Matthew 22:41-23:12; Mark 12:35-40; Luke 20:41-47
A Taste of Their Own Medicine
Jesus has now responded to three questions in a row, four counting the earlier one about his authority. After he answers, we read that the people marveled or were astonished at his teaching. Indeed, after his last answer concerning the great commandment, we read that no one dared ask him any more questions.
But Jesus had a question to ask them. Interestingly, it seems like an academic question, something a teacher would ask in seminary class. I say, interestingly, because we expect Jesus to ask a practical question like the lawyer did in the passage just before. So what is the purpose of Jesus’ question? I suggest that one purpose is to teach something about the Messiah that the scribes and Pharisees had ignored (which makes the question practical), but, second, to publicly stump the Pharisees in order to: a) give them a taste of their own medicine as they had just finished drilling him, and, b) to humble them before the people. As to the first purpose, Jesus asks the Pharisees, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They answer, as any Jewish schoolboy of that day would, “The Son of David.” Jesus responds quoting Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’” And then Jesus asks the logical question following the Pharisees’ earlier reply, “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”
Jesus was not denying that the Messiah would be of David’s lineage, as both genealogies make clear (Matthew 1:6; Luke 3:31), as well as the apostles (Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8; Revelation 5:5; 22:16). He was adding that divine element which David teaches in the psalm, which element the Jewish leadership misunderstood, seeing the Messiah as more of a national leader. So Jesus once again declares his divine sonship, but in a veiled way.
But I also believe that Jesus was “taking the Pharisees to school,” as we would say today: “You like to debate minutiae about the law? Here’s one for you.” And in doing so, he further condemns their hypocrisy: Their tying heavy burdens on people with their excruciating interpretations of the law while they go about in nice clothes, receive flatteries, and crave the honor of men. Jesus reminds his followers that they must obey where the Pharisees are correct, but are not to copy their manners. Instead, Jesus’ disciples are to prefer humility over honor and Christ as their teacher. I imagine the Pharisees pouted, but may we be proud to be “taken to school” by Jesus.