Today’s passage concludes a brief section of Matthew’s gospel which has been all about the Pharisees and the Sadducees and their efforts to trap the Lord in his words. The Pharisees first sent their disciples to ask the Lord a question about paying taxes to Caesar. Then the Sadducees came to ask him a question about the resurrection. And then one of the Pharisees, who was an expert in the law, came to ask him a question about which was the greatest commandment in the Law. But though they were trying to trap the Lord and to get him to say something incriminating, they were not able to get the better of him.
And in today’s passage, the Lord turns the tables on them. Up to now, they’ve been asking the questions. But now, he asks the questions. And they weren’t able to answer him. In fact, Matthew tells us right at the end of today’s passage that from that day on no-one dared to ask him any more questions. They knew they could not get the better of him. And, of course, the reason they could not get the better of him is because he is the Christ, God’s Anointed King, who has received the Spirit of God, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding and of counsel and power and of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. They could not get the better of the one on whom the Spirit of wisdom and understanding rests.
Verses 41 and 42
We read in verse 41 that while the Pharisees were gathered together, the Lord asked them a question. And it’s a question about the Christ.
You will no doubt remember that the word Christ is really a title and it means ‘Anointed’ or ‘The Anointed One’. In Old Testament times, kings were anointed with oil to signify that God had chosen them to rule on his behalf. And so, in 1 Samuel 9 we read about the time when the prophet Samuel anointed Saul and made him king. While Saul was looking for his lost donkeys he ended up in the same town as Samuel. And we’re told that the Lord has said to Samuel that he was to anoint Saul leader over the people of Israel. And so, Saul was anointed with oil and made king over Israel. And then, in 1 Samuel 16 we have the story of the time when Samuel went to Jesse and asked to see his sons. When the last one, David, came in, the Lord said to Samuel to get up and anoint David. He was to rule as king in place of Saul.
So, kings were anointed with oil. And as you know, some of the subsequent kings were good, but many were evil and none was ever as good as David. And, as we heard on Sunday, after Solomon’s death, the kingdom of Israel was divided and it seemed that the glory had departed from Israel and it was never quite the same as it had been in the days of David and Solomon.
But through the years, the Lord revealed to his people that he would send them a new king. So, he first announced this to David in 2 Samuel 7 where he said to David that his house and his kingdom shall endure forever and his throne will be established forever. His kingdom and throne will last forever, because another king will arise from David’s family who will rule forever. In Psalm 89 the Lord is depicted as saying that David’s line of descendants will continue forever and his throne will endure like the sun. In Isaiah 9 we have the promise of a child who will be born and he will be called Wonderful Counsellor and Mighty God and Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. And of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. And he will reign on David’s throne forever. And in Isaiah 11 we have the promise that a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse and a Branch will bear fruit. By referring to the stump of Jesse, the prophet was referring to a time when Israel will be laid low and will become only a stump. And at that time, a new king will arise. And the Spirit of wisdom and understanding will rest on the new king and the whole earth will be transformed because of him. In Jeremiah 23 and 33, the Lord announced that the days are coming when he will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a king who will reign wisely and who will do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.
And so, the Lord announced the coming of a new and greater king. And when the wise men went to Herod to ask where the new king had been born, Herod asked the chief priests and teachers of the law where the Christ was to be born. Herod knew that God has promised to send a new king. Everyone knew that God had promised to send a new king. And everyone was waiting for the new king to come.
And when the Lord Jesus was conducting his ministry, the people saw the things he did and they began to wonder whether he was the new king. And so, in chapter 21, we have the story of the blind men who called out to the Lord Jesus for help; and they referred to him as the Son of David. And so, they believed he was the new king God had promised, who would come from David’s family to sit on David’s throne. And when the Lord rode into Jerusalem, the crowds welcomed him as the Son of David. The people had begun to believe that the Lord Jesus was the Christ.
And yet, as we’ve seen, they mistakingly believed that the new king would be just like David and he would raise an army and lead his men into battle against the Romans. But while the Lord Jesus was the Christ, the Son of David, he was not that kind of king. He did not come to lead an army into war. He had come to suffer and die and to give up his life to save his people, not from the Romans, but from our sin and misery and to give us eternal life in his everlasting kingdom in the new heavens and earth.
That’s is a little of the background to the Lord’s question. Everyone was waiting for the new king to come. And everyone believed the new king would come from David’s family. He would be descended from David. And so, the Lord’s question was a simple one for the Pharisees to answer. This was a no-brainer. Everyone knew that the Christ would be the son of David. The word ‘son’ in this context means descendant. So, they’re not thinking of one of David’s actual sons, but of someone who was descended from David.
And so, that’s the Lord’s question and that’s their answer.
Verses 43 and 44
And the Lord goes on to ask them a follow-up question to show them that while the Christ is the son of David, he is much more than the son of David.
So, he refers them to Psalm 110, which was regarded as a messianic psalm. That is, it was regarded as a psalm about the Christ. Messiah and Christ mean the same thing.
And notice, of course, how the Lord introduces the quotation from Psalm 110, because he tells us that David wrote the psalm under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So, no one could say that David was mistaken in what he wrote. What David wrote was the word of God, because he wrote it under the Spirit’s inspiration. And therefore what he wrote about the Christ is true.
So, what did David write? He depicts the Lord God Almighty speaking to the Christ. And the Lord God Almighty invites the Christ to sit at his right hand until all of Christ’s enemies are defeated and placed under his feet.
And notice what this means for the Christ. The people assumed that the Christ would be like David and that he would lead an army against the Romans in order to re-establish David’s kingdom on earth. And so, they were expecting the Christ to sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem. But where, according to the psalm, will the Christ sit? He will not sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem, but he’ll sit on God’s throne in heaven.
The people were expecting a king who would be just like David. But the new king will be greater than David, because David never ruled from heaven. And since the new king is greater than David, David refers to him in the psalm as ‘my Lord’. In other words, David refers to him as his Master. And by calling the Christ his Master or his Lord, David was making clear that the new king was greater than he ever was.
And so, while the Old Testament Scriptures made clear that the new king would come from David’s family and be descended from David, nevertheless the Old Testament Scriptures also made clear that the new king will be greater than David and that the new king will rule from heaven.
Of course, the Lord Jesus is the new king who was from David, but who is greater than David. So, the Lord Jesus was descended from David. Matthew made that clear right at the beginning of his gospel when in verse 1 of chapter 1 he described Jesus as the Christ, the Son of David. And then he traced the Lord’s genealogy, beginning with Abraham and tracing it through David and down to Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. So, the Lord Jesus is descended from David.
And the Lord Jesus is also greater than David. He is greater than David because he is the Eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. But even as a man, he has become greater than David, because after his death and resurrection he was exalted to the highest place as one of us; and he was given the name that is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. He was exalted to heaven as one of us; and he sits on God’s throne as one of us from where he rules over all as the Christ, God’s Anointed King. Lots of people bowed before David on earth, but everyone on earth and in heaven will bow before Christ the King when he comes again in glory and with power.
And until that day comes, the Lord Jesus sends preachers into all the world to call on men and women and boys and girls to enter his kingdom through repentance and faith. And whenever becomes a member of his kingdom receives forgiveness and peace with God and the hope of everlasting life in the new heavens and earth where Christ and his people will reign forever.