Various groups of influential people have challenged Jesus with questions, seeking to trap him. In Matthew 22:41–46 he asks a question. Don’t dismiss the question Jesus asks as simply part of a verbal duel. It reveals a great deal about how Jesus views himself and his work.
Christ is the Son of David. The Christ was expected to be of David’s line. Jesus, who had been responding to questions, turns the tables with a question for the Pharisees. He asks them whose son the Messiah, the Christ, is. The Pharisees knew that the Messiah would be David’s Son. They knew 1 Samuel 7:12–15. They answered Jesus’ question. They wanted a deliverer like David. Just as David defeated God’s enemies, they wanted a military leader to drive out the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom. American Christianity, has a tendency, whether politically conservative or liberal, to wrap its message in messianic language. Beware of the tendency to identify the kingdom of God with our political views. Christians should indeed be active in politics as well as other areas of the public square, seeking to promote justice and biblical principles. But be aware that the process can be difficult and sometimes far less clear cut than we might wish.
Christ accepted the title. Jesus appears publicly as the Christ. Jesus had earlier forbidden his disciples to tell people that he was the Christ, Matthew 16:20. Partly due to the political associations of the title, he had referred to himself as “the Son of Man.” Now Christ allows the title to be used. At his triumphal entry he had been hailed as the Son of David, Matthew 21:9. Even though he doesn’t explicitly claim it in this text, it becomes clear that he considers himself the Christ—and he calls for a proper understanding of his person and work. His coming death must be as the Messiah, as the Savior of his people. Jesus had to be David’s Son. God had promised that David’s Son would reign and redeem his people, 2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 89:35–37; Isaiah 11:1. The genealogy of Matthew 1 traces Christ’s line through David. Man had sinned, and redemption had to come by one who was truly human. But, Christ had to be more than David’s Son. The question arose in the context of God’s commandments. How can God receive you when he requires nothing less than total allegiance? You need a Savior. In order to bear the infinite wrath of God against the sin of all of his people, the redeemer had to be more than just human. One who is merely David’s son, and nothing more, could not save. The deity of the Christ is so clear that Jesus’ question is not, how can he be David’s Lord, but how can he be David’s Son. “[I]n Matthew… the question reads: ‘What think ye of the Christ? Whose son is he?’ This suggests that… there is another kind of derivation, that from God Himself, which alone can explain the transcendental Christology. The Messiah must be God’s Son in order to be capable of the things predicated of Him in the Psalm. Here, then, the divine sonship of Jesus is represented as the basis of that higher character of the Messiahship which expressed His own ideal: because He is the Son of God, He rules the world to come.” (Geerhadus Vos, The Self-Disclosure of Jesus, pages 165–166)
Christ is David’s Lord. Jesus quotes Scripture. Jesus refers to Psalm 110:1 (frequently quoted in the New Testament). Note how often Jesus quotes or paraphrases Scripture in responding to the leaders of Israel. David spoke by the Holy Spirit. Jesus accepts the Davidic authorship of the Psalm. Yet he also recognizes the activity of the Spirit in the Word. The Scriptures are God-breathed, 2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:21. “He proves from an inspired word of David that the Messiah ‘s sovereignty extends even to David himself….” (Ned B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Matthew and Mark to Christ, p. 193)
The Christ is far greater than great David. From the perspective of the Phariseees, any son of David, though David-like, would be less than his illustrious ancestor. But Psalm 110 says differently. “The Lord said to my Lord.” The first “Lord” is YHWH. David uses God’s covenant name. The second “Lord” is Adonai, the word usually used in addressing God. Thus the covenant God addresses David’s Lord, the coming messianic king. David’s Son is David’s Lord. He is addressed as “Lord.” He is God himself. He exercises sovereignty. He sits on his throne. He subdues his enemies. Christ ascending to his throne is a crucial event in the history of redemption. Growing out of the triumphant resurrection, he ascends to his heavenly throne. Christ rules at the right hand of the Father, subduing all things to himself, 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. Jesus uses this Psalm to show who he really is, not just an itinerant rabbi, but the God-man who has come to redeem his people. “From the fathers, according to the flesh… comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever (Rom. 9:5). Though the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, he is nevertheless also the firstborn from the dead (Co. 1:13–18); though son of David, he is simultaneously David’s Lord (Matt. 22:43); even though walking about on earth, he still continues to be ‘in the bosom of the Father’ (John 1:18), ‘the one who is in heaven’ (John 3:13), and existed before Abraham was (John 8:58); in a word, the fullness of deity dwells in him bodily…..” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, p. 298) Christ comes to his rule via the cross. Exaltation follows humiliation, Philippians 2:8,9. Psalm 110:4 refers to Christ’s priestly work according the order of Melchizedek. Only as the God-man could he endure the wrath of God, provide forgiveness for his people, and emerge as the triumphant King who subdues his enemies beneath his feet. Respond to your ascended King. Jesus silenced his opponents. They had questioned him, and he answered each time, while avoiding their traps. But they are reduced to silence by his question. Jesus, through his question, had corrected the understanding of the person and work of the Messiah. Jesus calls you to more than silence. He summons you to acknowledge him as the triumphant King.
How do you answer the question, “Whose son is the Christ?” Unlike the Pharisees, who were shamed into silence, you can respond, “He is the Son of David, but he is David’s greater Son. He is my King, my high priest after the order of Melchizedek, he is my Redeemer, and my ascended Lord.”