Sunday 29 July 2012

The final question (Matthew 22:41-46)

Every teacher, every politician and every pastor wants to know the secret of verse 46: “No-one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no-one dared to ask him any more questions.” How did Jesus do that? What did he say that made his strongest opponents go, “You got us there, Jesus. You win.” Actually, if you look at it again, they didn’t say anything at all. They were speechless! How did Jesus do that?

The problem is when we do look back to what Jesus said in verse 45, we still don’t get it. “How can he be David’s son?” that is what Jesus asks the Pharisees. Some of us don’t get it because we’re wondering, “Who’s David?” But even those who do know about David; who do know what Jesus is getting at, you are probably thinking, “Meh, so what? What is the big deal?”

So, the challenge for us today is not so much to understand the answer, but to get the question. Jesus gives us the answer first to think about, and then gives us a question to chew over. To help us do that, we are going to walk through today’s passage in three steps; looking at three questions:

1. What do you think? (verses 41-42)
2. Who is the Lord? (verses 43-44)
3. Who is your Lord? (verses 45-46)

1. What do you think?

Jesus begins by asking the Pharisees to think.

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.
Matthew 22:41-42

To the Pharisees, this was a basic Sunday School question. How many disciples did Jesus  have? How many books are there in the bible? Where was Jesus born? It was the kind of question that had a standard answer. And the answer than they gave Jesus would have gotten them an A+ in Sunday School.

Now in case some of us here didn’t go to Sunday School - I didn’t, by the way, so you are in good company - the word “Christ” means God’s chosen king. Thousands of years ago, God promised King David in 2 Samuel Chapter 7, that one of his sons would inherit a kingdom that would last forever. And for thousands of years after that, all the prophets kept pointing forward to the coming of this king, called the Messiah in Hebrew, and the Christ in Greek. They taught their kids, “One day, God will send us a king like David. He will be the Christ. He will be the Son of David.” So, that’s the quick background.

When Jesus asked, “Whose son is the Christ?” These religious teachers who grew up in Sunday School, who were themselves Sunday School teachers... they didn’t have to open up their bibles. They didn’t have to go on Wikipedia and look up the history or the Greek word or the Hebrew translation. Every single hand in class shot up. “Ohh! Oooh! I know the answer. It’s David. He is the son of David!”

But they missed the question. Jesus was not asking them what they knew. He was asking them to think. “What do you think about the Christ?” The Pharisees gave an unthinking answer. Similarly today, if I were to ask the kids in our Sunday School, and go, “Jesus is the Son of....” every kid would probably go, “God!” That would be a right answer and a good answer. But at some point, we as Sunday School teachers and bible study leaders need to ask our friends “What do you think about Jesus as the Son of God?”

That is the question Jesus is really asking. And even though the Pharisees give him the standard Sunday School answer, Jesus doesn’t give up. He presses them further and asks them, “Who is the Lord?”

2. Who is the Lord?

He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord:
‘‘Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’
Matthew 22:43-44

Psalm 110 is the most popular psalm in the entire bible. Psalms are songs of praise, and Psalm 110, composed by none other than King David himself, was the kind of song that was played on every radio station. You heard it everywhere. Twenty-seven times, the New Testament writers quote from this single psalm, Psalm 110. Why? Because Psalm 110 is a song about the Christ. Only here, David doesn’t call him the Christ. He calls him “Lord.”

Jesus’ question is, “How can David call his son, Lord?” to which most of us today would go, “What’s the big deal? Why shouldn’t he call him Lord?” The word “Lord” can mean king, but it can simply mean, “Boss,” or as we would say in Cantonese, Lo Sai. Back home in Malaysia, I would call the owner of the coffee shop, “Boss, one cup of iced tea, please.” Nothing wrong with that. “Boss” is a term of recognition and respect.

But you see, here we do have a problem. A very big one, I might add. David was addressing his son as Lord. Today, if a businessman’s son does better than his father, we would call that good upbringing. His father would be proud to have a son who is more successful, more powerful, more wealthy than himself. A good father would want even better things for his son to inherit and to enjoy. But his son would still be his son. He would still be his father. The son should still honour his father and submit to his father. What he happening here in Psalm 110 is the direct opposite: David submits himself to his son. And Jesus’ question is: How can David do this?

The answer is, there is a second Lord in the room. A greater Lord. “The Lord said to my Lord.” Did you notice that. One Lord is speaking to another Lord. One Lo Sai is speaking to another Lo Sai. We know that the second Lord is the Christ. The question is, who is the first Lord?

To answer that question, have a look at Psalm 110 itself. Do you notice anything peculiar about the first line?

The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”
Psalm 110:1

The first LORD is spelled out in capitals, see that? It is actually God’s name which was considered so holy and so awesome that anyone reading their Jewish bibles would have been too afraid to saying it out loud. So instead, they would say ADONAI, which, surprise, surprise... means, “My Lord.”

What is going here? God is the LORD who is speaking to the Christ, the second Lord. And what he says is, “Sit at my right hand.” You are going to rule by my side in my kingdom. Not only that, God says to him, “I will make your enemies bow down before you.” You see, in this vision that David writes down as Song 110, he sees God as the father and the Christ as his Son. And David bows down before them both and calls them, “Lord.” David submits to his son and calls him, “My Lord.”

Here is a king who would rule God’s kingdom. Notice as well, that this king has enemies. Unlike David, who conquered his enemies in order to establish his kingdom, what does God say to his Son? Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. Meaning, the Christ will ascend first, the Messiah will rule first, and only after that will his enemies be conquered. In fact, verse 2 of Psalm 110 reads, “You will rule in the midst of your enemies.”

Earlier on, I mentioned a problem. A big problem. How can the son not submit to his father? Jesus gives us the answer: This Son is submitting to his Father, only his father isn’t David. His father is the LORD. God the Son sits at the right hand of God the Father. He listens to his voice of instruction. At the same time, God the Father gives his authority to his Son to rule and to reign.

Stepping back, Jesus is giving us a picture of the Trinity - of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, in relationship with one another. The Father exalts the Son and gives him glory over to him. The Son submits to the Father, ruling by his side. The Spirit bears witness to the Son, enabling David to testify to what he has seen and heard in scripture. This is the Trinity and it is a pretty amazing thing to behold.

Jesus is asking us, Do we see this? Do we see him as Lord? He is the one who willingly submits to God, his true Lord and his true heavenly father.

3. Who is your Lord?

Finally, we come back to big question. The question of questions.

“If then David calls him ‘Lord’, how can he be his son?” No-one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no-one dared to ask him any more questions.
Matthew 22:45-46

Why were they speechless? Most of them were speechless because they were probably shocked. It never occurred to them that the Christ was such a big deal. Some of them were probably flipping through their bibles furiously trying to find a response but unable to come up with a good answer - How can the Christ be David’s son?

But I wonder, if some of them were speechless because they realised what Jesus was really asking them to do. He was trying to get them to think... of David’s relationship to this Christ, and maybe even, their own relationship to the Christ. Of David’s relationship to God and their own relationship to God. Jesus was a in a room full of Sunday School teachers and he was saying to them, “This stuff that you are teaching your kids, do you believe it yourself?”

When David composed this song thousands of years ago, he wasn’t writing a kids song for his church’s Summer Holiday Club. This was worship. It was an overflow of his love for God. And when David considered God’s promise to him that one day, a son of his would inherit a throne and a kingdom that was infinitely more glorious than his own, David bowed down and worshipped. “My Lord.” That’s what he called him.

This week has been a tiring one. We had fifty-plus kids join us at our Summer Holiday Club. Teachers, helpers, organisers, cooks, teaching-assistants, parents all worked hard to bring the kids together and help them to know Jesus. I think Jesus would ask you today, as he did with the Sunday School teachers in his day, is the bible just another syllabus to cover? Is it just another thing we do every year, once a year, to keep the children occupied? Is it hard work and that’s it?

Or... is it worship? Sadly, I think in Jesus’ day, they didn’t get it. The Pharisees were speechless because they were outmatched. But I hope we do. David saw the Christ and called him Lord. Meaning, are we bowing down before Jesus as our Lord? That’s what Thomas did after the resurrection, do you remember. He said, “My Lord and my God!” What did Jesus reply to him? “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Thomas saw Jesus in the flesh, David saw Jesus in the spirit, but as for us here today, we haven’t seen. What does Jesus say to us? “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” How are we to do this? John tells us:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:31

In the book of Acts, Peter quotes this exact psalm, Psalm 110 - the exact same words - and says to the crowd, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” He was using Psalm 110 to explain what happened on the cross. By dying on the cross, Jesus proved that he was the true king. To be sure, Jesus was a totally unexpected king. He was the King who died for his enemies. He was the kind of Lord who served his subjects. Peter says to the crowd, “It is this same Jesus whom you rejected and crucified, but whom God raised to be Lord and Christ.”

Every knee will bow

What does this mean for us? Well, let me ask you again the three questions I have asked us to think through.

A. What do you think?
The reason we read our bibles is not to find answers, but to think through the answers. You might have read Matthew’s gospel before. Read it again. You might have heard the gospel before. Hear it again. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:7, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” God’s word shapes and reshapes our mind. His voice refreshes and renews our spirits. Jesus isn’t looking for good little boys and girls who will score 100% in bible quiz. He is calling his sheep who know his voice and obey his will.

B. Who is Lord?
Who calls the shots in your life? To call Jesus Lord is to submit to him as our King. What he says goes. He calls us to live holy lives. He calls us to speak boldly for the gospel. He calls us to love the church. Not simply because these are good things to do that will get us into heaven. But because we love him and we submit to his lordship.

C. Who is your Lord?
When someone looks at your life, do they see someone living selfishly just for themselves. Do they see someone complaining about their boss? Or do they see worship: Someone who does what they do out of joy and thanksgiving for all that Jesus has done for them?

Maybe some of you look at Jesus as say to yourselves, “I don’t want this King. I don’t want him to be Lord.” Remember Psalm 110. This King is already enthroned. Jesus is already Lord sitting at the right hand of his Father in heaven. One day, God will make all his enemies bow down before Jesus and confess him as their Lord. “Every knee shall bow, in heaven, on earth, under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” Paul says (Philippians 2:10-11). But that is not the invitation of today. Today, we have the opportunity to say to Jesus, “You are my Lord.” To do so willingly and thankfully. Today, we can still come to him at the cross, in his death and in his forgiveness and receive from him forgiveness, life and love.

Jesus Christ is Lord. One day every tongue will confess him as Lord. But today, we have the opportunity to respond together with David, to look to the cross, and say, “My Lord... and my God.”

My Lord, what love is this
that pays so dearly
That I the guilty one,
may go free

Amazing love oh what sacrifice
The Son of God giv’n for me
My debt He pays and my death He dies
That I might live, that I might live
(“Amazing Love”, Graham Kendrick)

No comments: