Following a secession of three questions to Jesus, now Jesus asks a question back to the Scribes. We are reminded of that right from the beginning. But unlike the previous times, there is no record of the Scribes answering this question. This is a theme that Mark has shown right from the beginning that Jesus’ authority surpasses that of the Scribes. Ever since he began his teaching ministry, the crowd has been amazed, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (Mark 1:27). We see this in the book of Job. For most of the chapters, Job’s friends continue to give ‘advice’ and ask questions, but in the end, God is the one who asks the questions. Job’s friends are speechless. They have no response. Jesus asks a question, and the Scribes, who are meant to be experts in the Bible, cannot answer a simple question, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?”
Jesus quotes Psalm 110, the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament. Before we look at the Psalm, I want to point out something significant about how Jesus introduced the Psalm. Jesus said, “David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared…” The title of the Psalm is only “A Psalm of David.” However, Jesus expresses that David wrote this Psalm in the Holy Spirit. From the mouth of Jesus, we have the doctrine of the writing of Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Peter writes and explains, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21). We must note that Jesus has a high view of Scripture, that he can teach doctrine from the tense of a verb (Mark 12:26-27). He also teaches that although David penned the Psalm, he did so as the Holy Spirit carried him along. One remarkable study to do is to look at how Jesus uses Scripture and Jesus’ doctrine of Scripture. Often people will say we don’t need the Old Testament. We just need Jesus’ teaching, yet they might be saying that we only want some of Jesus’ teaching (that aligns with my personal beliefs). Jesus quotes the Old Testament. He taught from the Old Testament. In this argument, we see that Jesus even centers his argument around one word.
I. One word
Jesus’ argument is centered around the personal pronoun, “my.” David writes in verse 1 of Psalm 110, “The LORD said to my lord.” We might miss this when we read it, but in this one verse, we see three persons. The LORD (whenever you see capital letters in your Old Testament, either LORD or GOD, this is the Hebrew word YWH, which most scholars believe is Yahweh, or formally Jehovah). The first person is the LORD, who is speaking to David’s Lord (adoni). The LORD is not speaking to David but David’s Lord. So you have three persons, The LORD, David (My), and Lord (adoni). Jesus’ question is about the Lord (adoni). “David himself calls him Lord. So how is he, his son?” He in lies the question that the Scribes had no answer to. Within the Bible is the idea that a child is never greater than their parent. It would be a dishonor to a parent to bow down to their children. This is why Joseph’s dreams cause such a division in their family; Jacob even rebukes Joseph, “But when he told it to his father and his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” (Gen 37:10). It was an insult that an older sibling would bow down to a younger sibling. However, it would have been unheard of for a parent would bow down to a child. In John chapter 8, the Jews ask Jesus, are you greater than Abraham? (John 8:53). Again, we see this line of thinking in Hebrews chapter 7, the author of Hebrews explains that Jesus does not come from the line of Levi (The priestly line) but through the line of Melchizedek. The author explains that Levi comes from Abraham, but because Abraham gave a tenth to Melchizedek, Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, therefore, greater than Levi. You see Abraham showing respect to Melchizedek, and then Levi cannot be greater than Melchizedek because Levi comes from Abraham. Jesus’ question revolves around this truth, how could David call his son, my Lord?
II. One Promise
To look at this question, we need to understand where this idea came from. Jesus is not trying to teach that the Christ is not David’s son. He is pointing out the Scribes’ lack of understanding of the Scripture. They are boldly proclaiming he is not the Christ, yet they cannot answer this simple question, explaining a verse about the Christ. Any Scribe well knew the promise given to David in 2 Samuel chapter 7. In Chapter 7, God speaks to David through Nathan the prophet, telling David,
“Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled, and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall 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. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Sam 7:11–14).
We recently studied this passage in our Wednesday night Bible study, looking at this promise known as the Davidic Covenant. In this covenant, God gives David at least eleven “I Will” promises, but even a twelfth one we looked at in the study. Out of these eleven statements, we saw that there are five key promises in this passage, which are:
- The Kingdom will come from David’s offspring
- The Kingdom will be established by God
- The Kingdom will be built by the offspring
- The Kingdom will be eternal
- The Kingdom will be led by God’s son
As we read the scriptures, we know that Jesus is the fulfillment of all of these promises as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” However, during Jesus’ time, we see the crowds connect Jesus to the promises given to David, but even they often only saw the promises in an earthly light, not an eternal light. When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, the crowd cried out, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” Blind Bartimaeus cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” It was well known that the Christ would come from the line of David. The Jews clearly state this in John 8:42, “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” However, Jesus is not known as Jesus of Bethlehem; he is known as Jesus of Nazareth, which was not located in the tribe of Judah but the tribe of Zebulun. We know Jesus is the offspring of David because of Scripture references (Matt 1:1).
III. One son
They did not understand how the Christ was to come. Mark does not give any explanation for Jesus’ question or how Jesus would answer the question. He merely passes over the question and moves to a warning about the Scribes. We will, however, address this question because it is important. If you remember back to Mark 1:1, Mark gives his thesis statement to the whole Gospel writes, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Between verse one of Matthew and verse one of Mark, we see the answer to this question, Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Son of David. Or, to put it another way, the eternal begotten son of God and the offspring from the physical body of David.
Jesus was truly God and truly man. This is how David can call his son his Lord. Because Jesus comes from his line, but he is God. The Scribes did not have the wrong view, just not the whole picture. They failed to dig deeper into the scriptures to see how they should answer this. They could see that the Christ would be David’s son but did not see how he was God’s son. To this point, the readers of Mark have been given the answers to this question. This comes back to the important question that is asked in the Gospel, who do you say that Jesus is? The single scribe who was close to the kingdom cannot call Jesus a teacher. He must search the scriptures to see that Jesus is the Christ, the son of David and the son of God.
IV. One verse
This one verse, Psalm 110:1, will become one of the favorite verses of the authors of the New Testament. They will use it to show that Jesus is greater than the angels (Heb 1:4, 13). The most common way this verse is used in the New Testament is evidence that Jesus was the Christ. Just as Jesus answered the question from the Sadducees about the resurrection with his lips one day, then soon after showed them this reality with his own resurrection. Jesus did not answer the question about being David’s son and God’s son with his lips, but when he ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of God the Father. Peter quotes this verse to the crowd in Acts 2:32-36, in Jerusalem, with most likely some of the Scribes and Pharisees sitting in the crowd listening to Peter’s sermon,
“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ” ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” ‘ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
After hearing this sermon, they were cut to the heart. The answer to the question is that whoever ‘my Lord’ is in Psalm 110:1 is the one who will sit at God’s right hand. David did not ascend into the heavens, but Jesus Christ, the one you crucified. We cannot imagine the feeling of the words that pierced the listeners’ hearts. That sinking feeling, when they were taken back to this day when Jesus asked them this question. The authors of the New Testament frequently use this to show the work of Christ accomplished and applied. In the grand theme, which flows throughout Mark of authority, and the authority of Christ in his earthly ministry, we see his authority continue as he sits at God the Father’s right hand. He is the one whom all powers and authorities are subject to him (1 Pet 3:22).