Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sermon on Matthew 22:41-46 for Lent 5, "If then David calls Him Lord, how is He his son?”

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Our 5th part of the sermon series on “Questions about Jesus they don’t want answered” is where Jesus decisively turns the tables on the Pharisees and Jewish leaders, and puts an end to their questions. Instead of continuing to field their questions—ones for which they won’t accept His answers, He asks them one that silences them all. There’s a delicious bit of irony in this chapter of Matthew, because in the preceding sections, the Pharisees were excited that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, with whom they strongly disagreed. Then they tried to stump Jesus, and failed. And now with today’s questions Jesus silences them! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus doesn’t gloat over or humiliate the Pharisees, or even ask the questions directly concerning Himself, but humbly asks “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is He?” They’re given the relative safety of answering truthfully about the Christ, their Messiah, without having to decide whether Jesus Himself is or isn’t the Christ. They of course studied and knew the Law and the Prophets, and were well-acquainted with the prophecies concerning the Christ, and believed them. But their knowledge was incomplete. They readily answered Jesus’ question that the Christ was David’s Son. They knew well that the Christ would be the descendant of David. So did the crowds! “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Remember? Pharisees and the common folk both knew the Christ would come from David’s line, to establish King David’s throne and kingdom forever. But for all the knowledge of the Pharisees, there was still an unwillingness to learn what was needful. They wanted to remain the experts on the law.

But once they’ve answered the question that the Christ is David’s Son, they’ve backed themselves into a corner for Jesus’ next question. “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”?’ If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1, which we spoke responsively earlier. First of all, Jesus acknowledges that David spoke “in the Spirit.” This is an important statement for our understanding of how the Scriptures are “inspired.” Inspired means “God-breathed.” That God-breathed out through the Spirit the very words that David wrote. In other words, Jesus was saying, “David was not in error when he wrote, for he wrote by the guidance of the Spirit.”

Let’s look at what David said: “The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” Who is “The LORD?” Who is “my Lord?” Who is talking to who here? David? God? There’s a little help from the Hebrew original. There are actually two words for “Lord” in this passage. The first, “The LORD”—usually spelled in all capitals throughout the Old Testament is God’s Divine Name, YHWH. If you’ve never heard that name for God, you’re probably more familiar with the mispronunciation “Jehovah.” YHWH was the name that God used to reveal Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai in the burning bush. God told Moses, “I am who I am!” When Jesus took those words “I AM,” on His lips in the New Testament, He was unmistakably making the claim that He was YHWH, true God…and the Jews wanted to stone Him for it (John 10:31-33). And they did eventually crucify Him.

But back to the verse from Psalm 110, the LORD, YHWH, said to my Lord…The second “Lord” in the passage is the title “Adonai,” a common Old Testament address to God. So to keep it straight, there are two different words for Lord here: the Divine Name YHWH, and the title Adonai. Adonai is one of the many OT titles given to God, but YHWH is the only personal name by which God reveals Himself in the OT. So what we have here is King David writing down a heavenly address that takes place between God the Father, and God the Son—the coming Messiah. God the Father, YHWH, addressing David’s Lord, Adonai—who is none other than Jesus, the Son of God. And the Father is telling His Son that He will seat Him at His right hand, the position of all power and authority. It means that He’ll exercise God’s authority.

God would make His Son the ruler of all the nations, so that His enemies would be under His feet like a footstool—a sign of their submission and His power. So what use did Jesus make of this passage? The Jews had already recognized that the Christ was to be the Son of David, and they should have recognized that this passage was speaking about the Christ. But what Jesus opened their eyes to was the fact that David speaks of the Christ as “my Lord.” Why would David, the Great King of the Golden Age of Israel, address the Christ, one of his descendants, as Lord? Why would a king, the highest earthly ruler, address any of his descendants—like a great grandson or great-great grandson, etc—with the honorific title of Lord? What Jesus exposed with His question was that they were perfectly willing to accept the promised Christ’s humanity as a Son of David, but were unwilling to realize His divinity. They could not accept Jesus as the Christ who is both divine and human.

And they could not give an answer to this question, because to answer it would have forced them to admit that David’s Son and David’s Lord was the Christ, the Divine Christ who is Adonai. Then they too would have to worship this Christ, who would have authority over all the nations. This was the decisive question that silenced them for good. They had been foiled too often in their attempts to catch Jesus in His words, and they no longer dared ask Him any more questions. They knew they’d be cornered again! It must have been frustrating! All their excuses and ways out had been cut off, and their objections silenced…so now all that stood in their way was their unbelief.

This had paved the way for Jesus’ trial and crucifixion now. Jesus was clearly unwilling to back down into a niche or role that they could tolerate—that of a prophet or teacher, but not the Christ and claiming to be the Son of God. This was too much to handle, and since Jesus wouldn’t give on this matter, there was logically only one option left for them: to kill Him. Assuming that He was a blasphemer rather than the True Son of God, they would now carry out their plots against Him. Again and again the answers of these questions force them closer and closer to the uncomfortable conclusion that Jesus is the Divine Christ, the Son of David, and that He would be granted all power and authority.

From His cross He would establish His eternal kingdom of believers, the church. But whether for Christ or against Him, it wouldn’t change the fact that every knee will one day bow to Christ, the Son of God. The difference is, that for those who believe in Him, we will bow in loving worship and adoration, and will be called sons and daughters of the king—to share in His eternal inheritance. But for those who remained in their unbelief and wouldn’t acknowledge Him as Lord, who remained His enemies—they shall become His footstool. He will execute His judgment against the nations. So it should be clear that we want to stand with Christ, and not be opposed to Him. For though His enemies thought they had gained the upper hand by crucifying Him on the cross, it was in fact their world that had been turned upside down. For the Risen Jesus possesses an eternal kingdom of unconquerable rule. To Him belong the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

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