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The Sovereign Messiah — Mt. 22.45

For centuries the Jewish people anticipated the arrival of the Messiah — a royal descendant of David who would deliver the people of God from their oppressors. 


In the time of Jesus, the Pharisees believed the Messiah was going to be an earthly king and savior like David. But as a descendant of David, the Messiah ostensibly would not possess any power and authority greater than David did. In Matthew 22.41-46, Jesus exposed this error.


First, Jesus asked them:


“What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” (Mt. 22.42).


When they correctly answered: “the Son of David,” he cited David’s own words in Psalm 110.1, which reads: 


“The LORD said to my Lord,

“Sit at My right hand,

Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” 


Since the Pharisees acknowledged that the Psalm was about the Messiah, Jesus next asked them: 


“If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” (Mt. 22.45). 


The Lord’s point is not to deny that the Messiah is a “son” or descendant of David. The Messiah was indeed David’s descendant (cf. Ps. 132.11; Jer. 23.5; Mt. 1.1-17). Something else is going on here. 


Whereas the Pharisees believed the Messiah would be nothing more than a descendant of David, Psalm 110.1 proves he would be much more than that. 


Unfortunately, the translations (English and Greek) do not do justice to the original Hebrew, which employed two different words for “Lord.” In Hebrew, David said: “Yahweh said to my adonai…” 


Yahweh generally means the one who brings everything into existence, or the one who ever exists (see Brown et al., pp. 217-218). Adonai denotes the sovereign or master (Vine, p. 140). Hence, David depicts the creator (God the Father) as having a conversation with the Messiah (Jesus) who would be a sovereign ruler sitting at God’s “right hand.” 


Of special interest in this passage is the word “my.” David specifically calls the Messiah: “…my master.” That simple possessive adjective is packed with implication. 


Typically, fathers — especially fathers who are kings (like David) — are superior to their sons in authority. But that is not the relationship David sustains with the Messiah. 


Instead, King David regarded himself as inferior in rank to the Messiah — i.e., the Messiah was David’s master. Jesus’ rhetorical question is this: If the Messiah is merely one of David’s descendants possessing no greater rank or authority than David himself had, then how could David regard the Messiah as his master? Indeed, no king would call one of his sons his master, unless the son was somehow greater than the father


Jesus then lets everyone come to the conclusion on their own: viz., The Messiah was indeed a descendant of David. But he was so much more than a mere “son of David.” And though the Messiah was a king, he was no mere earthly king like David (cf. Jn. 18.36-37). He is the king of everything — seen and unseen (1 Tim. 6.15; Eph. 1.21-22; Mt. 28.18). 


In short, the Messiah was God incarnate, sovereign over everything (cf. Isa. 9.6-7; 7.14; Jn. 1.1, 14; Mt 1.23). As such, David was inferior in rank and glory to the Messiah. The Pharisees had it all wrong!


Resources
Brown, F., S. Driver, & C. Briggs. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2001.

Vine, W. E. Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words.  Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1985.

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