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God’s Word for You

Mark 12:35-37 The Son of David

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, April 5, 2022

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? 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?” The large crowd listened to him with delight. (NIV)

The relationship of a son to his father is expressed this way in the Law of Moses: “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town” (Deuteronomy 21:18-19). If a son disobeyed, he was subject to strict judgment (Moses goes on to insist on stoning a rebellious son to death, Deuteronomy 21:21). Therefore, if a son was not held in judgment by his parents, he was seen to be an obedient and righteous son. If Jesus was the Son of David, was he not an obedient son who delighted his ancestor? And wasn’t there more to it than that?

The Pharisees liked to refer to the Messiah as the Son of David, and this was known to ordinary Jews as well. Jesus is called “Son of David by blind men in both Capernaum (Matthew 9:27) and Jericho (Matthew 20:30), by the crowds of Galilee (Matthew 12:23), and by the Canaanite woman from Syrian Phoenicia (Matthew 15:22). Matthew himself identifies Jesus this way in the first sentence of his Gospel (Matthew 1:1). Certainly in Zechariah 12:10, the “pierced” Messiah is represented as the one from the house of David, the one with a spirit of grace and supplication, that is to say, Gospel blessings and prayerful intercession to God the Father on behalf of sinners. But Jesus’ point with this question is not to challenge the title, but to challenge the scribes’ understanding of the title.

Jesus cites Psalm 110:1, in which David (the author) says: “The Lord says to my Lord.” The first “Lord” is God the Father (LORD or Jehovah in the Psalm). The second “Lord” must be the Messiah. So Jesus asks: How can David call the Messiah “Lord” if the Messiah is his son? The theology of the divinity of the Messiah is at stake. Psalm 110:1 (along with Psalm 2:1-12) proves that David recognized that the Christ would be truly and fully God. Other passages about the Christ (such as Zechariah 12:10 and Deuteronomy 18:15) show that the Christ would also be truly and fully man, descended in a human way from David. Therefore: If David believed this, not to mention Moses, why didn’t the scribes believe it?

Someone casually reading verse 37 in our text might be tempted to think that Jesus is saying that the Christ can’t be descended from David. But this isn’t what Jesus is saying at all. He is challenging the unbelieving scribes to alter their views. The ignorant and the powerful in the world have this in common, especially about theology: They don’t alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views. This is especially a problem if you happen to be a fact that needs to be altered.

A point Jesus also brings forward with the Psalm 110 quotation is that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and his ascension into heaven were also prophesied by the Old Testament Scriptures. These words: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet”—what can they possibly mean if not the ascension at the invitation of the Father to the Son? The “until” means until Judgment Day comes and all enemies will finally be placed under the feet of Christ for all eternity.

We also remember that Christ’s “sitting at the right hand of God” is not a localized sitting, as if he can never rise from his throne to stretch his legs or to stretch out his influence in the world. Professor Abraham Calov said: “The formal doctrine of Christ’s sitting at the right hand of God is that his sitting is not a local lingering in the glorious heaven, nor a certain limited rule, but universal rule or reigning in infinite power, and indeed by the power of exaltation, which would not come to Christ unless according to his human nature.”

The ascension is taught with simple words: “The Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). But it assures us of what Jesus claimed as his, just before he ascended: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). So Christ’s ascension and position of honor and authority (the right hand of the Father) assures us that he rules over all things for the good of the church. For the prophet of Babylon said: “I kept watching the night visions, and there, in the clouds of heaven, I saw one like a son of man coming. He came to the Ancient of Days, and he was brought before him. To him was given dominion, honor, and a kingdom. All peoples, nations, and languages will worship him. His dominion is an eternal dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

To who else was this authority given? Who else reigns in heaven and on earth? Who else has the blessing of the Father who said, “Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5)? The answer to the rhetorical question, “How can he be the Son of David?” is simply this: He is the Son of David according to his human nature, but David calls him “Lord” according to both natures, human and divine. Christ is both true God and true man, and remains so forever, for our sakes. He became truly a man to satisfy the demands of God’s holiness (Leviticus 19:2), and to satisfy the demands of God’s justice, for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). Christ also had to be God because a sinner cannot save himself, and even a sinless man could not atone for the sinful debt of another man, for the Bible never once speaks of any treasury of merits paid and filled up by the saints on behalf of any other men. The only merits that avail us are the merits of Christ, and they are infinite. His blood, shed for us, has infinite value, and therefore we take delight and are awed by the simple words: “My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). Praise Jesus, crucified, died, buried, risen, and ascended. He will come again for us, and we will go with him forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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