our weekday lectionary. Surviving that ordeal the Jews believed that our Good God must reward those innocent men, women and children who had endured painful execution. God will surely raise them to life again!
To this day, when we consider the promise of Eternal Life in Christ, we rely on the Word of Hope that rightfully belongs to Jewish and Christian martyrs. Expecting "life after death", we aspire to be in their company; we should hope we are found worthy of such company!
Jesus sternly rebuked the disbelieving Sadducees, "Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?"
It is often said, and is demonstrated in scripture, that even the Devil can quote the Bible. Just because people know how to read doesn't make them interpreters of God's word. Without knowledge of the Holy Spirit, they do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. Especially, they do not know that "all things are possible with God." as the Angel Gabriel assured Mary.
An existential philosophy that rejects eternal life because it cannot be demonstrated or proven, assumes that nothing can happen that is not measurable, predictable and manageable. This philosophy discounts much of our real, everyday experience. Eschewing both faith and belief, they believe that everything can be reduced to mechanics; and, where necessary, "quantum mechanics" will explain the otherwise inexplicable. As Pierre Simon, Marquis de Laplace, said when the Emperor Napoleon asked how God fit into his philosophy, "I have no need of that theory."
The Sadducees, like many of our contemporaries, believed that God exists. They had no argument with that general opinion but that God acts in human affairs, that God might still be our champion, savior, deliverer, Paraclete and friend -- they demurred. They didn't believe in God. Their reading of Moses, the Prophets and Psalms did not show them a living God. In this world where God never appears, they supposed, we'd better align with the Romans.
The story of the Sadducees reminds us that, despite all the changes we have seen in twenty centuries, the challenge of faith remains the same as it always was. Our Church, with its fellowship, liturgy, devotions and teachings, invites us to believe in the God who knows and cares for each of us; He has called us by name. He offers no guarantees that our life will be easier, simpler or more comfortable than our neighbors. We will never have a proof to show the Sadducees or the Marquis de Laplace where they're wrong. Even to attempt such proof is to play by the rules of their game.
Rather, we honor our vows as husbands and wives, clergy and faithful and trust that God, in his own time, will vindicate us.