Today’s gospel passage is a good one. Jesus deftly outmaneuvers the wily Sadducees, juking at the last second to deliver a slam dunk answer. Jesus’ answer was so good that “they no longer dared to ask him anything”… wait, what?
Is that the point? To scare people into silence. Was Jesus in the business of shutting down silly questions so people would just leave him alone and give him a moment of peace? I don’t think so. I think there is another layer to this story that we can peel back that issues a challenge for us regarding questions & answers.
I never saw this additional layer until a read a book on the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament (the books recognized as scripture by Catholics but not Protestants.) The book offers an interesting thought regarding this scene that I wish to paraphrase. It goes something like this.
This passage in Luke can make the Sadducees look a little silly. They’ve been planning and conniving the ultimate ‘Jesus stumper,’ so they cook up some ridiculous story of 7 male relatives marrying the same woman and all dying without having kids. This hardly seems like the best option. Isn’t there a chance that Jesus would just look at them, disregard the whole scenario as ridiculous and say, “Bring me something more realistic next time.”
At this point the author argues that we should give the Sadducees a little more credit. He proposes that they didn’t make up this scenario but are lifting it straight from the pages of Tobit; a book recognized as scripture by some Jews but not the Sadducees. Luke only tells us they were trying to trap Jesus regarding the resurrection from the dead, but they were trying to corner him by ensuring that he couldn’t just dismiss the scenario. They thought they had Jesus in a catch – 22. If Jesus said the whole scenario was ridiculous they would ask him if He was rejecting Tobit, but if He didn’t dismiss the scenario they thought he would get stuck talking in circles about who would be married to whom, leaving them ample holes to exploit. Instead he answered so well that, “they no longer dared to ask him anything.”
Because they weren’t asking to learn, grow, or be challenged but to fight, win, and be right. They were not asking questions from a position of humility but pride. Their questions weren’t truly questions at all. They did not wish to dialogue with Jesus but have him follow their diatribe’s script.
We still struggle with that temptation. We don’t dialogue well. We want to tell people why the things that are important to us should be the only things that matter to them. I want to prove my point not open my conclusion to review. We have seen this in its full blown reality in the recent election and its aftermath. There have been so many diatribes, but so few dialogues.
Does this mean that we become conversational doormats? No. Jesus in today’s gospel did not shy away from offering the Sadducees a great defense. We need to have the wisdom to answer questions honestly and without fear of saying what we believe. But how does Jesus do that? By quoting the Torah, the portion of the Bible that the Sadducees viewed as Scripture. He spoke their language.
Jesus invited the Sadducees to dialogue about Eternal Life (and what is Scripture), but they were so diatribe driven that they shut the dialogue down.
As disciples, we strive to talk like Jesus. We are not afraid to express what we believe, but we try and do it in a language others will understand, for our goal is always an invitation for dialogue. A dialogue in which we hope the Word of God speaks far louder than any of our own words.
– Spencer Hargadon