Son of David

Jesus is the son of David, heir to the Davidic throne, beloved Son of God, and the ruler of the kings of the earth

The gospel of Matthew calls Jesus the “son of David” and demonstrates what it means to be the king of Israel and the “Son of God.” Traditionally, this designation is linked with the kingly line of David. But in the gospel account, that understanding of the Messiah is turned upside down.

The “son of David” revealed in the gospel is far more than the ruler of the nation of Israel, he is a king of a very different kind.

Nevertheless, Matthew demonstrates that he is the Messiah and heir of David’s throne by applying scriptural citations and allusions to this Jesus of Nazareth, the one destined to die on a Roman cross.

For example, at his baptism, the Spirit descends on him “like a dove,” and the voice from heaven declares: “This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I delight.” The description combines words from two messianic passages:

  • (Psalm 2:7) – “Yahweh said to me: YOU ARE MY SON; this day have I begotten you.”
  • (Isaiah 42:1) – “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, IN WHOM MY SOUL DELIGHTS. I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.”

But the gospel account does not simply pile on prooftexts to validate Christ’s genealogical credentials. By combining these two prophecies, a figure is presented who fulfills both roles as the king of Israel and as the Servant of Yahweh.

ROYAL SUFFERING SERVANT

First, he is the “son of David” who is destined to reign from Zion. Second, he is the “Suffering Servant” described in the book of Isaiah, the one who is “cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people.”

ONE ROLE CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD APART FROM THE OTHER. Though on the surface these two roles are disparate, they are inextricably linked. The same words are heard again at the Transfiguration of Jesus when “a voice out of the cloud said: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him!” – (Isaiah 53:8, Matthew 17:5).

In the New Testament, the second Psalm is applied to Jesus IN HIS PRESENT ROLE as the one who reigns at God’s “right hand.” This is the psalm of David that promises one of his descendants will reign on his throne:

  • (Psalm 2:1-9) – “Why do the nations rage, and the peoples meditate a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh, and against his anointed, sayingLet us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sits in the heavens will laugh. The Lord will have them in derision. Then will he speak  to them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure: Yet I have set my king on my holy hill of Zion. I will tell of the decree: Yahweh said to me: You are my son - This day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.

THE CONSPIRACY

As predicted by the Psalmist, Jesus endures the conspiracy by the religious leaders of Israel bent on his destruction - the “chief priests and the whole council sought false witness against Jesus that they might put him to death - (Matthew 26:59, 27:1).

And that is how the early church interpreted this prophecy. For example, after enduring threats from the priests and Sadducees, Peter prayed:

  • O Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them iswho by the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant, did say, Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? THE KINGS OF THE EARTH SET THEMSELVES IN ARRAY, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER, AGAINST THE LORD, AND AGAINST HIS CHRISTfor of a truth in this city against your holy Servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy council foreordained to come to pass” - (Acts 4:24-28).

Like Matthew, Peter also combines the images of the Suffering Servant with the royal figure from the second Psalm. But it is not just the nations of the earth that rage “against Yahweh and His anointed,” but especially the LEADERS OF ISRAEL.

His murder by the “chief priests is anticipated in Christ’s parable about the vineyard and its tenants. At harvest time, the owner sends several servants to “receive the fruit” that was due. However, each time he does so, the “tenants” abuse and even kill his envoys.

Finally, he sends his “son,” expecting they will respect the son and heir. But the “tenants” are bent on “seizing the inheritance” for themselves no matter what, so they murder his “son” - (Matthew 21:33-45).

The parable echoes the words from the second Psalm that describe the conspiracy against “Yahweh’s anointed.” And Christ’s parable is directed against the very ones who are plotting his death, and “when the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he spoke of them.

WAY TO THE THRONE

Jesus certainly is the heir of David destined to reign forever. But before his exaltation to the throne, he must suffer as the Servant of Yahweh,” and that is precisely what occurs in Matthew’s account.

He is exalted and given “all power in heaven and on earth” only after his death and resurrection. Paradoxically, he conquers his enemies by undergoing an unjust and shameful death even for them – by dying for them rather than slaying his enemies.

And since his resurrection, he has reigned on the messianic throne as the “ruler of the kings of the earth.” And this is why since then he has sent his followers to herald the good news of God’s kingdom “to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Now is the time for the “KINGS OF THE EARTH” to “kiss the son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way.” And these very words imply that the possibility exists for the redemption of this group – (Psalm 2:12, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:6-9).

The final act in Matthew is the “commissioning” of the disciples. The picture is not of a political revolutionary, but of an already ruling monarch sending his representatives throughout his domain to announce his reign, and there are no geographical limits on the sovereignty of the “son of Yahweh” – (Matthew 28:18-20).

Thus, Jesus IS the heir to the messianic throne, the “son of David.” But this necessitates his first becoming the “servant of the Lord,” the one who suffers for His people. The royal road to Zion lies through Golgotha.


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