32nd Sun C
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
In this Sunday’s reading we have the only explicit mention of the Sadducees in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus had finally arrived in Jerusalem and had been teaching in the temple. There, he was confronted by the chief priests (Lk 20:1) who challenged his right to teach. As the Sadducees were the religious aristocracy from whom the chief priests were drawn, they would have been the ones questioning his authority to teach within the Temple. But now, later in this chapter, they are explicitly said to have confronted Jesus. But not so directly as before: he had too easily bested them. This time they come pretending to want a clarification of the Law. The Sadducees revered the first five books of the bible – the Pentateuch – and drew all their beliefs from those books. Anything taught in the later books, like the Psalms or the prophets that did not align explicitly with this earlier Law they ignored. (Ironically, while they were unable to accept developments in their faith, they were well able to accommodate themselves to their Roman overlords and, in consequence, had become the most powerful political group within Jewish society.) One significant point in which they differed both from Jesus and the Pharisees was a belief in an afterlife.
The point on which they challenge Jesus comes from a Law concerning the carrying on of a man’s name after death. If a married man died childless, it was deemed so important for his name to be remembered that his brother was called upon to marry his widow and to raise up an heir for him. The Sadducees come to Jesus and apply this Law in an almost ridiculous scenario. You can almost hear them cutting in over each other, adding brother on brother to be married, to die childless and leave the wife to be married yet again. They are not using the Law to understand the meaning that God might intend but rather as a weapon with which to defeat and ridicule another person.
Jesus’ response shows exactly the attitude of reverence that is needed to understand the Scripture. From the part of the Scriptures that is central to their faith, he looks at a phrase they would have read so many times, and seeing it with fresh eyes and an open heart, is able to show the truth contained therein. God is a God of the living and if our forefathers in faith are alive to God, then all human beings can be as well.