Summary: Like the Jewish people, there are many "laws" that govern our lives. But the one law that reveals the true nature of God and follows the way of the Messiah is the greatest law of all, even though it is also an extreme challenge.
The big news out of England these days is that Prince William and his wife, Kate, are expecting another child. Currently, Prince William is second in line to the throne, behind his father, Charles. Third in line is William and Kate’s first son, George. And the child-to-come will be fourth in line to the throne. As you surely well know, in a monarchy system, your standing is greater the closer you are to the throne. So Queen Elizabeth currently holds the throne, Prince Charles ranks second above William and George, William is third below Charles but ahead of George, and so on. These positions represent relative power, so it would be very unusual for Charles, for example, to revere William as his superior. It should be the other way around! Which is exactly what Jesus is getting at when he turns the tables on the Pharisees and finally asks them the question you heard a few moments ago, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
On the surface, Jesus’ question seems very basic. Every faithful Jew knows beyond any shadow of a doubt that the Messiah will come from the lineage of David, and so he will be David’s son. And that’s exactly what the Pharisees say. I imagine at this point they are starting to feel a little proud as they think to themselves, “We had some pretty tricky questions for Jesus, and he asks us something so simple?!?” But Jesus isn’t done yet. He extends his question further as he quotes from Psalm 110, a Psalm written by David himself. “Then how is it that David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, called him Lord when he said, The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at my right side until I turn your enemies into your footstool’? If David calls him Lord, how can he be David’s son?”
The Pharisees were operating according to the same assumptions as we do about how a monarchy works. No King would defer to his son as Lord in such a system, and so the Pharisees are stumped. We, of course, with the hindsight of Jesus death and resurrection, know the answer to his question. The Messiah, though a descendent of the line of David, is the Lord of all; all heaven and earth and everything in God’s creation. David knows that this descendent, the Messiah to come, is greater than he, and so it is that he calls him Lord. But the Pharisees don’t see that, they don’t yet understand. They knew Jesus was inferring that he was the Messiah, but this Messiah wasn’t doing what David’s son was expected to do. King David’s reign was revered in Jewish history because he united the Northern and Southern kingdoms, he ushered in a time of peace, prosperity, and power, and he laid the spiritual groundwork for the building of the Temple. As a result, the Jewish people had come to believe that the Messiah would be such a ruler; one who would overcome Roman oppression, and usher in peace, prosperity, and power. They expected a monarch, a military and political King who would save them from their woes.