Matthew 22:42 “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ ‘The son of David,’ they replied.”
Jesus’ question about the Christ was more than a Bible trivia question about his ancestry. He wanted the Pharisees to think about what kind of person the Christ is. What kind of a being is he? That makes all the difference in what kind of Savior you expect him to be.
You see, if the Christ is a descendant of king David, another man in the royal house of Israel, that limits your options for what kind of Savior he could be. One option was that he could be a political Savior, a national deliverer who saves the country or makes it great. That’s what most of the Jews were hoping for. Then Jesus’ name might be mentioned in the same breath with men like Cincinnatus, Caesar, Charlemagne, George Washington, Admiral Horatio Nelson, Mahatmas Gandhi, and others.
Or the Christ might be a great moral Savior, a man whose charisma and character could inspire people to love their neighbors, control their passions, even form a great world religion. Then his name might be mentioned in the same breath with men like Confucius, Buddha, Socrates, Mohammed, and others. As you know, that is just the group that we often hear Jesus associated with.
But Jesus was asking this question, “Who is the Christ?” “Who is the Savior?” because he knew the answer went deeper still. “He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord?’ For he says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” Any Jewish child who paid attention in synagogue school knew that Psalm 110:1 was a reference to the Christ, the Messiah. Any Jewish person understood that the Messiah was a descendant of David. Think of the shouts of the crowds on Palm Sunday, “Hosanna to the Son of David…”
How then could David call a distant grandchild of his, someone who would be born nearly 1000 years later, his “Lord”? How could he speak about him in the past tense, as though he already existed? How could a human descendant of David sit at the right hand of God in heaven, entrusted with divine power and authority? Obviously the psalm Jesus quotes tells us the Christ is something more.
Although Jesus phrased this as a question, he is really giving the answer here. The Messiah, the Christ, the Savior is divine. And that would not be necessary for him if all he did was save a nation from its enemies or become a great moral role model.
But it would be necessary if the Savior were going to provide more than a decent example, but an absolutely perfect fulfillment of God’s law from start to finish. If he came not so much to show us what to do, but to do it for us as our substitute, then he must be something more than human. Our Savior is David’s Lord, who used his divine power to live the life of love God now gives us the credit for.
Divinity was necessary if our Savior were going to give his life to save not just a person, or even a nation, but the entire world from their sins. “No man can redeem the life of another,” the psalmist writes. “No payment is ever enough– that he should live on forever and not see decay.” But God himself, who can do all things, can make that payment with his own life. Our Savior is David’s Lord, who used his divine value to pay the penalty for every sin ever committed with his death on the cross.
And divinity is necessary if we aren’t just going to copy the Savior, or follow him into battle, but entrust him with the fate of our souls for all eternity. Who is Jesus? God’s own Son, the Savior in whom we can put our faith.