Son of David
St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church
Bishop Peter F. Hansen
Sermon for the 18th Sunday after Trinity, October 3, 2021
“Jesus asked them, saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David.”
WHAT THINK YE OF CHRIST? Whose son is He? Jesus asked his detractors a basic question of Jewish beliefs. How do you identify the Messiah when he comes? What can you say about him? And proudly they answered Him, “He is the son of David.” Why did they think so? What part of the Jesus story does King David play, though in centuries, he preceded Jesus, son of Mary, by 1,000 years.
There were six or seven promises made by God to David in his life. He would have a dynasty; his son would take the throne after him and a line of kings would descend from them. In fact, should the kings in David’s line remain faithful to God, there would be no end of them. In their father David’s line, they would rule and reign forever.
God also gave David a kingdom. There had been territory occupied by the children of Israel since the Exodus, but only an unsteady peace existed. Periodically, one or another tribe of Canaanites would invade and ruin the peace. David was a man of war, and successfully he quelled the aggression of his neighbors.
David also wanted to build a Temple in his new capitol city, Jerusalem, but God promised it would happen through his immediate heir.
God promised never to disown David, that their relationship was life long and longer.
Then a prophecy was given about this lineage, and a person who was to come in David’s royal line who was also God’s chosen one. The words were couched in promises seeming to be about Solomon, but that God would see this one as His son, and his throne was to last. “And I will establish him in My house and in My kingdom forever; and his throne shall be established forever.” David’s prophet, Nathan, spoke this. It was just too glorious for a mere mortal king. So it proved.
Why David? Saul, the king he replaced, was tall and handsome. He waged successful wars. He mostly did God’s bidding. But there was a flaw in him. His decisions relied on whether he felt the people liked him or not. He was always insecure that his kingdom should be found out to be a fraud. He didn’t recognize that God made him king, and if he didn’t obey God to the letter, he was that fraud he feared that he was.
David, it says, was a man after God’s own heart. God has a special love for shepherds and David bravely guarded sheep, even against bears and lions. God loves worship, and David played harp and composed countless songs and poems in a constant conversation with God. God loves faith, and even as a young man, scarcely more than a boy, David faced a gigantic Philistine soldier to show him and his army there is a God in Israel.
Even though David sinned at times, and his sins are openly reported in the pages of Scripture, he never stopped talking to God and working things out, crying out his confession, seeking God’s face. That’s what it took to have God’s heart.
The circumstances of David’s life were not easy. All his seven older brothers were favored over him. His military successes caused King Saul to suspect him and who forced him to become an outlaw, hunted and falsely accused. It took seven years after the death of Saul for David to finally unite the nation under him. He didn’t have very happy marriages, nor was he a good father. His own son tried to kill him in a coup.
But David had learned a great lesson and he never lost track of it. God had placed obstacles in David’s path, described again and again in the Psalms. But David’s wisdom started at the place of knowing God’s heart, and experiencing God’s love for him. That love defined the circumstances, and all of David’s Psalms end in hope.
When you let circumstances describe God’s heart to you, it will appear that He changes toward you when your life takes turns you didn’t want or expect. When things are bad, God hates me today. If things are good, I guess I’m on His good side. King David never fell for that, but knew God’s love, and whatever the story was leading him through, it would certainly end in glory and love. He never doubted it. He was after God’s heart.
Six times in St. Matthew’s Gospel account people call Jesus the ‘Son of David.’ Blind men call the name out to Him. The Canaanite woman uses the title with Him. People lining streets with palm branches at His triumphal entry shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” And here, the Pharisees have come to test Him, pitching questions at Him like darts, expecting Him to say something, anything they can pick a fight over. He handles them brilliantly.
Then, as was His strategy, He asked them questions. “What think ye of Christ: whose son is He?” Their answer, the Son of David, was orthodox Jewish thought. The Messiah was to be a king in David’s line. But there was a problem there.
600 years earlier, the last of David’s line fell first to idol worship, then fell under the empire of Babylon. He was so unfaithful to God that Jeremiah gave the awful prophecy, “Call this man childless. No seed of his shall prosper or sit on the throne of David or rule Judah anymore.” This seemed to contradict the Davidic covenant, that a king in David’s line should be Messiah. But God had a solution.
There are two lineages of Jesus Christ given in the New Testament. The one in Matthew shows that David was father to Solomon, then 25 more men follow, but that childless king in the midpoint had sons who never sat as kings. The failed line comes through one named Jacob, father to Joseph, husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus, the Christ. Notice Matthew is careful not to call Joseph Jesus’ real father. The Gospel of St. Luke starts at Jesus, referring to Joseph, regarded as His father, though he wasn’t, then another line works back to David. This is Mary’s line. 36 fathers counting back result, not in Solomon, but Nathan, another son of David. Mary’s line is clean of the cursed lineage of the kings, but gives her son Jesus truly the blueblood of David.
Yet another problem. Jesus is not made a King by Mary, for hers was only Nathan’s line. But this adoption through marriage to Joseph makes Jesus heir to Joseph’s estate, including the abandoned crown of David, and without the pollution of bad King Jeconiah. Jesus is truly son of David, by blood, through Mary, and by lineage, through Joseph.
But more importantly, as the promised one in David’s line, he fulfills David’s Psalms. The Lord is my shepherd, and Jesus is the good shepherd. All the beautiful passages apply to Him. So do those of suffering, piercing hands and feet, the soldiers gambling for His clothes. Jesus cites this one to the Pharisees who know so much.
“The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool… The Lord has sworn And will not relent, You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek. The Lord is at Your right hand.” Now, said Jesus, David’s son would be thought of as being beneath David, David giving that son a title and honor. But what is David doing, here in his Psalm, calling his son ‘my Lord?’ The LORD said to my Lord – clearly a depiction of God establishing His Messiah. Yet, David, hundreds of years before, regarded Messiah as his Lord. Why is he saying that? They had nothing to answer. And from that day on, no one tried to corner Jesus with their silly questions.
We are inheritors of a great lineage. We may think nothing of such titles as Son of David, or Son of Abraham, because as Gentiles we have no real connection with the ancient fathers of faith in Israel. But the right to rule a dynasty misses the point. Here is a fulfilment, one of hundreds of prophecies fulfilled perfectly by a man whose very existence is considered impossible. He can’t be the son of a virgin. He can’t be man and God. He can’t be David heir to the throne. He can’t save us by dying. He can’t rise from the dead.
Yet here He is, standing at the center of history, in every age, colossal, immoveable, invincible, undeniable. The secular Pharisees of today mock Him, pose rules that cancel His existence, accuse His followers of heinous crimes and failings. The circumstances may seem to tell against Him, but see God’s heart before you weigh the circumstances. Look what kind of love it took to send God’s only Son to earth, knowing what we were going to do to Him. Every wound, every bruise tells it one way, but if we know our God, as the shepherd king knew Him, His great heart first, defining our circumstances, then everything has a meaning, and all the chaotic pieces fall into place.
It’s commonplace to deny Him, to laugh at anyone waiting for His return. Let them laugh. There may be a lot of things we still don’t know, and may never know. But the Son of David, incarnate Son of the Living God, showed us His wonderful, loving heart, and we believe it. All else will be revealed, but we know the core, the central plot, the meaning of it all. And that meaning is Love.