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Wednesday: David’s Riddle

Jesus was a master teacher. People came to him with questions designed to entrap him, and he deftly turned the questions on their heads in a way that exposed the true motives on his interlocutors. In Mark 12, Jesus has faced a series of loaded questions from the Pharisees and Sadducees – the religious leaders – all intended to get him to say something worthy of punishment by Rome (v13-17) or by Jewish Law (v18-34). But to many others he was also very popular, and by this point there was a growing consensus amongst many that he may indeed be the Messiah they were waiting for; the promised Son of David.

Towards the end of Mark 12 we read this:

‘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.’ (Mark 12:35-37)

This is a strange, confusing riddle, in which Jesus challenges some of the ideas that people held about him.

As we saw yesterday, many people were expecting a Messiah; an individual who would come and release them from the power of Rome and establish the Kingdom of Israel. Various groups had differing views of what this Messiah would be like, but most saw him as being a king like the great king of Israel’s past, King David.

Many passages in the Old Testament refer to the Messiah as coming from David’s line (2 Sam 7:12-16; Psalm 89:3-4, 28-29, 35-37; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-24). In a culture like this, lineage was hugely important, and great honour was owed to the generations who had come before you. Children honoured their parents, and of course parents wanted the best for their children who would outlive them, but it was incredibly rare to hear someone speak of their offspring as being greater than them.

But Jesus goes back to the words of David himself and shows that David’s own expectation was that the Messiah who was to come would actually be greater than he!

‘“The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’” (Psalm 110:1)

It doesn’t come through very clearly in the English, but here there are two different Hebrew words translated ‘Lord’. The first is Yahweh, the precious, personal name of God. The second is ‘Adonay, which would sometimes be used of humans who were in positions of power and deserved respect.

So in David’s Psalm God (Yahweh) addresses ‘David’s Lord’ (‘Adonay) and tells him to sit down at his right hand, a place of glory and honour and power. What’s more, Yahweh then promises to put all of his enemies under the feet of this exalted Messiah.

So Jesus’ question to the crowd is essentially this: “Why are you expecting a Messiah who is a mere son of David – a political leader who exhibits the same sort of qualities that David did – when David himself expected that the Messiah would be someone who would greatly surpass him; someone who would sit at the right hand of God in power? Don’t you think you might have got too low a view of who the Messiah is?”

It’s a cryptic quotation, a challenging question, and an audacious claim. Because Jesus is hinting that he was more significant and more powerful than anyone had ever expected. When people mocked, abused or tried to entrap him, little did they know they were actually standing against David’s Lord. And when people thought they knew who he was, they were barely scratching the surface.

Jesus is no mere carpenter and no mere king. He is greater than anyone could possibly imagine.

Questions for Reflection 

  • So many people misunderstood who Jesus was and what he had come to do. Even those who recognised him as the ‘Son of David’ needed to have their ideas adjusted. He is not only David’s son, but David’s Lord. In what ways do we tend to under-sell Jesus or fail to grasp the significance of who he is?
  • In Psalm 110, David took courage from God’s promise that he would seat His Messiah at His right hand. How does it encourage you to know that Jesus has ascended and is today seated at the right hand of God?
  • Read Ephesians 2:1-10. What do you make of the promise that you are also seated with Christ in the heavenly realms? What difference should that make to your life?


Lord Jesus,

Thank you that you are the risen and exalted king; not merely David’s Son, but also David’s Lord. We trust that you, seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly realms, have all things under your control. May we never underestimate you, never undersell you, and forever worship you as you deserve.


Going Deeper

If you find yourself with some extra time today, why not read the whole of Psalm 110 and reflect on any other ways in which this Psalm speaks about Jesus. You may also enjoy this talk: Getting Excited By Melchizedek by D.A. Carson.

Easter Weekend

You may want to join us for one of our meetings over the Easter Weekend:

Good Friday. 3 April. 11.00-12.30. Pimlico Academy, SW1V 3AT
Easter Sunday. 5 April. 11.00-12.30. The Mermaid Theatre, EC4V 3DB

Image: IMG_9845 by bahahamelly, used under CC BY 2.0

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