Summary: We need to hear and reclaim the message of Jesus' ascension as Lord.
Jesus has answered every question put to him, whether they were from hostile intentions such as the first three, or from a sincere desire to learn such as the last. Those who tried to shame him found themselves shamed; the one seeking wisdom found himself affirmed. Whatever the question, Jesus gave a good answer. Now he takes the time to ask a good question.
35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David?
Mark gives a summarized version of Jesus’ teaching. It is Matthew who fills in the detail. He lets us know that Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees.
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
The table has turned around. They are still in the temple courts, and there is a crowd gathered around. Though Matthew refers to the Pharisees and Mark to the teachers of the law, the actual scenario is that both are present and many of the men are teachers of the law who are Pharisees.
I wonder how they feel right now? They are still smarting from those other questions Jesus had asked in response to their questions. They must suspect a setup. If so, they are right! They give the answer that Jesus is expecting: the Messiah is the son of David.
We have discussed this phrase before – son of David – back in chapter 10 where blind Bartimaeus used it for Jesus. By Jesus’ day it had become a common title for the Messiah, which is interesting in itself because it is not found in that form in the Old Testament. Then where did they get the idea? It is in the Old Testament.
Through the prophet Nathan, God promised to establish David’s throne forever. One of the songs of ascents that the pilgrims sang spoke of this:
10 For the sake of David your servant,
do not reject your anointed one.
11 The LORD swore an oath to David,
a sure oath that he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants
I will place on your throne—
12 if your sons keep my covenant
and the statutes I teach them,
then their sons will sit
on your throne for ever and ever” (132:10-12).
Eventually the throne of David did end because the nation of Judah ended, but the Jews believed the Messiah would come and re-establish Israel as a great nation. He then would sit on the throne, and therefore, must be a descendent of David. They pointed to the prophecy of Isaiah:
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this (9:6,7).
They looked to Jeremiah’s prophecy:
5 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will raise up to David
a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land (Jeremiah 23:5).
As time went on, teachers and writers of other religious writings latched on to the phrase, Son of David, so that it became a common expression among the people for the Messiah. So then, Jesus picks up on that term and asks his question:
36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
”‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’
37 David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
First, let me note that Jesus is not challenging the validity of that expression. The phrase is a correct designation. Matthew begins his gospel saying, A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham. Romans 1:3 speaks of him as a descendant of David; Revelation refers to the Root of David and Offspring of David (5:5; 22:16). Nor is he, by the way, just having fun making the religious leaders squirm. What he is challenging is their limited view of who the Son of David is. And being a good Jewish rabbi, he turns to the Jewish Scriptures, quoting from Psalm 110:1.
This psalm is understood to be a messianic psalm, i.e. a psalm that refers to the Messiah. The Jewish leaders and teachers regard it that way. No one would reply, “But, Jesus, David is not speaking of the Messiah.” Indeed, they would have used that very psalm to instruct the people about the Messiah.