After a long, weary day of answering the questions the Jewish leadership posed to Jesus (Matt. 21:23-22:40), in which they tried in vain to entrap Him verbally, Jesus turned the tables on them and asked them this simple question, “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He” (Matt. 22:42). The Pharisees’ answer that Jesus was the Son of David was not untrue but it was also incomplete. Jesus demonstrated this answer was insufficient with His response.
The Jews continually thought of the Messiah as a national leader on the order of David who would lead Israel once again as he did to national glory. That was a materialistic view of the kingdom. Even up to the time Jesus ascended back to the Father, the apostles, themselves, were looking for some kind of return of this materialistic kingdom. The apostles asked, “Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6). They, of course, were likewise misguided. Jesus had said earlier, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
Jesus asked a similar question when He came into the coast of Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13-19). He asked, “Who do men say that I the son of man am?” Obviously, there were already many views circulating among the people as to who Jesus was. Some thought He was John the Baptist come back to life, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets (Matt. 16:16,17). However, until Peter spoke up, no one had ever said that the Christ was the Son of the living God (cf. John 6:68). This is clearly indicated by Jesus’ recognition that this information was given by God (Matt. 16:17).
The Old Testament speaks in several places of the “sons of God.” Moses used the expression to refer to the righteous line of Seth (Gen. 6:2). The angels are referred to as the “sons of God” (Job 2:1). It is used collectively of the people of Israel (Ex. 4:22,23). But the singular expression “son of God” is not found in the Old Testament, though the implication is there.
Naturally, the Jews rightly expected the Messiah to be a descendent of David because of the prophecies referring to the seed of David (e.g., Ps. 89:29, 132:11-12; Is. 9:7; 11:1-3, 11:10, etc.). Jehovah promised to set up David’s seed after him, that proceeded from his bowels (II Sam. 7:12). But in connection with this promise, Jehovah says He shall be “My Son” (II Sam. 7:14). The parallel account in Chronicles says that He will be “of thy sons” (I Chron. 17:11).
The Jews were expecting this earthly Messiah but, as He did all that day long, Jesus refutes their materialistic, worldly, political notions of the Messiah with impeccable logic. In quoting Psalm 110, Jesus uses an important passage which the Jews fully recognized as Messianic and by it shows their view was limited. They had failed to understand the implications of the words. It is true that Jesus was of the seed of David according to the flesh (Rom. 1:3), but Jesus, as the Christ, was more than that (Rom. 1:4).
The passage which Jesus quoted has David saying that Jehovah says to my (David’s) Lord (adonay) “Sit Thou on My right hand” (Psalm 110:1). The Messiah was not just some royal seed of David, like Solomon or Hezekiah or Josiah. These also were of the seed of David but David did not call them Lord or Christ or Messiah, nor would He. This shows that the Christ was more than a mere descendent of David. Furthermore, the Christ sat down on the right hand of Jehovah, showing an equality with Jehovah that no mere earthly descendent of David could ever claim.
The notion that Jesus was the Messiah angered the Jewish leadership. Jesus was showing the Jews what it really meant to be the Messiah. While they might not have fully understood what He was teaching them, the realized the implications of it. As Jesus later that week stood before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas asked “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63). When Jesus answered in the affirmative, they asked “What think ye?” (Matt. 26:66). They then accused Him of blasphemy and condemned Him to death.
Eric L. Padgett
I suggest reading Barclay’s comments on this section of scripture.