Commentary on the Gospel of
What a bunch of jerks! Not you. The Sadducees. This group of leaders came to Jesus not seeking honest dialogue but hoping to trap Jesus with a question about an issue that divided Jewish religious experts. We know from the opening verse that the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, so it is safe to say that the purpose of their question was not because the Sadducees wanted to learn or be enlightened. Perhaps they were just trying to determine where Jesus stood on this question, but I suspect they asked with a devious intent. I can almost hear the mocking tone as these privileged leaders address Jesus as “Teacher.” I can imagine their self-congratulatory smiles, proud of themselves for having so cleverly constructed a scenario that would be too difficult for a carpenter’s son to unravel or that would force Jesus to take a public position on a controversial issue. Perhaps there was an extra element of glee for the opportunity to take a dig at their rivals, the Pharisees, who believed in resurrection. (Remember, this account comes on the heels of the attempt by the Pharisees and Herodians to trap Jesus with a question about taxes. Matthew 22 puts these two encounters on the same day, so it is quite possible Pharisees were still present when the Sadducees took to the stage.)
The Sadducees remind me of individuals I come across in my own life and maybe in yours. Think of the person at work who raises a topic not to move a project forward but only to embarrass a colleague, or someone at a church committee meeting who seems more interested in winning an argument – or at least making sure a particular person loses – than in solving a problem, or the politician whose “innocent” questions are intended to torpedo a bill instead of improving it.
Contrast this prideful scene with the last part of today’s reading from the Psalms: “He guides the humble to justice, he teaches the humble his way.” Many of us struggle with humility, in part because we may not be exactly sure what humility entails. Recently I came across a helpful definition that contrasts the liberating character of humility with the controlling nature of a competitive, me-first attitude. It causes me to examine myself and wonder: How often have I tried to be clever – at work, at church, in our homes – insincerely asking “innocent” questions to maneuver someone into an awkward or disadvantageous position? How often have I tried to be clever with God, rationalizing my behavior and choices? I fear the answer to these questions is “too often.”
Loving God, help us to walk humbly with you. Guide us to justice. Teach us your way. Let our interactions with others and you be filled with your love, mercy and grace.