Battle Of Wits
With humility I need to approach each day, each opportunity and each encounter with God’s Word with an attitude, “What do you want me to learn this time?”
In the movie The Princess Bride, Vizzini kidnaps Princess Buttercup. When the Dread Pirate Roberts catches up with them, he challenges Vizzini to an epic Battle of Wits to gain the princess’ freedom. Which goblet contained the odorless, tasteless, quick dissolving powder iocaine? Vizzini, who considers himself very smart, takes the challenge. But is he as smart as he thinks he is? Spoiler alert. The princess leaving with the Dread Pirate Roberts would indicate he is not.
Matthew 22:23-33 records the account of a group of Sadducees who engage Jesus in a battle of wits. The question they ask in Matthew 22:28 “…at the resurrection, whose wife will she be…” is clearly meant as a test to trip up Jesus. The Sadducees were asking a question about something they would argue wasn’t going to even happen. The Sadducees didn’t see the doctrine or the resurrection in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. So their question was less about marriage in heaven and more about what Jesus would say about the resurrection.
Jesus replies to both the question and “the question within the question.” First, the question about marriage after we die. Jesus uses the comparison to us being more like angels. Not angels, but like them. If one of the reasons we marry on earth is because of God’s design for us to be fruitful and multiply for life to continue, how is it different for the angels? From my study, it appears that angels are created beings like us, but they do not die as we do. They don’t have to reproduce to maintain their existence. Thus, on those grounds, the need for marriage ceases. This is consistent with our understanding of the everlasting life for us. It is based on New Creation, not procreation.
Then Jesus addresses their real question by referring to three very important people in the Torah. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the ones God made His covenant with. The Sadducees had built all of their religious beliefs on this foundation. Jesus uses their very own foundation to point out what they had missed time and time again. God IS the God of the living! Jesus matched their wit and astonished the crowd.
Even though the Sadducees lost in this battle of wits, did some of them end up being winners by seeing clearly what they had missed before? Were there some who were like the crowd and shared their astonishment?
I’ve spent a lot of time considering what this passage is all about. How does it apply to me today? I’m not a Sadducee. I’ve never questioned the doctrine of the resurrection – it’s what Easter is all about! I’d never try to match wits with Jesus. But just like the Sadducees (and Vizzini) thought they knew more than they really did, do I share that same attitude? Does what I think I already know actually lead to my blindness? With humility I need to approach each day, each opportunity and each encounter with God’s Word with an attitude, “What do you want me to learn this time?”