Summary: Our Advent Sermon Series was "David's Royal Branch," focusing on the coming Christ and His connections to David. This is the second sermon of that series, looking at Jesus' lineage. He is, indeed, David's son--but even greater, He is the Son of God!
“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” With these two questions, Jesus turns the tables on the Pharisees once again. They, along with the Sadducees and Herodians had put Jesus to the test several times in a row. They asked Him unimaginable, theoretical, philosophical, theological questions. Questions argued by respected rabbis for ages. Questions they were convinced only had two answers—and no matter which way Jesus answered, they, no doubt, planned to oppose him, and accuse him of blasphemy before the plethora of Passover pilgrims gathered around.
The problem is, Jesus has this funny way of always finding an alternative answer. A holier, more God-pleasing answer. An answer they never could have imagined. And so, with every unimaginable, theoretical, philosophical, theological question posed to Him, Jesus foiled their plans. Again and again. And, now, Jesus asks the question—two questions, really.
One: “What do you think about the Christ?” And two: “Whose son is he?” And how they answer the second question—the question Jesus seems to be driving at most—how they answer the second question will in turn answer the first question, what they think about the Christ.
The Pharisees probably laughed in Jesus’ face at the question. They just gave him difficult question upon difficult question…and all He asks is “whose son is the Christ?!” Child’s play! After all, everyone knows that. So they quickly answer, without even thinking: “The son of David.” Easy!
Now, it’s not necessarily that they were wrong; it’s not a bad answer…just inadequate, incomplete. You see, their answer betrays the fact that they believe the Christ would purely and strictly be an earthly ruler. What they believe about the Christ was entirely based on what their finite minds could comprehend. When they say “Son of David” they only have in mind a human lineage.
They were well aware of God’s promise to King David in 2 Samuel 7—the promise to one day “raise up [David’s] offspring…and [to] establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” They were well aware of the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai and Zechariah all pointing to David’s righteous branch who would come and inaugurate a new Israel, establishing an endless dynasty with descendant after descendant after descendant ascending to the throne. They were even aware of the supposed “Psalms of Solomon,” a set of 18 songs attributed to the former wise king, though written in 50 BC—about eight or nine hundred years after Solomon’s death. Nevertheless, these psalms were popular; especially the 17th Psalm of Solomon, which includes a prayer to God for the coming of the son of David. “Behold, O Lord, and raise up unto them their king, the son of David, At the time in the which Thou seest, O God, that he may reign over Israel Thy servant, And gird him with strength, that he may shatter unrighteous rulers, And that he may purge Jerusalem from nations that trample (her) down to destruction.” It goes on to point to the Son of David, the Christ, casting out sinners, destroying, judging them and leading the righteous. So, when the Pharisees are asked, “Whose son is the Christ?” they, without hesitation, point to David.
The Pharisees aren’t alone in thinking this, either. Every Jewish man, woman and child, if you asked them, “Whose son is the Christ?” they would have answered “David’s.” Instantly. Which is why, on the day before our Gospel reading takes place, the people react to Jesus’ arrival to Jerusalem the way they do. The crowd had seen him perform miraculous things. They had heard him teaching things they had never heard. They’d watched as he cast out demons, fed thousands, healed the blind. And, now, they see him riding on a donkey—looking stately and kingly. It didn’t take long for their minds to look to Jesus as their Messiah, the Christ. So, people throw down freshly cut tree trimmings along the way; they blanket the ground with their cloaks, like wrapping paper quickly covering the floor after a frenzied Christmas gift exchange. And, all the while they shout aloud, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Whose son is the Christ? For the crowds at Jerusalem—for everyone, really—the answer was clear. The Christ is David’s son. His offspring; his descendant who would be king.
Again, it’s not that this was the wrong answer…it’s not a bad answer…just not the best answer. Son of David—that’s only half of it. Because if you stop there, all you get is an earthly king, waging earthly wars, sitting on an earthly throne. As one scholar writes, “Jesus’ contemporaries seem to have thought of ‘the Son of David’ as a Messiah like David, one who would sit on David’s throne, make warlike conquests as David did, and in general be David all over again.” (Morris, Leon. "The Gospel According to Matthew," William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1995. 566.) In their mind, they pictured him coming to bring Israel to its glory days, and Rome to its knees. Jesus rejects this idea, though, because there’s more to it than that. Though He could have taken on this challenge.