Divine Conundrum

Then He said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is David’s son?  For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”‘ Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord,’ and how is He his son?” (Luke 20:41-44 NASB)

Growing up, I looked at this question as the end-all, be-all of theological conundrums.  At this point, I’m wondering what the problem was.  The term “son” isn’t as simple as it is to us.  In our culture the word “son” refers to a male child of a particular person.  By extension we’ll allow the person to be one of a group (Sons of the Revolution).  But in Hebrew and many Semitic languages, the term has a categorical meaning as well.

A man seventy-five years old is said to be a “son of seventy and five years” in Hebrew.  So, when Jesus claims to be the Son of God, it’s not just a reference to His Father, but also a categorical reference to His divinity.  So here’s the problem: is “son of David” a progeny or categorical reference, or both?

The question as Jesus poses it refers to Psalm 110 where David refers to the coming “Messiah” as “Lord”, subordinating himself under the One referred to as his son.  My question is, is Jesus saying Psalm 110 means the Messiah is not a Davidic King?  It seems a lot of work was done to substantiate this quality of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, what with a Bethlehem origin-story, genealogy back to David, and the statement of Joseph’s family.  Is Jesus now saying in effect, “who cares?”  I don’t think so.

I think what Jesus is asking is for a different definition of the Messiah paradigm.  From the line of David shouldn’t include a definition of the kingship.  In other words, being a descendant doesn’t require all the other elements of the categorical reference.  So Jesus is free to be a King like David; yet with the additional elements missing from David’s kingship.  I think Jesus is expanding this categorical reference to include the other references to Prophet and Priest, not just “King”.  In this way, Jesus’ Kingship is greater than David’s.

And this is not to say that Jesus won’t be King or ruler.  He will be King, He will sit on the throne of David, but only in a sense.  He will be a king like David, yet He will also be very different.  Jesus says as much to Pilate when He tells Pilate that if His kingdom were here His people would be fighting here, and they’re not.  His Kingdom is not of this world.  His reign is not of this world, and His kingship does not belong in the category of earthly kings.  His kingship belongs in the category of David only in so far as David ruled the Chosen People as a man after God’s heart.  In this way, so does Jesus, but from the right hand of the Father.

So, the Psalm points to a type of king, one greater than David.  The kingdom will be greater than the Jews. The people will be more than one ethnic group.  The King will reign forever. And He will do so from a “Jerusalem”, but a new one.

I suppose what this means for me is that Jesus is like lots of things found in Scripture.  But none of them can fully describe Him.  He is a king like David.  He is a prophet like Moses.  He is a priest like Melchizedek.  I believe that, in Biblical Theology terms, this is “typology”.  I believe that Jesus merely limits how thoroughly we apply the type.  He is like those things, but He is not those things.  Jesus will always surpass our types, imagination, and dreams.  He’s really cool that way.

What’s your view through the fence this morning?


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s