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‘He Must Reign’: The Kingdom of God in Scripture

Lesson Four: The Throne of David, His Father

Lesson Goals:

1. To see how Luke emphasizes Jesus’ lineage as Son of David in the infancy narrative.

2. To see how Jesus appears in public as the Son of David throughout Luke’s Gospel.

3. To understand how, at the climax of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus takes his place as heir to the kingdom of David.

Lesson Four: The Throne of David, His Father

Lesson Outline:
1. Born into the House of David
    A. Luke the Master Painter
    B. The City of David
    C. Why Shepherds?
2.The Public Career of the Son of David
    A. The Baptism of Jesus
    B. David and his Band of Men
    C. The Chosen Son
    D. Pity from the Son of David
    E. The Triumph
3. King of the Jews
    A. The New Covenant
    B. Kingdom Table
    C. Reading Luke
4. Discussion Questions

I. Born into the House of David

A. Luke the Master Painter

In the previous lesson, we saw how Matthew firmly established Jesus as the Son of David, heir to all the Old Testament promises we looked at in Lesson 1.

An ancient legend said that Luke was a skilled painter who painted a portrait from life of the Virgin Mary. The legend fits: where Matthew almost piles up evidence of Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and types, Luke makes his point with beautiful images.

Like Matthew, Luke begins by showing us that Jesus had the right genealogical credentials (see Luke 1:26-27).

He is careful to point out that Joseph was "of the house of David" (see Luke 1:27). Joseph was Jesus’ legal father; therefore, Jesus was of the house of David, as the prophets had foretold that the Christ would be.

But Luke gives us what Matthew and the other Gospel writers leave out: the story of the conception and birth of Jesus. He places this too firmly in the context of the Old Testament prophecies concerning God’s covenant with David.

Recall that through the prophet Nathan, God had promised David a dynasty – that his throne would be "firm forever," always ruled by a son, whom God himself would consider His son (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13).

In Luke’s account of the Annunciation, Gabriel’s words clearly echo and even quote from that promise: "the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever" (see Luke 1:32-33).

In other words, Luke is telling us that Jesus is the long-expected Son of David in whom God’s promise is finally fulfilled.

Even more startling in Nathan’s prophecy was the promise that the Son of David would be considered Son of God (see 2 Samuel 7:14, and compare Psalm 2:7).

Again, Gabriel echoes the same language: the child, he says, "will be called Son of the Most High " - a common title for God in the Old Testament (see, for example, Genesis 14:18 and2 Samuel 22:14, where the title is used by David himself).

B. The City of David

The nativity of John the Baptist takes up almost as much space in the beginning of Luke’s Gospel as the nativity of Jesus Christ. Just as John the Baptist himself had the mission of preparing the way for the Christ, so Luke’s story of John the Baptist’s birth prepares us to understand who Christ is.

When his son John the Baptist was born, the priest Zechariah sang a hymn of praise to God, Who "has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old" (see Luke 1:68-70).

The horn is a common symbol of strength in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms (see, for example, Psalm 89:18 and Psalm 148:14). David himself called God, "the horn of my salvation" (see 2 Samuel 22:3).

Having told us exactly who the coming King is, Luke carefully locates His birth in Bethlehem.

Bethlehem, the birthplace of David, was where the prophet Samuel first found David and anointed him king of Israel (see 1 Samuel 16:4-13).

When a Roman enrollment sent every man to his home town (see Luke 2:1-3), Mary had to go to Bethlehem with her husband Joseph - "because," as Luke is careful to remind us, "he was of the house and family of David" (see Luke 2:4).

But Bethlehem was more than an ancestral marker for Luke and his audience. The prophet Micah had predicted the birth of a future king in Bethlehem - and something far greater, a child "whose origin is from of old" (see Micah 5:1-3; compare the "Ancient One" in Daniel 7:9and 7:13).

The familiar picture of the Nativity that Luke paints for us is exactly what the prophet Micah foresaw: a divine King born in Bethlehem and his mother.

C. Why Shepherds?

Micah also sees the coming King as a "shepherd" - another allusion to David, who a shepherd in the countryside around Bethlehem (see 1 Samuel 16:11).

So as soon as Jesus is born, Luke, the master painter, shows us a field full of shepherds.

This, too, may be a reference designed to stir the hopes of Luke’s readers.

The Lord was Israel’s “shepherd” (see Psalm 23:1 and Psalm 80:2). And God had promised, through the prophet Ezekiel, that He himself would punish Israel’s false shepherds – the rulers and teachers - and replace them with a good shepherd, a new David (see Ezekiel 34), who would gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

How fitting then, that the shepherds heard the good news first! Once again, Luke does not speak this directly, but uses evocative language from the Old Testament to show us that the Good Shepherd had arrived.

II. The Public Career of the Son of David

A. The Baptism of Jesus

The public career of Jesus began with His baptism - an event that Luke again paints in obviously Davidic colors.

When John baptized Jesus in the Jordan, "a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’ " (see Luke 3:22). The words are intended to remind us ofPsalm 2:7 - words originally understood to refer to the Davidic king of Israel.

In case we don’t get the point, Luke immediately follows the story of Jesus’ baptism with the genealogy of Jesus (see Luke 3:23-38). It’s somewhat different from Matthew’s (seeMatthew 1:1-16), but it agrees with Matthew’s in the essential particular: Jesus comes from the line of David (see Luke 3:31).

Luke goes farther back than Matthew did: he carries Jesus’ line back through "Adam, the son of God" (see Luke 3:38). In other words, the real founder of the family is God himself. This too may be a subtle confirmation of the prophecy made to David – Jesus, a son of David, like his ancestor Adam, is a son of God.

B. David and his Band of Men

As Jesus’ ministry progresses, Luke stresses how much Jesus looks like David. For example, when Jesus’ hungry disciples picked a few ears of grain on the Sabbath, the ever-vigilant Pharisees accused them of breaking the law. Jesus responded by telling a story about David.

He recalls the time when David, who had been chosen by God and anointed as Israel’s true king, was on the run from King Saul, who had been rejected by God. Saul, jealous of David and desperate to retain the throne, was out to kill him. With only a small band of faithful followers by his side, David was constantly on the run.

This was the background to the story Jesus recalls - of how David once entered the house of God and "took the bread of offering," sharing it with his companions, even though only the priests were permitted to eat it (see Luke 6:3-4 and 1 Samuel 21:2-7).

In comparing himself to David, Jesus seems to be deliberately drawing parallels between his situation.

Like David, Jesus is the rightful, God-anointed heir of Israel’s throne. He has even been baptized – which causes the Spirit to come upon Him as it rushed about David (see 1 Samuel 16:12-14).

He, too, is on the run, with only a small band of faithful disciples by his side. And, He seems to say, like Saul, the Pharisees and their allies might rule Israel for now, but their days were numbered.

C. The Chosen Son

Even geography is used by Luke to signal the Davidic pedigree of Jesus.

To see this, we have to remember the sequence of events by which David’s kingdom was destroyed. The Assyrians first struck in Galilee (see 2 Kings 15:29), finally capturing Samaria, the northern portion of the kingdom (see 2 Kings 17:1-6). Then, ultimately, the southern portion, Judah, fell to the Babylonians (see 2 Kings 24:10-15).

Now notice some of the geographic details in Luke’s account.

Jesus’ ministry begins in Galilee (see Luke 4:14), moves to Samaria (see Luke 9:51), and finally reaches Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, where a great mob welcomes Jesus as the promised King (see Luke 19:28).

What’s Luke doing here? He is subtly painting a picture, showing Jesus undoing the destruction of Israel, restoring the kingdom in the order in which it was originally destroyed.

Near the end of Jesus’ ministry, Luke shows us Jesus transfigured.

The Transfiguration (see Luke 9:28-36), is another vivid picture for Luke of Jesus’ divine and Davidic sonship.

Note that the voice from the cloud reaffirms what the voice had proclaimed at Jesus’ baptism: "This is my chosen Son; listen to him" (see Luke 9:35).

The scene evokes Moses, and Moses himself is there to emphasize the association. The words "listen to him" recall the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15: that a "prophet like me" will come, and the people will "listen" to him.

By showing us Jesus glorified with Moses and Elijah, the two greatest prophets of the Old Testament, Luke shows us that Jesus is indeed the prophet like Moses who was to come.

But the words from the cloud also bring to mind Psalm 2 and Psalm 89 - both of which refer to the Davidic king as Son of God.

At the same time, the voice from the cloud proclaims Him more than a prophet: he is the Chosen One, the Son of God - titles that belong to the rightful King of Israel (see Psalm 89:4).

D. Pity from the Son of David

By the time He gets to Jerusalem, even the blind can see what Luke wants his readers to see – that Jesus is the son of David (see Luke 18:38).

But there is more the scene of the healing of the blind man on the way to Jerusalem.

If the Son of David is on His way to Jerusalem, it can only be for one purpose: to take his rightful throne as King of Israel, and to make Jerusalem his capital - just as David did.

Recall that in David’s time, Jerusalem was the last part of Israel to be conquered. The Jebusites who held it were sure their defenses were impenetrable - so sure that they taunted David: "The blind and the lame will drive you away" (see 2 Samuel 5:6).

But this time, as David’s son approaches Jerusalem, it is the blind and the lame who welcome him.

E. The Triumph

And Jesus even enters the city exactly the way the Son of David ought to enter.

When Solomon, the prototypical Son of David, was crowned king, he entered Jerusalem riding on a mule, and the shouts of the people could be heard in the distant hills (see 1 Kings 1:38-40).

The prophet Zechariah saw the future King coming the same way: "a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass" (see Zechariah 9:9).

This is exactly the scene Luke shows us: the King coming into Jerusalem meekly mounted on a colt (see Luke 19:29-40), with the people shouting so that the hills resound with their joy.

"Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord, " Jesus’ followers shout (see Luke 19:38). The words are from Psalm 118, which is probably a processional liturgy for a kingly triumph.

But Luke’s account adds one important word that does not appear in the original Psalm. So that no one could possibly miss the significance of the occasion, Jesus’ followers explicitly hail Jesus as King.

III. King of the Jews

A. The New Covenant

After David had conquered Jerusalem and established himself there, God established His covenant with David (see 2 Samuel 7).

And with the Son of David established in Jerusalem as King, Luke shows us that it is time for the New Covenant (see Luke 22:20).

The words "new covenant" used in Jesus’ last supper with His disciples, recall the promises of Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 31:31-34).

The day would one day come, Jeremiah had said, when "a righteous shoot to David" (seeJeremiah 23:5) would restore the kingdom to Israel and announce a new covenant.

This is what Jesus announces at the Last Supper.

Clearly, then, the New Covenant that Jeremiah prophesied and Jesus proclaims is not a completely new departure. Instead, it is a renewal of the covenant with David, which is now transformed into something even greater.

And Luke paints the Last Supper as a royal banquet, with Jesus taking his place as King of Israel.

B. Kingdom Table

The kingdom of David had ministers and governors who sat on thrones at court.

So, too, Jesus says to His ministers and governors, the disciples: "I confer a kingdom on you" (see Luke 22:29).

The word we translate as "confer" is the same Greek word used for "covenant" in the Greek translation of the Old Testament that Luke was familiar with. In Luke’s account, the act is more than simply conferring: it is a covenant.

Just as God made a covenant with David, so God the Father makes a covenant with God the Son, and God the Son makes a covenant with His followers.

What Jesus shows us is a perfect picture of the ideal Davidic kingdom, with all the original twelve tribes that made up the Davidic kingdom are gathered together and reunited at the original capital Jerusalem.

It is a grand picture. Jesus, the King, enthroned with twelve ministers, ruling the twelve tribes of the restored Israel.

In fact, the very words of the Last Supper account remind us of the description of Jerusalem at peace in Psalm 122: the tribes all gathered together to give thanks to the Lord, and above them "the thrones of the house of David" (see Psalm 122:4-5).

C. Reading Luke

Finally, in Luke’s account of the Passion, the list of Davidic titles begins to pile up. Notice that in these final chapters of the Gospel, Jesus is repeatedly called:

·The Christ (or Anointed One) of God

· The Chosen One

·The King of the Jews

The irony, which Luke certainly means for us to see, is that these titles were all hurled as insults as Jesus was dying on the cross (see Luke 23:35-38).

There was even a sign on the cross itself: "This is the King of the Jews." It must have been very funny to the Roman soldiers in charge.

But in fact that sign, placed there in mockery, spoke the truth that Luke has been showing us throughout the book.

All those titles really did belong to Jesus, because He really was the promised Son of David: the Christ, the Chosen One, the King of the Jews.

After He rose from the dead, he appeared to many of the believers. Luke records two of those appearances in detail, and in both of them the message is the same: the prophets had already told us that the Son of David would suffer these things and be raised from the dead.

On the road to Emmaus, two of Jesus’ followers meet Him, but do not recognize Him. When they tell him the story of what happened to their Master, He explains everything that happened by interpreting Moses and the prophets (see Luke 24:13-35).

Likewise when He appears to the remaining eleven apostles, He explains that everything happened to fulfill what was written in "Moses and the prophets and the psalms" (see Luke 24:36-49)

The things that happened to the Christ (that is, the Messiah, the Anointed One) were exactly what the prophets had foretold would happen to Him.

That is what Luke’s vivid images show us over and over throughout his Gospel: Jesus perfectly fulfilled everything that was expected of the Son of David:

That sign on the cross only proclaimed what all the signs before had already made clear: "This is the King of the Jews."

IV. Discussion Questions

· Why was it important to Luke to point out that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem?

· Why were shepherds the first people to hear that the Christ had been born?

·When the Pharisees rebuke His disciples for picking grain on the Sabbath, Jesus compares himself to David. In what ways does Jesus’ situation resemble David’s?

·What is significant about the geographical course of Jesus’ ministry in Luke?

·Whose coronation did Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem resemble?

·According to Jesus, what is the difference between the kingdoms of the Gentiles and His own Kingdom?

·What sign was posted on the cross when Jesus was crucified?

·What did Jesus explain to His followers in both the post-resurrection appearances recounted in Luke’s Gospel?

For personal reflection:

Are we "foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke" (see Luke 24:25)? What can we learn from Jesus’ own interpretation of the Old Testament Scriptures?

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