This is the passage where the Sadducee's challenge Jesus’ belief in an afterlife…
There were two major “religious/political” parties in ancient Judaism, the Pharisees and the Sadducee's. …and then there were the Essene's who lived in small communal settings and wrote prose on sheep hide and stored them for future generations. So in essence, in ancient Judaism there was a conservative party, a liberal party and a green party… (Wink)
I have often compared the Sadducee's to today’s extremely liberal worshiping communities because of their lack of belief in the resurrection or an afterlife. I have categorized the Pharisees as excessively conservative because of their strict adherence to the Laws of Moses without empathy in its effects on others. Many scholars would correct me and say that the Sadducee's really were more like strict constitutionalist's because they denied any theology that wasn’t explicitly written in the Law. My point is that having sharp divisions of belief is not new to humankind.
One of the most ancient biblical stories of conflict is about two brothers fighting over how to best worship God. It ended with one killing the other. When God asks Cain; “Where is your brother, Abel?” Cain replies, “Am I my brother’s keeper?!” God’s response in Genesis is, “The blood of your brother cries out to me from the ground!” Issues that separate us have fed our passions and have led us to acts of violence towards others from the beginning of recorded time. So I believe that the response of Jesus to the Sadducee's may offer us insight into our lives today.
First, it bears noting that the Sadducee's example of a woman being married to a man who died and her subsequent marriages to several brothers… all of whom died as well… is part of the obligation outlined in Mosaic Law to ensure a family’s lineage. Their challenge to Jesus does not involve the loving relationship of marriage, but one of property ownership. Who will she belong to in the afterlife? This patriarchal attitude is a lens that they are looking through that limits the possibilities of their understanding. It seemed ridiculous to them that seven men would “own” one wife.
Jesus erases the concept of women as property with his claim that in the life to come a woman is not “given” in marriage (as property), but that we will be like the angels. Some have suggested that this means that in heaven we do not experience intimate love. I would argue just the opposite; that physical love is a dim reflection of the perfect love that we will all share in the life to come. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians “…now we see dimly as through a mirror… then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part… then we shall be fully known.”
As followers of Jesus we seek... through love and justice... a better today. We await a perfect tomorrow.