2019-11-03 Whose Son is the Christ?

Whose Son is the Christ?
Mark 12:35-44
November 03, 2019

Prayer of Illumination:

O Lord God, give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand. Without your enlightening, we cannot understand your Word. So Lord God, send your Spirit so that we might see, hear, and understand. Send your Spirit so that we might be transformed by your Word. We ask this in Christ, amen.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 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.” ’ 

37 David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” 

The large crowd listened to him with delight. 

38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” 

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

Basketball season is just around the corner. I know many of you are Tar Heels and bleed blue and silver but I am and always will be a Buckeye. Because I’m a Buckeye, we grew up watching Big Ten basketball. While everyone was enthralled with how well Tom Izzo could make Michigan State a well rounded team and how U of M could play high flying basketball, the team that got forgotten about in all of it was Wisconsin.

Wisconsin wasn’t and still isn’t the most exciting team to watch. Their game plan is rather simple, defend, defend, defend. And then when the team has tired themselves out, Wisconsin strikes on the counter.

Throughout this chapter, Jesus has fielded question after question. He has been on the defensive as the various groups that make up the Sanhedrin attack. The Pharisees and Herodians went first, attacking and Jesus defended. Then the Sadducees went on the offensive and Jesus defended with Scripture. And finally a scribe attacked and Jesus held his own, defending with all wisdom.

Now it is Jesus’ turn to attack. He has amazed everyone with his responses to every question, doing more than holding his own. Now he asks a question about the relationship between the Christ and David. As we examine this passage we’ll see whose son the Christ is, we’ll see a warning against hypocrisy, and we’ll see a call to radical generosity.

Whose Son is the Christ?

Jesus asks a question about the relationship between the Christ and David. He cites Psalm 110 to discuss the relationship between the Christ and David. This was a Psalm of David. Everyone knew it. And Jesus introduces the quotation by saying that David wrote the psalm by the Holy Spirit.

We’ve already seen that Jesus has a high view of Scripture. He is constantly quoting Scripture and letting Scripture direct and guide how we should live. And the reason that he is always letting Scripture guide and direct is because it is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit caused the Scriptures to be written.

That’s exactly what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16. He says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” All Scripture is inspired by God. God the Holy Spirit directed and guided the authors of Scripture so that it tells us God’s plan of redemption.

That’s exactly what the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith says. It says that “it pleased God to put this entire revelation into writing so that the truth might be better preserved and transmitted and that the church, confronted with the corruption of the flesh and the evil purposes of Satan and the world, might be more securely established and comforted… All of these books are inspired by God and are the rule of faith.”

Since all Scripture is God-breathed and inspired by God, we should read it as God’s word to us. We should read it and know it. There might be passages that we don’t like because it causes us to see our sin. Let us not ignore those passages. Let us read them and know that those passages are the medicine for our sin sick hearts. Those passages are the diagnosis of our sickness and the medicine to heal us. There might be passages that challenge us culturally and we might be tempted to think, “I don’t need to read that. We’ve moved passed that”. Read it. God directed and guided the writing of it. It is his word for us.

Because Scripture is written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Jesus points us to a seeming contradiction. The seeming contradiction has to do with whose son the Christ is. Everyone believed that the Christ was the son of David. They looked at passages like 2 Samuel 7 where God promises that David’s son will establish the great kingdom (2 Sam. 7:12).

But here in this psalm, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David writes, “The Lord said to my Lord”. It’s hard for us to see in the English but David is talking about God. The first “Lord” in Hebrew is YHWH, the covenant name of God. That is the name God revealed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That is the name that God explained to Moses when he said, “I am who I am” in Exodus 3. 

The second “Lord” in Hebrew is Adonai. That title is commonly used for God. It shows God’s absolute sovereignty. When it isn’t used in relation to God, it is used to a superior; kind of like how we use “Mister” or “Misses”. In Hebrew culture, that title would never be given to a son. In Hebrew, and in many other traditional cultures, the son is never considered greater than the father.

So Jesus asks, “David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ In what way then can he be his son?” How can the Christ be the son of David and at the same time greater than David? How can the Christ be David’s son and his Lord?

Jesus is not posing this question to cast doubt on either his Davidic lineage or the fact he is greater than David. The Christ is both the son of David and greater than David. The Christ is David’s son and God’s son. He is both. Jesus posing this question so that we recognize he is both David’s son and worthy of the same title of God, Adonai. The Christ is both David’s son and God’s son.

It is really important for us to recognize that Jesus is both the son of David and the Son of God. He is fully human and fully divine. Jesus is one person with both a human and divine nature. 

It’s important because of what the Christ does. The Christ is the one who redeems the Church from sin and misery. Because humanity sinned, a human needed to be the one who redeemed humanity. That is what Paul says in Galatians 4:4-5. For humanity to be redeemed we needed a human to meet the requirements of the law.

But the problem is no human meet the requirements of the law. By virtue of our total depravity, we cannot meet the requirements of the law. We are born in sin and sin willingly. Therefore, we are unable to meet the requirements of the law. The only one who could meet the requirements of the law is God himself. The Christ is David’s son yes. But he is also God’s son. He is both fully human and fully divine. 

This is not just academic. This is not just theology we have written in books. This matters to each and every one of us because Jesus, God, was born of a virgin. He is fully God and fully man. He lived a perfect life under the law in order to redeem sinners from the law and bring them into the heavenly family through his death and resurrection. It is precisely because Jesus is both the son of David and the Son of God that we are redeemed from our sin and misery and adopted into the heavenly family.

Jesus is currently sitting at the right hand of God the Father. There he is interceding for his people. There he is guiding and directing history until sin and death are defeated once for all when he returns. When Jesus returns, he will usher in a new kingdom; a kingdom greater and more wonderful than the one King David presided over. This new kingdom will be free from the stain of sin and misery. And on the throne of that new kingdom will be the greater David, Jesus the God-Man.

Jesus is son of David and the Son of God.

A Warning Against Hypocrisy

After drawing attention to the relationship between David and the Christ, Jesus gives a warning against hypocrisy.

As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

After he asked his question, Jesus and the disciples are still in the temple complex where he continued teaching. He was teaching against the teachers of the law and their hypocrisy. The teachers of the law were easy to spot because they wore these long flowing white robes with tassels. The white represented purity and holiness. The tassels were to remind them to pray. Most people wore simple clothes, often with bright colors. And because of their dress, they were easy to spot. 

In addition to wearing distinctive clothing, teachers of the law loved to be treated as special. They liked and expected to be greeted with respect when they entered a room. They made a big to-do over their prayers, wanting others to recognize how beautifully they prayed. They expected to be given the seats of honor at feasts and at worship.

The teachers of the law were hypocrites. They wanted people to recognize them as more holy and they wanted to be given special treatment. They weren’t teachers of the law and experts in Scripture because they loved God. They were teachers of the law and experts so they could be praise themselves. That is hypocrisy.

Jesus warns against hypocrisy. He says that hypocrites will “be punished most severely”. This is some of the strongest language our Lord has used. “It is bad enough to be led away captive by open sin, and to serve various different lusts and pleasures. But it is even worse to pretend to have a religion, while in reality we serve the world. Let this be a warning to us.

Hypocrisy can take many forms. The most obvious are those like the teachers of the law who use religion as a show and self advancement. When I was in college, the girl I was dating was an R.A.; she was in charge of one hallway in the dormitory. Her boss, the guy who was in charge of the whole dorm, was working to a master’s degree in Poli Sci. 

One day he had thrown a party and I got a chance to talk with him. I asked him what his plans were when he finished his Poli Sci degree. He said that he’d like to be in government in some capacity. Then he said sort of offhandedly that before he ever made a run for city council or state senate, he’d need to join a church since most Americans don’t trust atheists. He was a hypocrite. He was using religion for self advancement.

That’s the most obvious form of hypocrisy. There are those who join a church and make a profession of faith simply because they think it will be good for them and their self advancement. They join not because they love God but because it will improve their standing in some way. Maybe it’ll improve their standing with job prospects. Maybe it’ll improve their standing in the community. In any case, it is hypocrisy.

There is a more subtle and pernicious form of hypocrisy. This form has an appearance of true faith. On appearance, they seem model Christians. They read the Bible, they attend worship regularly. But their hypocrisy shows in that they believe their justification depends upon their sanctification; their hypocrisy shows in that they believe their salvation depends upon their work. Moralism and legalism is a far more subtle and pernicious form of hypocrisy because it has an appearance of true faith. And Jesus condemns hypocrites to a most severe condemnation.

But if we understand the first point, that Jesus is the son of David and the Son of God and that through him is redemption, then we will not be hypocrites. We won’t come to worship for our self advancement; we’ll come to praise God because we are moved by how he has redeemed us. We won’t desire to honored as the teachers of law desired to be honored; we’ll see to honor others.

If we understand that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man and came to establish a greater kingdom than David’s through his death, resurrection, and ascension then we won’t be hypocrites. We will recognize our inability to save ourselves and gladly praise the one who redeemed and saved us.

Hypocrisy is ultimately playacting. It is acting as though everything is alright; that everything is perfect. But when you understand that Jesus loved his people enough to take on humanity, to live under the law, to die for a people who had broken the law, and was raised showing that in him is newness of life, you no longer need to playact; you no longer need to pretend everything is alright. You can admit your sin and know that in Christ you are forgiven. 

In this passage we’ve seen whose son the Christ is and we’ve heard a warning against hypocrisy. Now we’ll hear a call to radical generosity.

A Call to Radical Generosity

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Does it not seem odd that after drawing attention to the relationship between the Christ and David and then condemning hypocrites that Jesus then moves on to talking about a widow? Why does he do this?

One of the things he condemned the teachers of the law for was their “devour widows’ houses”. They had no concern for the poor or the widow. The teachers of the law were concerned only about themselves. And yet throughout the Old Testament, we find that God has a special place for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the alien. He is concerned for the most vulnerable and most easily abused and misused person.

But here this widow who has nothing puts two coins worth less than a penny into the treasury. She did that out of her poverty. Why? Because she understood that God has a special place for the most vulnerable, the most easily abused and misused people. She understood that God is concerned for those people. And because she understood that God was concerned for the poor and the widow, she trusted that God would provide for her. So she could be radically generous what little she had.

As those who have experienced God’s radical generosity ourselves, we should be radically generous to others. We have experienced God’s radical generosity in coming to us and redeeming us. We should be just as radically generous.

We should be radically generous with our money; giving to the Church, giving to missionaries, caring for the sick and the poor. We have an opportunity a little later in this service to do that. As is our tradition on Sundays that we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we take a second collection so that we can care for those in our community who are in need. Let us be generous in giving to that collection so we can care for those who need a little help. Let us generously give and support the Church and those who share the good news.

Let us be radically generous with our time and energy. Let us give our time to supporting and caring for others just as our Lord has.

See when we are radically generous, we show that we have been transformed by God; we show that we understand that we have been redeemed by a generous God. Our generosity is a sign that we are not hypocrites but true believers.

Let us pray.