DAVID’S SON—DAVID’S LORD – Mark 12:35-37
Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on December 4, 2016 under 2016 |
Message preached Sunday, December 4, 2016 from Mark 12:35-37
Theme: No one can truly encounter Jesus Christ without having to come to terms with His two-fold identity.
(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
After all those confrontations had come to an end—and after He had successfully answered every question that had been put to Him with such wisdom that it left His opponents silent—He then turned to them and asks them a question. It was a remarkable question, too; one that forced them to come to terms with who He truly was.
You’ll find the story of that question in the middle of Mark 12; and I am going to ask that we consider that story together this morning. But before we do, and in order to set our thinking right about what we will find in it, I hope you’ll let me share with you an important principle that we need to keep in mind whenever we read the stories in the Bible about Jesus.
And as it turns out, this a very appropriate principle to consider as we are coming to the first Sunday of December; and as we are are now beginning the season in which we celebrate our Savior’s birth.
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Now; this principle is one that has to do with what the Gospels tell us about our Savior’s unique ‘conception’ in the womb of Mary.
We are celebrating Jesus’ birth in just a few weeks. But I hope you appreciate that the true miracle of Christmas is not found in the birth itself. His birth was not what made Him unique. In fact, it was—from a strictly human standpoint—an ordinary birth; the same kind of birth as yours, or mine, or as anyone else’s who has ever been born into the human family. The true miracle of Jesus’ birth—the thing that made Him unique in the human family—was His conception.
Just think with me about what the Bible tells us about His conception. In the Gospel of Luke, we’re told of how Mary was met by the angel Gabriel. Mary was a descendant of King David—the greatest of Israel’s kings in the Old Testament. She was a young virgin of royal blood; betrothed to a man named Joseph. Some time before she and Joseph came together, she was startled by the sudden appearance of this angelic messenger named Gabriel. The angel told her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33).
Naturally, she wanted to know how such a thing could be—since she was a virgin, and had not known a man. And the angel explained,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (v. 35).
This is a great and wonderful mystery; isn’t it? And it’s a mystery that is foundational to our faith. And that important ‘principle’ that I wanted to point out to you is that whenever we come to everything else that the Gospels then go on to tell us of Jesus, this thing that we’re told at the very beginning—that is, the story of His divine conception—is something that we must always keep in mind. It’s the all-important story that informs and explains everything else the Gospels have to say about Him.
The same thing that was told to Mary was also told to Joseph—our Lord’s adopted human father. He too was of the royal bloodline of King David. When he had discovered that his betrothed bride-to-be was pregnant—not knowing that it was by the Holy Spirit—his heart was broken; and he intended to put her away from himself privately. But then, an angel of the Lord also came to him and said,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).
Joseph also was told of the miraculous conception of our Savior—born into the royal lineage of King David; but as the Son of God in human flesh. After telling us of the angel’s announcement to Joseph in his dream, Matthew went on to explain;
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” (vv. 23-24).
Jesus was born into the human family as the long-awaited Messiah—the promised offspring of King David. And His birth into that royal lineage was a natural and normal birth. But though He was born in the same way that every other member of the human family has been born, it was His conception that made His coming into the world such a unique event. Jesus was not conceived in His mother’s womb through the agency of a man, but by the work of the Holy Spirit; so that He was born—humanly speaking—as the seed of David; but also—divinely speaking—as the Son of God.
The apostle John put it both truths together as clearly and as profoundly as it could possibly be said at the beginning of His Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made (John 1:1-3).
And then, John says this …
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
We have then—at the very beginning of the Gospels—a clear testimony of Jesus’ miraculous conception. And dear brothers and sisters in Christ; we cannot understand or rightly-encounter Jesus Christ—and we cannot rightly understand a single story that the Bible goes on to tell us about His life, His teaching, His authority, His miracles, His sacrifice on the cross for us, His resurrection afterward, and His power to save—unless we interpret it all in the light of that all-important testimony. All people who embrace Jesus as merely a man—even as a remarkable man; and even as a man worthy to be revered as a king; but as just a man and nothing more—are not embracing Him according to truth.
Nothing that the Bible tells us about Jesus makes any sense at all unless we understand Him as ‘the Word become flesh’—that is, as God conceived in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit; and born into the royal lineage of King David as the promised Messiah as the Son of God.
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Now; I’ve taken the time to explain all of this because I believe that this is the whole point of the story that we find in the middle of Mark 12. It’s a perfect example of how we must interpret the life of Jesus in the light of His divine conception. Please, now, turn to Mark 12 with me; and let’s consider this last event in Jesus’ confrontation with the the religious leaders of His day—and of the great question that He now turns to ask them.
Let’s remember the context of this story. Jesus—who was, at this point, just a few days away from the end of His earthly ministry—had come into the temple in Jerusalem. He then began to be confronted and opposed by the religious leaders of the day. First, the chief priest and scribes and elders of the people confronted Him and questioned His authority; and He came away victorious. Then the Pharisees sought to drag Him into a controversy and turn the people away from Him; and He again came away victorious. Then the Sadducees tried to make Him look foolish with a trick question; and once again, He came away victorious. Then a scribe came to Him with a question—not, this time, to trap Him, but to inquire of Him; and He answered that question with such wisdom that He—once again—proved Himself victorious.
After all these other confrontations were over—and, as Mark tells us in verse 34, after no one dared to question Him any further—He then asked a question of them. In Mark 12:35-37, we read;
Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Spirit:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’
Therefore David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?” And the common people heard Him gladly (Mark 12:35-37).
According to Matthew’s Gospel, this was a question that He asked of the Pharisees who had been gathered against Him. And there are many important lessons to be learned from it. But I believe the most important lesson of all is that no one can encounter Jesus Christ rightly—whether it was the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, or those who encounters the Bible’s teaching about Him today, or even you or me—unless we come to terms with His two-fold nature. He is fully God, and fully man, with two natures, in one Person—unmixed and unmingled—forever. He is both royalty and divinity. He is, as Paul puts it in Romans 1:3-4,
born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness … (Romans 1:3-4).
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Let’s consider first …
1. THE QUESTION HE ASKED.
In Mark 12:35, we’re told; “Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?”
It’s interesting that Mark said that Jesus “answered”. He wasn’t ‘answering’ because He had been asked another question, though. In fact—as Mark has already told us—His opponents had been so outwitted by Him that they were completely finished with asking Him any further questions! Rather, I believe that what He was ‘answering’ was the growing awareness of who it was that they were encountering. He had just defeated every attempt by the best of them to undo Him. And most recently, one of the most capable scholars among them—a brilliant scribe—enthusiastically declared that Jesus had answered his own question to Him ‘well’ and with ‘truth’.
They were beginning to wonder, “What kind of a man is this that we have dared to challenge?” And it’s my belief that it was that growing sense of wonder and amazement over Him that He ‘answered’ and spoke to.
Now; He answered them by asking them a question. It was a question that was asked as He taught in the temple. New Testament commentators tell us that He asked this question in the ‘court of the Gentiles’ in the temple—a very public place. And in fact, verse 37 tells us that there was a crowd of people present to hear it. And He asked those religious leaders this question, “How is it that the scribes [that is, the expert teachers and scholars of the Scriptures] say that Christ is the Son of David?”
Now; Jesus was not suggesting that they were making a mistake in saying that the Messiah was the Son of David. In fact, that’s something that the Scriptures very clearly teach. In one of the most important Old Testament prophecies about the Christ—found way back in 2 Samuel 7:12-13—God Himself spoke to King David and made him this promise:
“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).
Jesus wasn’t asking “why” the scribes would teach that the Christ is the Son of David. The reason “why” was obvious; it was because that was what the Scriptures themselves taught. Woe be to the scribes that didn’t teach it! But note carefully the word that Jesus used. He didn’t ask “why”. He asked “how”—or better, “how it is”—that the scribes teach that He is the Son of David. In other words, He was asking, “How exactly do the scribes say it can be that He is David’s Son?”
These religious leaders were doing what many people do today. They were simply viewing the promised Messiah—the Christ, the Son of David—as a mere human being; and as a human being only. They had great expectations of the Messiah coming. They had expectations of Him taking up leadership over the Jewish people; just as did His ancestor David. But they were expecting a merely human Messiah—a man of great authority; but only a man.
Jesus was about to force them to come to terms with their inadequate view of Himself.
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So; He first asked this important question—“How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David?”—that’s when we then find …
2. THE QUOTATION HE CITED.
Jesus turned the attention of those He had just questioned to the Old Testament—to Psalm 110:1. That’s an important Old Testament prophecy, written by King David, about the Messiah. And did you know, by the way, that this one verse that Jesus quoted—according to many careful students of the Bible—is the most directly quoted or indirectly referenced Old Testament verse in all the New Testament writings? In verse 36, He said; “For David himself said by the Holy Spirit:‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’”.
May I make just a couple of side-observations about this verse that Jesus quoted? First, notice that He said that David wrote it “by the Holy Spirit”. In other words, Jesus acknowledged the divine inspiration and divine authority of the words that David wrote. And look carefully at the divine Persons Jesus makes reference to. He first mentions the Holy Spirit—who inspired the words of David; and He then mentions the “LORD” who spoke—and that’s God the Father; and He finally mentions the “Lord” to whom the Father spoke—and that’s the Son. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—the triune Godhead—are mentioned together in these amazing words from Jesus.
And second, notice that Jesus quotes the whole of this one verse. The whole verse is not necessarily critical to His argument. And yet, He nevertheless took the time to quote the whole thing—including the part about the heavenly Father instructing the Christ to sit at His “right hand” (that is, at the place of highest authority and honor), “Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” Could it be that Jesus chose to quote that whole verse in that way because He had just withstood the attacks of the religious leaders who had been opposing Him, and had come out victorious, and was displaying to everyone—right then—a partial fulfillment of that promise? The apostle Paul wrote that Jesus “must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25). And that promise—one day to be fulfilled in whole—was right then being fulfilled in part before everyone’s eyes!
But the greatest thing to notice in the verse that Jesus quoted was the two words that are translated “Lord”. The first word “LORD” (which you will find in your Bible in all capital letters) is the translation from the Hebrew of the most sacred name of God in the Old Testament. It’s His covenant name YHWY. In saying this, David is speaking of God. But in the second word “Lord” (which you will find in your Bible with a capital ‘L’ and in lower-case letters) David is speaking of the Messiah. That second word “Lord” is the translation of the Hebrew word “Adoni”. It’s primary meaning is “master” or “lord”; but it also is often used in the Old Testament of God.
And so; here you have God speaking to the Messiah—the Christ; the promised Son of David. And yet, David speaks of that promised Son as his own “Lord” or “Master” in a way that is ordinarily used by a Jewish person also to speak of God.
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Now; this Old Testament reference that Jesus quoted—Psalm 110:1—was a passage that every one of those Jewish religious leaders knew. All of the scribes would have insisted that these were the authoritative words of King David; and that they had divine authority.
And that’s when we go on to find …
3. THE PROBLEM HE POSED.
Jesus asked them—with everyone listening in—“Therefore David himself calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?” (v. 37a). Note again very carefully: Jesus is not calling the teaching of this verse into question. He isn’t asking “why” David calls his Son “Lord”, as if David had been mistaken. Instead, Jesus is asking for an explanation of “how it is” that David’s “Lord” is also his “Son”. Who ever heard of an ancestor calling his descendant “Lord”? Even a royal father would still be the “lord” of his royal son. How can the Messiah be both David’s “Son” and his “Lord” at the same time?
And when you and I go back to the story that was told us at the very beginning of the Gospels, dear brothers and sisters, then we know the answer! If the promised Messiah was only a mere man, then it would be impossible. It wouldn’t make sense that David would call his promised Son “Lord”. But though our Savior Jesus was born into this world as fully human—a Man born into the human lineage of the man King David in a normal, natural way—He was not just human. He was God in human flesh—conceived in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit; born in time as the biological offspring of King David; but also existing from before time as the divine Lord of King David.
So then; this remarkable question that the Lord Jesus asked of the religious leaders pointed everyone who heard it toward the ‘incarnation’—the doctrine that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
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Now; we’re not told that any of His opponents dared try to answer to Jesus’ amazing question. But we can’t depart from the story without noting finally …
4. THE APPROVAL HE RECEIVED.
It didn’t receive approval from the religious leaders—obviously. But it did receive a very hearty approval from the crowd gathered in the temple area who overheard it. In the original language of the last half of verse 37, they are called “the great crowd” or “the large crowd”. In the translation I’m using, they are called “the common people”—that is to say, not the unbelieving religious leaders; and it says, “And the common people heard Him gladly”.
And I don’t believe that they were glad simply because they enjoyed watching the Pharisees squirm either. I believe it’s because it made perfect sense. Jesus’ ‘answer’ to the Pharisees—in the form of this amazing question that He put to them—was true to what the Scriptures said; and it itself had the very ‘ring’ of truth to everyone’s hearts.
May I, in closing, ask if it has the ring of truth to your heart too?
As we come to the celebration of the birth of our Savior, do you see His birth in the light of His miraculous conception? Do you receive Him as not only a King who was born into the human family of royal blood, but also as the Word of God in human flesh? If you receive Him in any other way than that—as Jesus’ own words inevitably drive us to conclude—then you are not receiving Him as He truly is. And if you seek to receive Him as anything other than what the Gospels teach us that He truly is, then He cannot be your Savior.
My hope and prayer is that we all truly receive Him as He truly is. As this passage shows us; we cannot encounter Jesus Christ rightly without coming to terms with Him in the way that David prophetically did—looking ahead to Him as the Son of God in human flesh, who came to this earth to die on a cross for our sins, and to rise again to give us eternal life as King of kings.