It’s been a while, but I’d like to return to my “Passion Tuesday” series on the Tuesday before Christ’s crucifixion. If you missed them, I’d recommend hitting that link for a quick read of at least the two articles on the Parable of the Husbandmen and the two on the greatest commandments. They give important context for this article.
Jesus’ answer on the greatest commandment pointed to the source of their problem — indeed, everyone’s problem. We don’t love God, and we don’t love our neighbours. To solve that, we need a new heart, a change worked by God. He showed the religious leaders the need for the Cross, but now having answered questions, Jesus asked one, the last question of the day.
Jesus’ Question and their Answer
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them,
42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.
Years ago, at university, I spoke to another student, an Orthodox Jew, about the Lord Jesus. He told me, “Messiah is not the Son of God. He is the Son of David.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.
David, the great warrior king so long ago, had driven back Israel’s enemies. His military might established the peace leading to the great prosperity of Solomon’s rule. Now, the Jews under the thumb of the Roman Empire longed for the promised deliverer, a Son of David. Their answer reflected their desire — but it was not the full answer of Scripture.
Is He David’s Son?
43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,
44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?
45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?
Jesus made three main points:
- These words must be accepted, for they were given by the Holy Spirit.
- Messiah is greater than David, and therefore, more than a Son of David.
- Messiah’s enemies will not be immediately destroyed, for He will first sit on the right hand of the Father for a time.
The God-inspired Scriptures told that their conception of Messiah was too small, their expectation too early. Too small — for He was a Son of David, but He was greater than a Son of David. Too early — for His enemies would still have their day.
The spiritual needs He raised when questioned by the scribe just before, the need to love God and man, had to be addressed. The entire Law hangs on two commands which sinful men did not and could not obey. Man had to have a changed heart before he could have the blessings which a conquering Messiah would bring. Messiah would be a Saviour before He would be a Conqueror, a Deliverer from sin before He would deliver from human foes. His enemies would indeed have their day, but only to serve His purposes.
Back to the Prophets
Jesus did not tell them whose Son Messiah would be. They knew the Scriptures, and He had been pointing them to the prophets all day. As we’ve seen in previous articles in this series, Jesus referred them to Malachi several times at the start of the day, as well as other Old Testament Scriptures.
As the day drew on, He pointed more and more to the early chapters of Isaiah. In His Parable of the Husbandmen (Matthew 21:33-46), He alluded to Isaiah 5:1-7. In speaking of the Chief Cornerstone, He referred to Psalm 118, but also to Isaiah 8:14-15. In His words immediately following (in Matthew 23), Jesus would bring Isaiah 5 to mind again (another blog post, Lord willing 🙂 ).
Why do a discussion of Messiah’s Sonship and the early chapters of Isaiah belong together? In Isaiah 1-5, God pleads with His covenant people who have gone astray. In chapter 6, He is still on His throne, still sending His messengers, still reaching out to His people. And then, God introduces His answer to sin and unbelief — Messiah as a Son:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Jesus’ hearers did know Isaiah’s prophecy, and He had already drawn their attention to it. Even if He hadn’t, any teacher of the Old Testament, when thinking of Messiah as a Son, would think of these verses in Isaiah. They knew Messiah, descended from David, would be born of a virgin, a Son of David who would be much, much more than David’s descendant.
Back to the Parable
Earlier in the day, in the Parable of the Husbandmen, Jesus told of those who plotted to kill the son of their master. He applied it to these religious leaders who were plotting to kill Him, the Son of Israel’s Owner, Jehovah-God.
The Jews, with a “too small, too early” view of Messiah, might have two objections: 1) Messiah is a Son of David, not the Son of God. 2) Messiah is not going to die, He is a conquering King who will rule forever. If they killed Jesus, it would prove He wasn’t the Messiah, to their way of thinking.
In bringing them to Psalm 110 Jesus put before them a prophecy which answered both objections. Messiah is greater than David, He is indeed the Son of God. And Psalm 110 foretold that Messiah would depart this world without yet having finally crushed His enemies. He would enter Heaven and be seated at the Father’s right hand.
The death of Messiah was not a violation of prophecy — Psalm 110 wouldn’t make sense without it. His identity as the Son of God was taught as surely in Isaiah and Psalms as it is in the New Testament, if not quite as clearly. Jesus’ parable was true to Scripture.
And so, the questions (though not the day) ended. Every question for Messiah, and about Messiah, had been asked, and answered from Scriptural prophecy. Even their opposition had been foretold.
Jesus, in asking this question, was not asking merely about Messiah and His Sonship. Our Lord was not interested in scoring points in a debate. The question was really one last challenge to their false conception of Messiah. They had made Him over, changed Him, from what God said He would be into what they wanted Him to be. But there was no excuse, for the Scriptures showed He was much more than their ideas.
Their fictional Messiah would change their life to make it fit their desires.
The real Messiah would change people to make them fit for the life He gives.
His parable of the Husbandmen and the Son was right out of prophecy, the story of the Son of God who came and was rejected. He was greater than David, the Chief Cornerstone who would be “for a sanctuary.” But His enemies would have their day — and these leaders would be at the forefront of those enemies. For them, He would be “for a stone of stumbling.”
14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
15 And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.
Series Summary with links to further articles: “Passion Tuesday” / Crucifixion Tuesday