But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God..."
In this particular scene in the Bible, Jesus has been challenged by the Sadducees regarding the social order of society after the resurrection. These representatives of the upper social and economic echelon of Jewish society fulfilled various political, social, and religious roles, including maintaining the Temple. The Sadducees rejected the Oral Law as proposed by the Pharisees. Rather, they saw the written Torah as the sole source of divine authority, and they are known for not believing in the resurrection of the dead. Rather, they believed in the traditional Jewish concept of Sheol for those who had died. And according to the Hebrew traditions, Sheol was a place of darkness to which all the dead go, both the righteous and the unrighteous, regardless of the moral choices made in life; a place of stillness and darkness cut off from life and from God.
So, we can see that by questioning Jesus about the Torah's command that a man marry his brother's widow, they hope to lay a trap for Him about the resurrected life... Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.
But Jesus is not fooled. He sees through their subterfuge, and answers rightly: You are mistaken, not understanding [or knowing] the Scriptures nor the power of God. The first mistake in their reasoning is supposing that if there were a resurrection, men and women would marry as they do in this life. Jesus makes it clear that this won't be the case: men and women will be like the angels of God -- immortal, and free from all human passions that are part of our present state of existence. There will be no death; and consequently no need of marriage to maintain the population of the spiritual world.
Furthermore, as supposed experts on the written Torah (the entire Old Testament), they were showing their ignorance of Scriptures such as Daniel 12:2 and Job 19:25-27, which plainly tell of the resurrection of the dead. Jesus is saying, in effect, that their ignorance of Scripture has led them to disbelief in the resurrection. But there is even more to the absurdity of their challenge.
When they try to present a ridiculous scenario of marriage after the resurrection, Christ attributes that to their ignorance of the power of God. And He disarms their argument by reminding them that the God they profess to believe in has made known that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and by declaring that this same God is the God of the living, not the dead [letting them know that the spirits of the Patriarchs are not dead].
But that wasn't the only challenge He would receive. Next, came the Pharisees, who had heard that Jesus had silenced the illogical arguments of the Sadducees. Rather than counting themselves among the elite of Jewish religious society, the Pharisees had the backing of the common people, and claimed Mosaic authority for their interpretation of Jewish Laws. They gave precedent to the Oral Torah, consisting of the body of oral laws, interpretations, and traditions transmitted by God to Moses orally, and then memorized. So their challenge to Jesus came in the form of a question ... Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?
Jesus's answer is concise and deliberate: “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” There is no debate and no arguing over the veracity; and no need to expound upon countless laws or traditions.
So what can we learn from these two different confrontations with Jesus by religious men? I do not doubt that these men would declare their love for God, just as many Believers would say today. But if we say we want to serve God, is it enough to just say that we love Him? Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 22 that we can love our God, but have doctrinal beliefs that are mistaken; that we may not truly understand what He is telling us in Scripture, and thereby become ignorant of His power.
How many in the Church today are saying, "I love you" to God, while [like the Sadducees and Pharisees] they are dying because they have only head knowledge of Him, but no heart knowledge? How many are spiritually suffering because they don't truly know Him or His power in our lives? We need to look beyond just loving God, to knowing Him and our position in this world.
How many of us can truly say, "I love You [God], and because I have set my love on You, I am rooted and grounded in Your love for me. I am growing each day into an understanding of what is the breadth and length and height and depth of Your love. And because I am understanding Your love, Father, I am walking in Your Power. Furthermore, I know You will deliver me from the snares of the Enemy. I will see things in this spiritual battle called Life, but they won't touch me. Because of my love for You, I know I am in command over the Enemy, and I know the position of Authority that is mine. I love Your Word, Father, and it speaks of Your Power which is at work in me. All Glory to God"!
Like the Sadducees and the Pharisees, our Enemy seeks to lay traps for us in our understanding of Scripture and God. It is not enough to hang our relationship with God on our head knowledge. He doesn't want a circumcision of our minds, but of our hearts. So, love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and seek the Kingdom first, through study of God's Holy Word. Avoid the religious traps that mire us in endless arguments over our sacred religious cows, and which keep us focused on ourselves and our own understandings. Continuing to seek God above all else, and desiring Him more, is the secret to both Divine understanding and power.