A Question of Authority.
Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44
“What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They replied, “He is the son of David.” – Matthew 22:42 NLT
Remember, we are coming to the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. As we read through the events surrounding the last week of His life, we should begin to recognize that this is really about two kingdoms in conflict – the one the Pharisees and religious leaders had come to know, love and control; and the one that Jesus had come to establish. Do you recall the message of John the Baptist as he began his ministry to pave the way for the coming of the Messiah? He said, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2 NLT). To repent means to change your mind, about God and about your sin. It requires you to do an about face concerning what you currently believe about those two things. That change of mind and heart should result in a change of behavior. In the world into which Jesus came, the Jewish people had developed their own conceptions about God and their own sin. They thought they had God figured out and they thought they knew what they had to do to deal with sin. But they had grown callous to God and carefree about their own sin, justifying their actions and downplaying their own guilt. They put a lot of stock in their position as descendants of Abraham and their unique role as God’s chosen people. But John came preaching a call to repentance. He told them that the Kingdom of Heaven was close at hand. And Jesus came preaching the very same message: “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17 NLT). The Kingdom of Heaven was NEAR – in the form of the King of Heaven – Jesus Himself. This was a statement of authority and divine representation. Jesus was Emmanuel – God with us. He was the one true King. But the Jewish people failed to recognize Him as such.
Which brings us to today’s passage. Jesus finds Himself surrounding by Pharisees once again. He has weathered a relentless gauntlet of questions from these men, as they attempted to expose and entrap Him. But this time Jesus turns the tables and He asks the question. And in doing so, He reveals some Messianic misconceptions on their part. He exposes their faulty views of who the Messiah would be and what He would do. Jesus asks them a very simple, yet revealing question: “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42a NLT). Jesus already knows how they will answer and it will reveal a lot about their understanding of not only the Messiah, but His coming Kingdom. “They replied, ‘He is the son of David’” (Matthew 22:42b NLT).
So what does this answer tell us about their view of the Messiah? They believed He would be a descendant of David. They viewed the kingdom as strictly earthly and not heavenly in nature. In other words, they were looking for a king, just like David had been. They were anticipating a ruler, a royal heir to David, who would wear his crown and sit on his throne, reestablishing their power in the region. They weren’t looking for a Savior from sin, but a savior from subjugation to Rome. So Jesus asks them a qualifying question: “Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, call the Messiah, ‘my Lord’? For David said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet’” (Matthew 22:44 NLT). At first glance, this all sounds like some kind of riddle or trick question on Jesus’ part. But Jesus is quoting a well-known passage from Psalm 110:1 – a Messianic Psalm. These Pharisees would have seen this passage as applying to the coming Messiah, or Davidic descendant. In fact, in the course of time this psalm had been applied to each successive king in the dynasty and ultimately to the ideal Davidic king (NET Bible study notes). So they would have been familiar with the passage and its application to the coming Messiah. So Jesus points out that in the Psalm, David calls the Messiah his Lord. If the coming Messiah is a “son” or descendant of David, the greatest king Israel had ever had, why would He call this man his “Lord?” To understand this question, you have to recognize that there are two different words used for Lord in Psalm 110. The first is Jehovah. It is a noun that refers to God. It is the proper name of the God of Israel. The second word is adon. This is a noun meaning lord or master. But when used in conjunction with Lord (Jehovah), it typically refers to God’s sovereignty or authority. So you could read the line in Psalm 110 this way: The Lord (God) said to my (David’s) Lord (Messiah)…
The point Jesus is making is that David knew something about the Messiah they were failing to see. That’s why Jesus asked them a further question: “Since David called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?” (Matthew 22:45 NLT). The Pharisees had a limited view of the Messiah. They believed He would be an earthly, physical, and fully human descendant of David, nothing more, nothing less. But Jesus’ point is that even David seemed to know that the Messiah would be MORE than just a descendant. He would be divine and have God-given authority to rule and reign over God’s Kingdom. He would be David’s lord and master. He would be a divinely appointed ruler with power and authority David had never dreamed of. But the Pharisees couldn’t bring themselves to see this or acknowledge it. Jesus was not what they were expecting and not what they wanted. He didn’t look like a king. He didn’t act like a king. The people of Israel were still suffering from the same problem their ancestors had when they demanded that God give them a king all those years ago. Back then, they wanted a king like all the other nations. So God gave them Saul. Now they were wanting the same thing. But God was not going to give them another Saul. He was going to give them another David, an actual descendant of David, but a man greater than David had ever been. He would be the God-man, the Son of God and the ultimate Savior of the world.
This whole exchange left the Pharisees stumped. For the first time, they had no response and no more questions. “No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:46 NLT). They were far from done, but they were going to give up on trying to trick Jesus with questions. They would simply take a different tactic. Their views had not changed. They were still unrepentant, refusing to change their mind about God, and about their own sins. They refused to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah. They refused to admit their own sin and their need for a Savior. They were not buying what Jesus was selling. And they would live to regret it.
Father, how easy it is for us to look at Jesus and think, “He’s not what I was expecting!” We can bring our own preconceived notions of who Jesus should be and how He should act. We can demand that He save according to our terms and then get angry when He doesn’t deliver what we want. Many of us see Jesus as some kind of personal life coach instead of as our Lord and Master. We want to have Him as a friend, but not as King of our lives. We are perfectly fine with the idea of Him redeeming us with His blood, but we’re not too keen on Him ruling our lives. Open our eyes and help us see the truth of who Jesus is and how we should respond to Him. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men