But Jesus answered and said to [the Sadducees], “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God … regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matthew 22:29–32)
Sadducees were those comprising a religio-political group of Jews that opposed the Pharisees on many levels, especially the resurrection. The former simply did not believe there would be one, whereas the latter believed all people would one day be raised from the dead.
Rarely did Jesus wade into the debates of these two groups, but this one is an exception; Jesus takes the Sadducees to task. Why this time? Because the resurrection debate reflects on a fundamental truth of the One whom all Jews, both fishermen and high priest, called “the living God” (Matt 16:16, 26:63). So Jesus begins with a clear rebuke to the Sadducees, “You are mistaken,” and challenges their faulty understanding of both the written Scriptures (what we call the OT) and of God’s power to raise the dead. In other words, the Scripture teaches about a God who is powerful enough even to raise the dead.
For Scripture, Jesus appeals to God’s message to Moses in the wilderness in preparation for the Exodus. The voice out of the burning bush self-identified as “I am the God …of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” From the forming of Israel as a nation, the God they (including the Sadducees of Jesus’ day) worshipped was the God of the patriarchs and of Moses. Nothing could be more fundamental than this. Jesus uses the “I am” phrasing similar to John 8:58 (“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am”) with an emphasis on the currency of the reality. God is not simply a God who “was” (past tense), but a God who “is” (present tense). According to standard Greek convention, the present tense at times conveys an ongoing or progressive sense. Jesus is saying that God continues to be a God who is there. In an interesting turn of words, we might say God continues to be the God of the patriarchs.
Jesus takes from this “God of the living” idea to infer there will be resurrection. In fact, He presents that as convincing support. If God is (presently) the God of Abraham who long ago died, then Abraham must in some sense still be living. Otherwise, God was (previously) the God of Abraham, but no longer is. The solution to the dilemma is that our Lord is, in fact, the God of the living and will raise up to eternal life all those who have believed in Him.
Lord, You are ever present in my life, and even after I die, because I will be resurrected to be with You forever.