6 November 2016 – On being a Saducee

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Rev’d Jonathan Gale

Haggai 2: 1 – 9

The Future Glory of the Temple

2In the second year of King Darius,1in the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: 2Speak now to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, and say, 3Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing? 4Yet now take courage, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; take courage, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work, for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, 5according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear. 6For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; 7and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendour, says the Lord of hosts. 8The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. 9The latter splendour of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the Lord of hosts.

2 Thessalonians 2: 1 – 5, 13 – 17

The Man of Lawlessness

2As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters,* 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. 3Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one* is revealed, the one destined for destruction.* 4He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. 5Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?

Chosen for Salvation

13 But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters* beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits* for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news,* so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15So then, brothers and sisters,* stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

Luke 20: 27 – 38

The Question about the Resurrection

27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man* shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30then the second 31and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’

34 Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’

Two weeks ago I spoke about how to be a Pharisee. We let the Sadducees off the hook, so today I’m going to speak about how to be a Sadducee as they feature in the reading from Luke.

Who were the Sadducees? The Sadducees were mainly priests and the well-to-do in Jewish society. They were the ‘old money’, if you like, held political power and were conservative. They had control of the temple which in many ways was the heart of Jewish society.

They had arisen in the second century B.C. during the Second Temple period – the temple Haggai referred to in our Old Testament reading this morning.

The Sadducee movement came to an abrupt end in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed the Second Temple.

Though very much alive on earth in Jesus’ day, they didn’t believe in life after death, certainly not in the resurrection from the dead.

In the Gospel reading some Sadducees approach Jesus with a trick question. Because they didn’t believe in life after death (and clearly Jesus did) they wanted to show him that doing so created a problem. The Law of Moses said that if a man died, his brother was to marry his widow. A woman went through seven brothers in this fashion; so whose wife is she in the resurrected state?

Jesus simply says we won’t be marrying in the afterlife and concludes that God is God not of the dead, but of the living.

But it’s not the afterlife I want us to think about this morning.

Two weeks ago. I mentioned that I was a Pharisee. I am also a Sadducee. Now belonging to both was impossible in Jesus’ day but I think you know what I mean. We all have both Pharisaic and Sadducean tendencies.

The Sadducee in us wants things to be stable, to remain the same, to stick to ritual. But what describes a modern Sadducee better than anything is that if there are any results to be achieved, they should be achieved by others.  You see the historical Sadducees were maintainers. They only acknowledged the first five books of the bible (the Torah). Any changes should be brought about by others under their control. They had strategic alliances with the ruling Romans so didn’t want to rock the boat. They were the guardians of tradition, the gatekeepers of society, and they were not all bad, though by Jesus’ time they had a reputation for corruption.

The modern Sadducee will not want to appear as such because doing so implies one is either a stick in the mud, or not terribly committed. No religious person wants to be thought of as not committed to God.

So there are three things we want to avoid as Sadducees:

  • Paying lip service to progress but all the time not wanting anything to change.
  • Thinking that the progress you do want to see (usually more of the same) should be brought about by someone else. e. by hiring a specialist to do the job.
  • Being over-concerned about the image you present to society at large.

So just like the Pharisee who focuses on what other people should be doing to fulfil their vision of what the church should be, the Sadducee expects other people to bring about results he or she is not prepared to take responsibility for implementing.

What drives our Sadducean spirits? Fear

And the solution? The same combination that has always countered fear:

faith + action.

Just as the Pharisee is driven to do something – i.e. impose their solution on events, the Sadducee is driven not to do something – or at least if something is to be done, to get someone else to do it under their direction.

Both focus on other people to the detriment of a focus upon God.

The Kingdom of God works in neither of these ways.

Confession time: Early in the week I prepared a sermon based on the reading from Haggai. I was not happy with it but was too busy to admit I had wasted time putting it together. But by Thursday I felt one of those God-nudges and I knew I had to write a new sermon, which I did.

(So sorry Ralph, one of those personal stories has gone by the board!)

However, co-incidentally, the summary of the Haggai sermon provided a way forward for those of us with Sadducean leanings:

Haggai’s message is a reminder that if we:

  • Acknowledge our shortcomings
  • Have faith and courage about addressing whatever needs to be done (because when we look to God he more than responds)
  • Work – with God. Don’t think someone else will do it for you.
  • Trust God, no matter how tough things are, because God’s word is trustworthy
  • Remember that God’s Spirit never leaves us – then …


Things will come right in the end. In fact they will be better than they were before.

All these things take faith. Fear will have us pointing to others either as the problem (what Pharisees do) or the solution (what Sadducees do).

Faith will have us assuming responsibility for focussing on God and then shouldering the responsibility for change ourselves.

Let’s take courage from Jesus’ dealings with the Sadducees. He dismissed their concerns in a moment of time. That’s always the way to treat fear. Don’t entertain it. Embrace faith and get on with it.

Now I’m not going to tell you what “it” is. I may ask you to do things from time to time. That could be some of it. But the primary responsibility for discovering your ministry is yours.

I have encouraged us to neither focus with some dissatisfaction on others for not being as we believe they should be (a Pharisaic spirit), nor to look to hiring others to solve our problems (a Sadducean spirit).

Paul, in our New Testament reading, says to the Thessalonians:

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, 17comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

It is the love of God and the hope we have in Christ that stand as the comfort and strength we need to roll up our sleeves for every good work and word.

Being a good ‘Sadducee’ lies in actively providing the responsibility and stability that allows the ‘Pharisee’ in us to make progress, looking, not to impose our preferences, but to serve others in ministry.

The apparent contradiction of the Christian life is allied to that old military saying, “Trust God and keep your powder dry.” In other words, look entirely to God (for guidance, leadership and strength) and then work as though it all depended upon you.

Next week we remember and honour the many ministries active at St Peter’s.

God bless you