Who is David's son? 12:35-37

Jesus is in the temple court in Jerusalem and has been answering questions put to him by the religious authorities. He now asks his opponents a tricky question. He asks what the theologians of his day mean when they say that the messiah is David's son. Consider, for a moment, Psalm 110:1. Israel's theologians assume that the Psalm is written by David and that in v1 David is referring to the messiah. A son does not have authority over his father, so why does David call the messiah his lord? How can the messiah be both the son of David and lord over David? The religious authorities are left flummoxed, but the crowd is impressed.

The passage

v35. The religious authorities had been giving Jesus a hard time with their tricky questions, but had ended up floundering with nothing more to say. Jesus now has his turn and asks them a tricky question. We are not told if the theologians present attempt to answer Jesus' question, it's likely that they didn't even get to first base. The question may be tricky, but more importantly it revels something of Jesus' true person. So, Jesus asks "why" Israel's theologians constantly speak of the messiah as the son of David. Their constant reference to the messiah as a descendant of David implies that David has precedence over the messiah, as if the messiah's authority is equal to, or even less than David.

v36. Jesus blows his opponents away with a text from scripture. He quotes from Psalm 110:1, a Psalm recognized as a Psalm of David. Here David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, speaks of the messiah as his lord, his master, the one who has authority over him. David describes the Lord God, YHWH, addressing the messiah as David's lord, his master. So, the "lord", the messiah, may be a descendant of David, but he is something more than just a descendant. In the end he sits, not at the right hand of David, but at the right hand of God where he will bring everything under his subjection. David's lord is co-regent with God the Father; he is Lord, capital "L".

v37. Jesus now drives home his point. "If He is David's Master, does not our Law deny a son mastery over his father?" This paraphrase by Billy Junkins nicely captures Jesus' point and would have flummoxed his opponents. Of course, Jesus is not actually denying that the messiah is a descendant of David, he is just making the point that he is something more than David's descendant. Those with eyes to see, those earnestly waiting for the messiah and his kingdom, could not help but ask themselves whether David's Lord, the co-regent with God, is actually the man asking the question. The religious authorities were obviously not impressed with Jesus' words, but the common people were.

Jesus is Lord

The lordship of Christ is not overtly proclaimed in this passage, rather, it is implied. Of course, what is implied here is proclaimed elsewhere in the scriptures. For example, Paul writing to the Romans tells us that Jesus is "a descendant of David", "appointed the Son of God in power", "Jesus Christ our Lord."

In the 1960's in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, Australia, something strange happened. The Sydney diocese, the last fully Evangelical diocese in Australia, started to sever the compact between the gospel and the Prayer Book that had existed for over two hundred years.

At the time of the great awakening, following the ministry of John Wesley, most of the revivalists left the English church to form the Methodist church. Yet, some of the revivalists remained, submitting themselves to the Prayer Book and the polity of the Anglican church. They were called the Evangelicals. They only ever amounted to about 10% of the church and so rarely gained high position. They stayed because they fully believed that Jesus is Lord. The Anglican church might be old hat, fuddy-duddy, a bit catholic, but they believed that the kingdom is built "'not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit', says the Lord God almighty." Jesus builds his house, a kingdom not of this world, apart from method, organization and structure. For the Evangelicals the house was built through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, and this because "the gospel is the power of God unto salvation." So, the Evangelicals sat easily with their loyalty to the Prayer Book as well as the gospel.

But all this started to change in the 1960's. There had been other difficulties, for example, the inroads of liberalism, but what happened in the 60's was a terminal parting of the ways. Over a 30 year period there was a wholesale abandonment of the Prayer Book and Anglican polity in the Anglican diocese of Sydney. The causes are now easily identified:

First, the diocese was infected by puritanism, a congregationalist pietism that promoted sanctification by obedience - trust and obey rather than by grace alone. When a believer doubts the lordship of Christ in salvation they begin to think that their own holiness, rather than Christ's holiness, has something to do with their acceptance before God. So, clergy began to feel uneasy with the catholic trappings of the Anglican church. Whereas Evangelical clergy happily baptized the children of nominal Anglicans for an opportunity to share the gospel, many of the younger clergy implemented strict baptismal policies, restricting baptism to the children of professing believers. Within a generation nominal Anglicanism was decimated.

The second cause lay in downplaying of the lordship of Christ in church building. As congregational numbers began to fall away, the younger clergy began to turn to the Church Growth methodology successfully employed in America. The focus fell on people management strategies rather than gospel communication strategies. Consequently, robed Prayer Book services were slowly replaced by a happy-clappy cabaret.

The old Evangelical Anglican compact is now little more than a memory, but its demise can serve to remind us of the consequences of doubting the lordship of Christ. Remember, "Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain", Psalm 127:1.


1. If the messiah is actually a descendant of David, what point is Jesus making?

2. Explain in what sense Jesus is Lord.

3. Does the lordship of Christ impact on the life of your church? Evaluate.