Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
Christ’s opponents had finished with their questions, but Jesus had one more for them. It was his turn to go on the offensive.
“Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David?” The obvious answer to the question was that the prophets foretold that Messiah would be born of David’s royal line. In that sense he was David’s son. But Jesus took the question in an unexpected direction, by quoting Psalm 110:1 where David called Messiah his Lord: ‘the Lord (i.e. the Lord God) said to my Lord (i.e. Messiah), “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ Now if David calls him ‘Lord’, Christ asks, how then can he be his son?
There was no answer from the theologians. There didn’t need to be. The question and quotation were enough to lead anyone prepared to take them seriously to the obvious conclusion. Messiah wasn’t justthe son of David. He was and is his Lord. He was the one King David bowed before.
When David wrote these words, Messiah had not yet been born into this world. But he clearly existed. (How could David call him his Lord if he didn’t actually yet exist?) Messiah is more than David’s son. He is the eternal, living Son of God. He is and was and always will be David’s Lord. He is the Lord of the living. Before David was, he is. And David, though he died thousands of years ago, is alive to him.
If we think back to the parable of the vineyard, Jesus presents himself as the Owner’s son. The tenants will plot against him, reject him and have him executed. But that will not be the end. He is the eternal Son. The implication is clear: he will rise again. Death cannot hold him for he is the Lord of the living. Resurrection is not the product of wishful thinking, a fantasy invented by populist preachers to give people hope. The very nature of God requires it.
For good reason Psalm 110 is the most often quoted Psalm in the New Testament. The Apostles loved to cite it as they were explaining to the crowds in Jerusalem God’s programme for Messiah. So much is packed into a single sentence, as the rest of the New Testament reveals. The command to ‘sit at my right hand’ implies that there was a time Messiah wasn’t sitting at the right hand of the Father. There was a time that he came from the Father and entered the world. Then there was a time when he went back to the Father and sat until his enemies are dealt with.
Messiah’s programme is here: coming into the world from the Father, going back to the Father followed by a period of sitting until. Until what? What will be involved in the subduing of his enemies? What will be involved in his going back to the Father and sitting down at his right hand? We can expect that over the next chapters Jesus will fill in some of the details for us.