St. Augustine tells us that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection; they assumed that flesh and blood could possess the kingdom of heaven – that the perishable could possess imperishability. The Lord gives an answer speaking with Divine authority which we are bound to believe. The Apostle explained it as best he could: ‘We must try to understand this as fully as we can’. In the next world there is no death, so there is no need for marriage and for procreation. We shall, He tells us, be equal to the angels of God.
St Cyril of Alexandria reminds us that those who have been accounted worthy of salvation will be far above the lusts of this world. They will resemble the angels and fulfil and spiritual rather than a material service.
Clement of Alexandria makes a similar point. Jesus is not rejecting marriage, but is purging the expectation of physical desire in the resurrection. Birth in this world is followed by decay and death, but as these things are not so in the next world, we no longer have physical needs of this sort.
St Cyril tells us that Jesus illustrates the ignorance of the Sadducees by bringing forward the example of their own leader, Moses, who clearly was acquainted with the resurrection of the dead. Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and will raise the dead suddenly, and in the twinkling of an eye. Christ will transfer us into incorruption.
The Fathers clearly found this teaching of Jesus difficult and acknowledged that it probed the limits of what we can know. But they understood that marriage existed for the procreation of the species, and that since in the next world there will be no death, there would also be no marriage as the need for which it catered would be no more.