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? 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.”‘ David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with delight. (Mark 12: 35-37).
Who is “The Lord” and who is “my Lord”? Who’s putting whose enemies under whose feet? David calls who Lord? What’s the point of the whole lesson? And what difference does it make to me? Hint: It all has to do with who Jesus really is.
It’s still Tuesday. In the Jerusalem temple courtyard air hangs heavy with excitement and tension. Since Sunday, when Jesus “triumphantly” entered Jerusalem, Jewish authorities have vainly tried to verbally beat him into self-incrimination. Friday they’ll do far more: crucify him.
The words Jesus quotes are the first verse of a familiar messianic psalm. Here it is in its entirety . . .
1The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” 2The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. 3Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth. 4The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” 5The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. 6He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. 7He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head (Psalm 110:1-7).
In 110:1-3 King David prophesied how the Messiah-King would fight and rule over his enemies. In 110:4 David prophesied how the Messiah-Priest would intercede for his people forever. And in 110:5-7 how the Messiah-Warrior would fight and crush the rulers of the whole earth.
We know the Jews expected a political Messiah who’d deliver Israel from Rome and establish a David-like kingdom in Jerusalem. However, when Jesus says, “David himself calls him ‘Lord'”, then asks, “How then can he be his son?”, Jesus is identifying Messiah as both king and priest forever who will extend his rule beyond the Middle East to “the whole earth.”
Unlike most preachers (and bloggers) today who wish to leave no question unanswered, Jesus leaves the crowd with a question to answer for themselves: “If King David calls this one Lord, how can he be his son?” Answer: the one about whom Psalm 110 speaks is far greater even than King David. He is David’s descendant, but David bows to him as Lord because he is THE LORD!
In this teaching to the temple crowd, Jesus identifies his lineage (he’s the son of King David) and his destiny (to provide sacrifice for his people’s sins and to rule the whole world). In short, he will be enthroned as the divine King-Priest of (the new) creation forever.
I have trouble connecting that to “the real world” today. For example, when I see TV news reports of the Middle East wars, of radical Islamist terrorist attacks (like Paris, the Russian airliner, the hotel in Mali West Africa), of the massive migration from Muslim countries into Europe, of famines and floods on the African continent, and of ever-present racial and political divides in America, Jesus the Messianic Warrior doesn’t come first to mind. I think, “Trump or Hillary would make the mess worse” or “Which Republican would be best equipped to deal with these crises?”.
I remember I mustn’t think of Jesus as merely a religious king. I must see him as the King who is the world’s only hope. Just as first-century Israel groaned for a leader to free them from Roman oppression, I should be groaning for the Leader to free us from the oppression of this evil-one empowered world. Sound fanatical? That brings me finally to this profound quote from C.S. Lewis . . .
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis,