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Reading the Old Testament in the New: The Gospel of Matthew

Lesson Six: David’s Son, David’s Lord

Lesson Objectives:

1. To read Matthew 19-28 with understanding.

2. To understand the Old Testament background to Matthew’s depiction of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, His Passion and death.

3. To understand the deep Old Testament context by which Matthew conveys that Jesus is the long-awaited “Son of David” and the “Son of God.”

Lesson Six: David’s Son, David’s Lord

Lesson Outline:
1. Review and Overview
    A. Reading the Last Book
    B. Promised of Old
    C. The New Son of David
2. To the City of David
    A. The Blind See the Son of David
    B. Making a King’s Entrance
    C. Enemies in the Temple
3. The Son’s Identity Revealed.
    A. The Lord of His Lord
    B. The Son of God
    C. Gathered Against the Anointed
    D. The Nations Are His Inheritance
4. Study Questions

I. Review and Overview

A. Reading the Last Book

In this final lesson, we’re going to be looking at the last of the "five books" of Matthew’s Gospel (see Matthew 19-25) and what we identified as the Gospel’s "epilogue" - Matthew’s narrative of Jesus’ Passion, death and Resurrection (see Matthew 26-28).

In these sections, Matthew uses his literary skill and his deep and nuanced understanding of the Old Testament to bring together a number of the themes he has sounded throughout the Gospel.

We’re going to focus on one of those themes: Matthew’s use of Old Testament traditions and expectations concerning the Davidic covenant.

B. Promised of Old

This is a them we pointed out in our first lesson and reintroduced in our last lesson. To review: God’s "everlasting covenant" with David (see 2 Samuel 23:5; Psalm 89:4-29;132:12), marked the pinnacle of the Old Testament.

In promising to establish David’s son as His own son and to give him an everlasting kingdom that would extend over all nations (see 2 Samuel 7:8-16; 1 Chronicles 17:7-14), God declared the Son of David to be the one who would fulfill His promise to Abraham.

God’s covenant with Abraham was that he would be the father of many nations and that through his son Isaac, all the nation’s of the world would be blessed of descendants (seeGenesis 17:4-8; 22:15-18).

It was to honor that covenant with Abraham that God raised up Moses to deliver Israel, the nation born of the children of Isaac, from Egypt (see Exodus 2:24; 6:5). And it was for "my people Israel" that God established His covenant with David (see 2 Samuel 7:8,10,11; 1 Chronicles 16:14-18).

As we noted in our first lesson, and as Matthew notices in the very first lines of his Gospel, at the time of Jesus’ birth God’s promise to David seemed to have been left unfulfilled.

The kingdom established by David’s son had been destroyed. First it was divided in two by a civil war. Next both rival kingdoms were conquered and the peoples swept off into exile.

Through the prophets, God had foretold the coming of a Messiah, a righteous offshoot, a son of David (see Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12). Like David, he would be a shepherd for God’s people and would be the sign of a new covenant between God and His people (see Ezekiel 34:23-25; 37:24-27).

This shepherd king (see Jeremiah 23:3-7; Hosea 3:5) would gather up the exiled people, restore the kingdom of David and would reign forever (see Isaiah 9:5-6; Jeremiah 33:15-18). 

C. The New Son of David

These are dominant themes, as we have noted, in Matthew’s Gospel.

Nine times Jesus is called "son of David" in Matthew (as compared to twice in Mark and Luke and none in John).

Jesus’ birthplace, Bethlehem, is recalled as "the city of David" (see Matthew 2:1; 1 Samuel 20:6). Like the Davidic Messiah, Jesus is called God’s "beloved son" at His baptism (seeMatthew 3:17; Psalm 2:7).

Jesus first announces "the kingdom" in Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that the rebuilding of David’s kingdom would begin precisely in the region where the kingdom’s destruction began (see Matthew 4:12-17; Isaiah 9:1-2).

The beginning of the end of the kingdom was the Assyrian invasion of these regions (see 2 Kings 15:29). Isaiah had seen the kingdom being renewed in the "Galilee of the Gentiles," with the birth of a king who would sit upon David’s throne (see Isaiah 9:7). 

II. To the City of David

A. The Blind See the Son of David

We begin our study of Matthew’s last book on the road to Jerusalem, as Jesus stops to heal two blind men who have been following Him (see Matthew 20:29-34).

The scene is very similar to one we saw earlier, at the beginning of Jesus’ public career - in which two blind men identify Jesus as "Son of David" and beg that He restore their sight (see Matthew 9:27-31).

Here again, Matthew is drawing on the tradition that associated the Messiah, the anointed Son of David, with powers of exorcism and healing, especially related to the "blind and the lame."

Jesus’ healing of a demon-possessed blind mute earlier provoked the crowds to question aloud: "Could this perhaps be the Son of David?" (see Matthew 12:22-23). And throughout this Gospel, Jesus’ healings are frequently associated with the title "Son of David" (seeMatthew 15:22).

We see this tradition in the other Gospels. In fact, apart from Matthew, the only other places in the New Testament where Jesus is called "Son of David" are in scenes of miraculous healings (see Mark 10:47-48; Luke 18:38-39).

Devout Jews expected the Davidic Messiah to cast out demons and heal the blind, the deaf and the mute (see Isaiah 29:18; 35:5-6; 42:7,16).

This expectation appears to have begun with the power of David’s harp playing to exorcise the demons plaguing King Saul (see I Samuel 16:14-23). In traditions attested both in and outside the Bible (see Wisdom 7:20), David’s son, Solomon, also received power over demons and infirmities (see Josephus, The Antitquities of the Jews, Book 8, Chapter 2, no. 5).

Matthew, in effect, frames the ministry of Jesus around two miraculous healings of blind men who are able to "see" that He is the Messiah, the Son of David. In the first instance, He sharply commands those He heals: "See that know one knows about this."

Here, He imposes no such restrictions. Indeed, they follow Him into Jerusalem and become part of the crowd that proclaims Him the Savior, the Son of David who comes in the name of the Lord (see Matthew 21:9).

In fact, in the Greek text there are strong connections between the healing story and the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem - in both we see:

- "great" or "very large" "crowds" (compare 20:29,30 and 21:8,9,11);

- "following" (compare 20:29,34 and 21:9);

- "on the road[side]" (compare 20:29 and 21:8); and

- people "crying out" (compare 20:30 and 21:9) for Jesus as

- the "son of David" (compare 20:30,31 and 21:9).

B. Making a King’s Entrance

Matthew depicts Jesus entering Jerusalem like a king (see Matthew 21:1-11).

He uses a "formula citation" to announce that Jesus is "fulfilling" Old Testament prophecy.

Actually, Matthew brings together two distinct but related prophecies. The first is from Isaiah, who foresaw Israel’s "savior" coming down a "highway" to make to take "daughter Zion" as His "bride" (see Isaiah 62:4,10-11). The second is from Zechariah, who also saw the "savior" coming to "daughter Zion" - as a king riding atop a colt and an ass to fulfill "the blood of [God’s] covenant" with Israel (see Zechariah 9:9-11; compare Exodus 24:8).

These prophetic expectations perhaps explain why Jesus, upon entering Jerusalem, delivers a parable about a king who calls a wedding feast for his son (see Matthew 22:1-14) and uses the words, "my blood of the covenant" at His last supper (see Matthew 26:28).

The stage for this royal wedding covenant feast is being set by Matthew with his description of Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem.

The scene seems deliberately drawn to evoke the anointing and crowning of Solomon as king (see 1 Kings 1). Jesus is proclaimed "Son of David" (see Matthew 21:9,15) as Samuel was (see Proverbs 1:1).

As Samuel rode King David’s mule to Gihon to be anointed by Zadok the priest (see 1 Kings 1:38, 44), Jesus rides a mule into town (see Matthew 21:7). The crowd greets Jesus with an Old Testament gesture of submission to a king - spreading their cloaks on the road before Him (see Matthew 21:8; 2 Kings 9:13).

The coming of Samuel as king caused a tumult of shouting and rejoicing that nearly "split open the earth" (see 1 Kings 1:39-41,45). In Jerusalem, the crowd "kept crying out and…the whole city was shaken" (see Matthew 21:9-10).

Finally, the commotion in Jerusalem provokes questions about who Jesus is (see Matthew 21:10), just as people in Solomon’s case asked: "What does this uproar in the city mean?" (see 1 Kings 1:41,45).

Matthew uses this Old Testament memory to communicate to his readers that Jesus is the new Son of David, the new King of Israel.

This is further dramatized by the cries of the crowd (see Matthew 21:9,15). Not only do they proclaim Him the "Son of David," they cry out the lines from Psalm 118 - a familiar hymn of thanksgiving to the Lord as savior of Israel.

The word Hosanna means, "O Lord, grant salvation" (see Psalm 118:25-26) and Matthew’s reference to the Psalm here reinforces his earlier allusion to Zechariah and Isaiah and their prophecies of Israel’s coming "savior."

Jesus is the Son of David, the King of the Jews - He is also the Lord, the Savior of Israel (see Psalm 188:14). 

C. Enemies in the Temple

Jesus, as King, takes possession of His capital peacefully, as Solomon did. His first action is to reclaim the sanctuary, the Temple, and to call Israel’s religious leaders back to their original sacred purpose (see Matthew 21:12-16).

We see here another echo of David’s career. After establishing Jerusalem as "the City of David," the new king’s first act was to return the Ark of the Covenant, the vessel of God’s presence, and to restore the sacred order of the Levitical priests (see 2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 15-16).

There is a further Davidic note in Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple. Notice the curious detail: the blind and lame approach Him in the temple area and He cures them (see Matthew 21:14). These are His last cures in Matthew’s Gospel.

But Matthew here too seems to be invoking deep Old Testament memories.

He hearkens back to David’s anointing as king of all Israel. Following his anointing, his first action was to attack Jerusalem in order to make it the capital of his kingdom.

The Jebusites, who occupied the city, mocked David, telling him that even the blind and the lame could his army away. David, for some unexplained reason, pronounced the blind and lame to be "personal enemies" and forbid them to enter the temple (see 2 Samuel 5:6-9).

Although his exact meaning isn’t clear, Matthew here seems to be depicting a new conquest of "the city of David" by David’s heir - not by military might but by meekness (seeMatthew 21:5). In this new "capture" of Jerusalem, David’s curse on the blind and lame is annulled in a miraculous sign that all will be welcome in the Temple of the new king.

III. The Son’s Identity Revealed

A. The Lord of His Lord

Matthew began his Gospel depicting three magi wanting to know the whereabouts of the newborn "the king of the Jews" (see Matthew 2:2).

And at the end of his Gospel, the subtext of the drama once again turns on whether Jesus is truly that "king of the Jews" (see Matthew 27:42).

"King of the Jews" is how non-Jews refer to Israel’s anticipated Messiah (see Matthew 2:4). In fact, in the New Testament, the phrase is only used by Gentiles (see also Mark 15:32;John 1:49; 12:13).

That is why the Jewish leadership arrests Jesus and demands to know whether He is "the Messiah" (see Matthew 26:63), while Pilate demands to know whether He is "the king of the Jews" (see Matthew 27:11).

Jesus’ "Davidic sonship" - the preoccupation of Matthew’s initial chapters - forms the climax of the controversy in his concluding chapters.

We see this in the final question He puts to the Pharisees: "What is your opinion about the Messiah? Whose son is he?" (see Matthew 22:41-46).

They respond - accurately, according to their understanding of the prophetic tradition - that the Messiah is expected to be the son of David.

Jesus takes the question to a deeper level, reminding them that in their own tradition, the Messiah, the Son of David, is also to be the Son of God.

This theme has been quietly developing in Matthew, beginning with His birth by the power of the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 1:1, 20-23).

We have mentioned three places in Matthew’s Gospel where individuals (not simply the crowds) have recognized and addressed Jesus as "Son of David" - the blind men at the start of His ministry (see Matthew 9:27-31), the Canaanite woman whose daughter is tormented with a demon (see Matthew 15:21-28) and the two blind men at the end of His ministry (see Matthew 20:29-34).

Return to each of those passages and see if you notice something else. In each instance, the individuals also call Him, "Lord" (see Matthew 9:28; 15:22,25,27; 20:20,31).

B. The Son of God

Notice, too, how subtly Matthew has deployed the phrase "Son of God" in His Gospel. It is never heard on the lips of Jesus, although He does refer to himself as the Son of Man.

"Son of God" is first used by the Devil and persons possessed by the devil (see Matthew 4:3,6; 8:29). Only the Apostles recognize Him by this title (see Matthew 14:33; 16:16), although at both His Baptism and Transfiguration, the voice of God is heard declaring Jesus to be "My beloved Son" (see Matthew 3:17; 17:5).

What Matthew has been subtly trying to show throughout his narrative, Jesus finally reveals at the end. He does this through a skillful interpretation of Psalm 110.

Jesus asks how Psalm 110 could describe David calling the Messiah "my Lord." How could the Messiah be both David’s son and David’s lord?

To understand His question, we have to know that Psalm 110 was believed to have been written by David and to be a Psalm about the Messiah. It describes the Messiah as begotten by God and seated at His right hand in heaven as both a princely ruler over the nations and as a priest.

Jesus’ question is how this Messiah, this royal high priest and son of God, can also be David’s son. The answer that the Pharisees cannot give is that David’s son, the Messiah, must also be a divine offspring, the Son of God.

Again, Jesus delivers this answer, not by simple proclamation, but by a patient interpretation of Psalm 110 that reveals the inadequacies of the Pharisees’ interpretation.

This Psalm, many scholars believe, was composed to celebrate the crowning of a Davidic king. It is ascribed to David and could very well have originated with the crowning of Solomon, David’s Son.

Recall that Solomon was anointed king shortly before David’s death, causing David to cry with joy: "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who has this day seated one of my sons upon my throne, so that I see it with my own eyes" (see 1 Kings 1:48).

Thus, for a brief period, David could have referred to his own son, Solomon, as he is said to in Psalm 110:1 - as his Lord, that is, as his king and superior, his "Lord."

Psalm 110 is referred to more frequently in the New Testament than any other Old Testament passage. That’s probably because here in Matthew Jesus essentially declares that the Psalm prophesied about Him - that He is the "Lord" who David refers to as "my Lord" in the opening verse (see Matthew 22:41-45).

And key images from the Psalm resound in the teaching and preaching of the New Testament:

* Jesus enthroned at God’s right hand (see Psalm 110:2; Matthew 26:64; Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33-34; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).

* The enemies of Jesus put under His foot, made His "footstool" (see Psalm 110:2; 1 Corinthians 15:25,27; Ephesians 1:22; Hebrews 2:8; 10:13).

* Jesus as the new Melchizedek, the mysterious high priest who offers bread and wine and bestows blessings on Abram (see Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 6:20-7:1-3, 15-17; 20-26;Genesis 14:17-20).

C. Gathered Against the Anointed

But there is one more Psalm that lies in the background of Jesus’ confrontation with the Pharisees. Actually, it is just one word from the Greek translation of the Psalm.

But in that word, Matthew evokes the eschatological drama about to take place - the death of the Lord’s anointed, the Messiah.

Notice the innocuous phrase that begins the story of Jesus’ debate. The Pharisees are described as "gathered together" (see Matthew 22:41). In the Greek, that same word (synago) is used in Psalm 2 to describe how the princes of the world "conspire together against the Lord and against His anointed" (see Psalm 2:2).

Matthew is subtly situating the entire discussion in the context of the Pharisees’ conspiracy to thwart Jesus. And this showdown marks the end of all His debates with the Jewish religious authorities in Matthew’s Gospel.

Clearly, the authorities now know the divine claims that Jesus is making about himself, something that previously only demons and Apostles have recognized. When He is hauled before the Sanhedrin a day or so later, on the last Friday of His life, the High Priest has only one question for Him - Is He truly "the Son of God"? (see Matthew 26:63).

And during the narrative of Jesus’ Passion and death, Matthew continues to remind readers that Jesus is being killed for His identity:

* Pilate twice identifies Him as "Jesus called Messiah" (see Matthew 27:17,22);

* The soldiers cruelly mock Him: "Hail, King of the Jews" (see Matthew 27:27-29) and on the Cross they nail "the written charge against Him: This is Jesus the King of the Jews" (see Matthew 27:37).

* The chief priests, scribes and elders, too, mock Him as He hangs on the Cross, taunting Him: "So He is the King of Israel…He said, ‘I am the Son of God’" (see Matthew 27:42-43).

D. The Nations Are His Inheritance

Skepticism and cruelty, however, are not the last words in Matthew’s narrative of the crucifixion. When the earth quakes upon His death, one of the soldiers concludes what Matthew wants all of his readers to conclude: "Truly this was the Son of God!" (seeMatthew 27:54).

Matthew carries the Son of God and Davidic King images through into the last scene of his Gospel (see Matthew 28:16-20).

Jesus, at the end, is depicted as the son of a king, being "given" his inheritance. In this case, the kingly Father is God, and the inheritance is "all power in heaven and on earth."

Matthew here appears to be recalling the royal, heavenly scene in Daniel’s prophecy, where "one like a son of man" is presented before the "Ancient One." The son figure is given "glory and kingship, nations and peoples of every language serve him, his dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away" (see Daniel 7:13-14).

The language in Daniel recalls God’s promises to David - that his "son" will be considered a son of God, that he will reign as king "forever," and his throne shall never be "withdrawn" (see 1 Chronicles 17).

This promise is celebrated in Psalm 2, where God establishes the Messiah as king, declares him to be "my son," and then promises: "As of me and I will give you the nations for an inheritance and the ends of the earth for your possession" (see Psalm 2: 6-8).

Matthew’s final verses also show Jesus fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham (remember that in Matthew’s first line, Jesus is called "son of Abraham"). God had promised that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in the descendant of Abraham (see Genesis 12:3;18:18; 22:18)

In commissioning the Church, Jesus, the ultimate son of Abraham, is fulfilling that promise - extending God’s blessings to all nations through Baptism and the teaching of the Church.

We also, see at the end of this Gospel, another theme we highlighted earlier in this course - Jesus as the "new Moses."

While in this lesson we’ve focused on the importance of Jesus as a "new David," throughout this last book Matthew has continued using Mosaiac imagery and allusions to show that Jesus is the prophet-king promised by Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:15,18).

And His commissioning of the Apostles recalls Moses’ commissioning of Joshua.

As Joshua was ordered to cross the Jordan and make the land the "domain" of Israel (seeJoshua 1:2-4), the Apostles are sent to claim all the world for the Trinity - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Joshua is commanded to "observe the entire law" given to Israel by Moses, as Jesus commands the Apostles to (compare Joshua 1:7,8 and Matthew 28:20).

Moses tells Joshua that God "will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you" (see Deuteronomy 31:8). The Lord himself tells Joshua: "I myself will be with you" (seeDeuteronomy 31:23; Joshua 1:5,9).

And these are the last words on Jesus’ lips in Matthew’s Gospel: "I am with you always" (see Matthew 28:20).

IV. Study Questions

1. What is the relation between God’s covenant with Abraham and His "everlasting covenant" with David? Reviewing Lesson 1 of this course, describe why at the time of Jesus’ birth, it appeared to many that the covenant with David was, in effect, a broken promise.

2. Review the texts of 2 Kings and Isaiah and explain how Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom in the Gentile region of Galilee is an announcement of the restoration of the Davidic Kingdom.

3. How is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem compared to the Old Testament coronation of the son of David?

4. In what ways did the New Testament see Jesus as prefigured in Psalm 110?

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