Mark 12: 35 – 37 Whose son is the Messiah?
While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, ‘Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
‘ “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’”
David himself calls him “Lord”. How then can he be his son?’
The large crowd listened to him with delight.
* * *
What is Jesus saying here?
He quotes the first verse of Psalm 110, and tells his listeners that King David (the writer of the psalm) was speaking prophetically when he wrote it. Many of Jesus’ listeners would have been familiar with the psalm; they would have learned it by rote during childhood. However, it’s not so familiar to us, so I’ll quote the whole of it.
“The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.
The Lord will extend your mighty sceptre from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of your enemies!’
Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy splendour, your young men will come to you like dew from the morning’s womb.
The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.’
The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath.
He will judge nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
He will drink from a brook along the way; and so he will lift his head high.” (Psalm 110)
“The Lord” refers to God; “my Lord” refers to the Messiah. In this psalm, David is writing about God’s promises to the Messiah. God says that he will do the following
- the Messiah’s enemies shall be a footstool for his feet;
- the Messiah’s rule will extend out from Zion despite opposition;
- the Messiah will command troops arrayed in holy splendour who have miraculously appeared overnight;
- the Messiah will be a priest for ever;
- the Messiah will have God’s full backing;
- the Messiah will judge nations;
- the Messiah will be constantly refreshed by the Holy Spirit (the living water of the Holy Spirit is symbolised by the brook).
In this psalm, David refers to the Messiah as “my Lord”. He acknowledges him as his superior. But in Judaism, ancestors took precedence over descendants. If the Messiah is a son (= descendant) of David, he could never outrank David himself.
How can this be? It is a paradox.
Jesus wants his followers thinking about who he is, and what that means.
He’s prompting people – including us – to understand as best we can who he really is, and by quoting Psalm 110 to us, he’s giving us some idea of that. He is a ruler; a commander; a priest for ever; the representative to humanity of God the Father; a judge; and he will be constantly refreshed by the Holy Spirit.
One of my favourite web-sites is Sacred Space. In their reflection on the verses we’ve been studying today, they pose the questions “Who is Jesus for me? How would I introduce him to someone else?”
Those are good questions to consider.
Thank you for sending us Jesus to show us what your love looks like when it’s lived out in this world. Please help me to follow him as best I can. I place my life in your hands, Lord.
In Jesus’ name, Amen