Friday, June 5, 2009

"How Do They Claim That The Messiah Is The Son Of David?" Jesus Asked.

Mark 12:35-37

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, "How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: "'The Lord said to my Lord:"Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."
David himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?" The large crowd listened to him with delight.

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On Tuesday of this week, we read about the Pharisees and Herodians who tried to trap Jesus by asking him whether it was lawful to pay the Roman census tax or not. On Wednesday, it was the Sadducee’s turn to post a tricky question to Jesus, about a woman who married seven brothers in succession, but conceived offspring with none of them: whose spouse will she be in the next life. It seems a strange question coming from people who did not believe in life after death. On Thursday, a scribe asked Jesus a straightforward question: Which is the greatest of the commandments? The answer: Love God and love your neighbor. That is the entire law summed up in one precept.

Today, it is Jesus turn to ask a tricky question: While he was teaching in the temple courtyard, he asked, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? Doesn’t David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declare:
The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I place your enemies
beneath your feet.”

Now, David himself calls the Messiah Lord. So how can he be David’s son?”

The crowd listened to Jesus with delight. How the Pharisees, Sadducees and Teachers of the Law reacted is not written in Mark’s gospel.

Today’s gospel is puzzling for Bible scholars. It is subject to many different interpretations. The people who were listening to Jesus believed the scripture that said the Messiah would be a descendant of David. There were texts in the Hebrew Scriptures to prove it: “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:13) Now Jesus comes along and confuses the issue. Is he saying that the Messiah will not be a descendant of David? Or is he saying that the Messiah would be much more than a descendant of David?

In the gospel of John, Jesus says to the people “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." They answered “We are children of Abraham, and have never been slaves to anyone. How can you say that we will be set free?”

How can these descendants of Abraham not remember that once their ancestors were slaves in Egypt, until Moses led them to the Land of Promise? Is it because their minds are clouded by “concrete thinking”? If a Teacher of the Law has firmly in mind that the Messiah will be a descendant of David, he will be put off by the citation Jesus makes of 2 Samuel, which suggests that the throne of David will not last forever – a prophecy that has long since been fulfilled, since the rulers of the Land of Promise are now a Roman procurator named Pontius Pilate and a Idumaean satrap named Herod Antipas.

Sometimes we believe that understanding a concept clearly is proof that it is true. But the truth is that a concept can be both clear and false. To make matters even more complex, sometimes a statement can be true in one sense and untrue in another. Or, even more amazing, sometimes two notions that appear contradictory can be true at the same time (but not in the same respect).

This is the case with Jesus. In the flesh, he is the son of Mary, a descendant of the house of Aaron, the high priest; and according to the Law of Moses, he is the son of Joseph, of the House of David, who received Mary into his home without acknowledging his paternity of the yet unborn child. On the other hand, Jesus is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, who is, who was, and who will be in all eternity.

The Jews who were listening to Jesus did not understand what he was saying, because their minds were clouded by what they believed to be the truth. The high school pupil poring over a mathematical formula in the text book cries out “I’ve got it!” The university student in conference with his professor says, “Thank you for explaining that concept; I’m beginning to grasp it.” The words we commonly use to express understanding speak of truth as an object, and the human mind as a strong box in which the precious object is kept.

But that is far from the truth about our relationship with God’s truth. Jesus, in John 7, says to the Jews, “The truth will set you free.” But they, especially their leaders, refused to accept a truth they could not grasp, that Jesus, the rabbi from Galilee, was at the same time son of Mary and Son of God.

It is not for us to grasp the fullness of the truth, which is far beyond our reach. Rather, we should extend our hands upward and outward in the universal gesture of prayer and supplication, and allow the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, to lead us, to teach us, and to grant us eternal life.

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