When the Pharisees had come together, Jesus asked them a question: “What is your opinion about The Anointed One? Whose son is he?” “David’s son,” they said. He said to them, “How, then, does David in the Spirit call Him Lord, when he says, `The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand till I put your enemies beneath your feet.’ If David calls Him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to give him any answer. And from that day no one any longer dared to ask him a question.
To us this may seem one of the most obscure things which Jesus ever said. This may be so, but none the less it is a most important statement. Even if, at first sight, we do not fully grasp its meaning, we can still feel the air of awe and astonishment and mystery which it has about it.
We have seen again and again that Jesus refused to allow his followers to proclaim him as the Messiah until he had taught them what Messiahship meant. Their ideas of Messiahship needed the most radical change.
The commonest title of the Messiah was Son of David. Behind it lay the expectation that there would one day come a great prince of the line of David who would shatter Israel’s enemies and lead the people to the conquest of all nations. The Messiah was most commonly thought of in nationalistic, political, military terms of power and glory. This is another attempt by Jesus to alter that conception.
He asked the Pharisees whose son they understood the Messiah to be: they answered, as he knew they would, “David’s son.” Jesus then quotes Psalm I 10:1: “The Lord says to my Lord; Sit at my right hand.” All accepted that as a Messianic text. In it the first Lord is God; the second Lord is the Messiah. That is to say David calls the Messiah Lord. But, if the Messiah is David’s son, how could David call his own son Lord?
The clear result of the argument is that it is not adequate to call the Messiah Son of David. He is not David’s son; he is David’s Lord. When Jesus healed the blind men, they called him Son of David (Matt. 20:30). When he entered Jerusalem the crowds hailed him as Son of David (Matt. 21:9). Jesus is here saying, “It is not enough to call the Messiah Son of David. It is not enough to think of him as a Prince of David’s line and an earthly conqueror. You must go beyond that, for the Messiah is David’s Lord.”
What did Jesus mean? He can have meant only one thing–that the true description of him is Son of God. Son of David is not an adequate title; only Son of God will do. And, if that be so, Messiahship is not to be thought of in terms of Davidic conquest, but in terms of divine and sacrificial love. Here, then, Jesus makes his greatest claim. In him there came, not the earthly conqueror who would repeat the military triumphs of David, but the Son of God who would demonstrate the love of God upon his Cross.
There would be few that day who caught anything like all that Jesus meant; but when Jesus spoke these words, even the densest of them felt a shiver in the presence of the eternal mystery. They had the awed and the uncomfortable feeling that they had heard the voice of God, and for a moment, in this man Jesus, they glimpsed God’s very face.
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