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Son of David . . . Son of God

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 22:34–46; Mark 12:28–37; Luke 20:41–44

Simply put, what God requires of us as we live in this world is to love God and love others. We can do neither until we first settle the question of who Jesus Christ is.


Today on our Wisdom Journey, we are back in the temple on Tuesday of the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. The crowd has swelled by some two million pilgrims who have packed in and around the city. A great crowd is listening to Jesus, the Master Teacher, answer question after question.

He evidently did not mind questions. In fact, like any good teacher, He used them to instruct and guide and teach His audience.

Now in Matthew 22, a lawyer, who is a Pharisee, approaches Jesus with a question. The word here for “lawyer” (verse 35) is another name for a scribe—someone who was an expert in the law of Moses and most often a teacher of the law as well.

This man asks Jesus, “Which is the great commandment in the Law?” (verse 36). The Pharisees have planned this question to try to trap Jesus. Mark’s Gospel indicates that this lawyer ends up becoming more sympathetic to Jesus as the two of them have this conversation (Mark 12:32-34).[1]

The question he asks was actually a hot topic of debate. The rabbis of Jesus’ day loved to debate these commandments. They identified 613 biblical commandments. And by the time of Jesus, they had added hundreds and hundreds of additional commandments—commandments that were tacked on to the biblical commandments. With all these commandments being taught to the people, the religious leaders were constantly debating among themselves which commandments were more important than others.

So now, they are trying to get Jesus to jump into the debate. They want Him to take sides: “Jesus, which commandment is the most important?”

Jesus doesn’t even take a breath to pause and think it over. He immediately quotes Deuteronomy chapter 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This commandment, Jesus says in verse 38, “is the great and first commandment.” It is the primary, the most foundational, commandment—loving God with your whole being.

But the Lord does not stop there. He goes on in verse 39 to say, “And a second [commandment] is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The Lord is quoting Leviticus 19:18.

Maybe you have heard somebody say that you cannot love others until you first learn to love yourself. That is not at all what Jesus is saying! He is not commanding you to love yourself. He is commanding you to love other people like you already love yourself.

These two commandments are closely connected and cannot really be separated. Loving God without loving others created in His image is not possible; and loving others without loving God is not really love in the truest sense.

Have you ever thought about the fact that loving God summarizes the first four of the Ten Commandments, while love for others summarizes the last six of the Ten Commandments? If you love God and you worship God, you are not going to steal from other people and lie to other people and commit adultery against your spouse.

That is why Jesus says here in verse 40, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Mark’s account tells us this man is greatly impressed with Jesus’ answer. He even acknowledges that Jesus has spoken the truth and that obedience to these two commands is more important than sacrifices and offerings. Jesus responds in Mark chapter 12:34, saying, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” In other words, you are on the right track. In fact, Jesus’ words are encouraging him to take the next step—embrace the Lord in faith.

Now it is time for Jesus to ask a question of His own. He asks the Pharisees a question here in Matthew 22:42: “What do you think about the Christ [that is, the anointed Messiah]? Whose son is he?” The Pharisees are quick to answer that the Messiah is “the son of David.”

And they are correct. The Messiah was to be a son of David, according to the Scriptures. “Son of David” was an accepted messianic title, since the Messiah would be a descendant of King David. By the way, these religious leaders knew that Jesus had been welcomed into Jerusalem a few days earlier by the people, who were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Matthew 21:9). They no doubt checked out the Lord’s genealogy and confirmed what Matthew 1 clearly shows—that Jesus was a descendant of King David.

Of course, the Pharisees will not acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, but they cannot deny that the title “Son of David” is messianic. So, with that the Lord goes one step further. The Pharisees were looking for a political Messiah—someone to deliver them from Roman oppression. Jesus now points them to an Old Testament passage that reveals the Messiah is more than a political savior.

Jesus asks them in verse 43 if the Christ—the Messiah—is David’s son, why does David call Him his Lord? Jesus then quotes Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ I will paraphrase what David is writing: “God said to my Messiah, ‘Sit at my right hand,’” the place of honor.

Jesus then asks this question in verse 45: “If then David calls him [the Messiah] Lord, how is he [David’s] son?” Now Jesus is not trying to confuse His audience but to make them think. Jesus is pointing out that a son of David—a descendant of David—is actually the Son of God. David was writing prophecy here without fully understanding it at the time. David’s Messiah is the Lord; and the Lord will be a descendant of David.

How is that possible? Well, we know what David did not know: Jesus was the miraculously conceived Son of God and legally descended from David—both Mary and Joseph were in the family line of King David. Wow, Jesus is revealing to them, from Old Testament Scripture, that the Messiah is deity—not just a political leader, but the sovereign Lord of the universe.

This verse from Psalm 110 is one of the most frequently quoted passages in the New Testament. And no wonder. Look at what this short verse teaches. It indicates that Jesus Christ was eternally preexistent as God the Son, for it shows God the Father speaking to Jesus long before He was born on earth. It illustrates the plurality of the Godhead, or the Trinity—that while God is one, the Godhead consists of three eternally distinct and equal persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit. This is shown through a conversation taking place between the Father and the Son long before the Son entered this world as a baby boy.

I have to chuckle here because Matthew records that after this, no one dared ask Jesus any further questions. Mark’s Gospel adds that the people were glad to hear Him. I imagine they were glad to see these proud Pharisees put in their place.

So, Jesus has just identified the greatest commandment: to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Jesus also has presented the greatest question a person can answer: Is He the Son of God, the divine Messiah?

How would you answer that in your own heart today? My prayer is that you not only know who He is—which in itself is not enough, by the way, since the devil knows who He is! My prayer is that you will know who He is and then trust Him personally as your living God. Ask Him to be your Messiah, your Redeemer, and your personal Savior. And He will.

[1] D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 9, ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Zondervan, 2010), 522.

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