On the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar, we are celebrating the feast of Christ the King. As members of the church, we are in the Kingdom of God started and headed by Christ. The salvation history will culminate when the Father will enthrone Jesus as the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev. 19:16). Through his dispute with the Pharisees, Jesus proved that the Messiah is more that the “son of David.” He is the also Son of God who came to the world as the son of man. Jesus acknowledged to Pilate that he is king; but his kingdom does not belong to this world (John 18:36). Jesus told his disciples: “you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world” (John 15:19). Let us acknowledge the glorious sacrifice of our redeemer who has chosen us out of the world to be the citizens of his divine kingdom. We must be loyal to his leadership, so we later enter the fullness of his kingdom.
The Question About David’s Son
(Matthew 22:41) As the Pharisees were gathered there, Jesus asked them, (42) “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?” They answered, “David’s.” (43) Jesus then asked, “Why then did David, inspired by the Spirit, call him Lord? For he says in a psalm: (44) The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right until I put your enemies under your feet. (45) If David calls him Lord, how can the Christ be his son?” (46) No one could answer him, not even a word. From that day on, no one dared question him anymore.
(Matthew 22:41) As the Pharisees were gathered there, Jesus asked them…
Diverse groups that opposed Jesus used to question him. Most of the queries were to refute him rather than to understand the divine truth from him. The context of this gospel passage is the Jewish leaders’ questioning of Jesus in Jerusalem for which he gave proper answers.
After responding to all these problematic questions, Jesus took his turn to ask a question to the Pharisees. Then the questioned became the questioner. While the purpose of those who questioned Jesus was to make some reason to put him to death, his purpose was to prove that he was the Messiah.
(42) “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?” They answered, “David’s.”
The Israelites were expecting a Messiah that God would send to deliver them from their bondage. The word Messiah came from the Hebrew word mashiach which means “anointed one” or “chosen one.” Its Greek version is Christos and English term is Christ. In Biblical times, priests, prophets, and kings were anointed with oil as a sign of God’s selection and consecration of them for a God-given role. The Jews were expecting a special Messiah, who would deliver Israel from the evil as God promised even from the time of Adam and renewed through other holy men in Israel’s history.
Jesus’ question to the Pharisees was on the sonship of the Messiah. There are seven sonship titles of the Messiah in the Bible, out of which the Pharisees chose one.
In answer to Jesus’ question, the Pharisees answered that the Messiah must be the Son of David. That was a popular expectation of the public regarding Messiah. That is clear from many people’s address of Jesus as the Son of David. Some examples are the crowds who doubted the Messiahship of Jesus (Matthew 12:23), the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:22), the crowds that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem shouting Hosanna (Matthew 21:9), and Bartimaeus who was a blind beggar (Mark 10:48).
Though Pharisees’ answer was correct, Jesus challenged their response to prove that the Messiah was more than David’s descendant.
(43) Jesus then asked, “Why then did David, inspired by the Spirit, call him Lord? For he says in a psalm: (44) The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right until I put your enemies under your feet. (45) If David calls him Lord, how can the Christ be his son?” (46) No one could answer him, not even a word. From that day on, no one dared question him anymore.
David, inspired by the Spirit
Jesus quoted from Psalm 110:1. “The LORD says to my LORD: ‘Sit at my right hand while I make your foes your footstool.’” David wrote this psalm under the Spirit’s inspiration because the words are not from him but from the LORD.
Call him Lord
The ‘lord’ or the Messiah would be far higher than an earthly king because the Messiah would rule the kingdom forever, as God promised to David. No earthly king can rule forever. David addressed that the future son to be born in his direct lineage as ‘lord.’ Besides, the “lord” was in existence before David. So, David said in the past tense that “the Lord said to my lord.” No son can exist before the father. The ‘lord’ is not just a son of David. Instead, this son must be of divine origin who existed with God the Father and incarnated in the lineage of David. He is the creator of David and his descendant, as Jesus revealed to St. John at Patmos: “I am the root and offspring of David, the radiant Morning Star.” (Rev. 22:16).
Sit at my right.
The Bible presents Jesus as one sitting at the right hand of the Father (Psalm 110:1,5, Matthew 26:64, Mark 16:19, Luke 22:69, and Acts 2:33, 7:55). The Biblical meaning of right hand is power, authority, or honor. The person next in authority used to sit on the right side of the king. When Bathsheba, the mother of King Solomon, approached the king, he honored her by sitting her at his right on a throne (1Kings 2:19). St. Stephen before his martyrdom had a vision of heaven. He said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55). There is no mention in the Bible as anyone sitting at the left side of God though there is a Jewish belief that Abraham sits at the left side of Yahweh.
Until I put your enemies under your feet
In the past there was a practice of the conquerors placing their feet upon the neck or body of their defeated enemies. Joshua 10:16-27 is an example. The Amorite kings were hiding in a cave at Makkedah while the Israelites conquered their nation. When the commanders of Joshua’s army brought these kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon to Joshua, he asked the commanders to put their feet on the necks of the kings while all army of Israel present. It was a sign of the victory of Israel over those kings. So also, the Spirit inspired David to say that one day the Messiah will bring the spiritual enemies under his feet.
(46) No one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
The Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and Scribes who used to question Jesus to put him in trouble found that he was a man of unbeatable wisdom. They could not defeat him in any Theological disputes. So, they stopped interrogating him with religious questions.
THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING
The kingship of Jesus differs from the concept of kingship in the world. The Jews misunderstood Messiah as a secular king who would liberate them from foreign rulers. The alien monarchs one after another like Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans ruled the Israelites, and that frustrated them. Even the disciples asked Jesus before the ascension, “Lord, is it now that you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). However, Jesus’ role was to reestablish the Kingdom of God by saving humanity from the bondage of Satan, sin, suffering, and death that entered the world because of the fall of the first parents. That is the permanent solution that God had offered to Adam.
“The envy of the devil brought death to the world, and those who take his side shall experience death.” (Wisdom 2:24). This death is physical and spiritual. Christ, through his death and resurrection, broke the power of the evil and set us free from the slavery of sin (CCC 421). By offering himself as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), Jesus has regained us “the promised eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9:15). “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16). As St. Paul wrote: “He is the head of the body, the church; he is also the first, the firstborn from the dead, that he may be the first in everything, for God was pleased to let all fullness dwell in him. Through him God willed to reconcile all things to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by establishing peace through his blood shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:18-20). At the end times, Jesus “is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with him are called, chosen and faithful.” (Rev. 17:14).
The term Christ or Messiah implied that God anointed him. Just as God selected and anointed the kings, prophets, and priests for His service, He sent Jesus as the Messiah in all the three roles. He performed the role of the prophet, priest, and king. As a prophet, he was the Word of God and preached it to the world (Luke 24:19). As a High Priest, “passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle… he entered once for all into the sanctuary, … with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:11-12). Jesus is “King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev. 19:16). “He revealed his almighty power in Christ when he raised him from the dead and had him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, power, authority, dominion, or any other supernatural force that could be named, not only in this world but also in the world to come. Thus has God put all things under the feet of Christ and set him as head over all things for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:20-23).
There are several references to the kingship of Jesus in the Bible. At the time of annunciation, Angel Gabriel told Mary, “The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever and his reign shall have no end.” (Luke 1:32-33). Jesus preached that the Kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:43, 11:20). Nathanael acknowledged Jesus, “Master, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49). Matthew quoting from Zechariah 9:9 reported that the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was the fulfillment of a prophecy: “Behold, your king is coming to you.” (Matthew 21:5). The people welcomed him saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” (Matthew 21:9). The accusation Jews brought to Pilate against Jesus was that he claimed to be the king of Jews because they knew that it would aggravate the Roman governor. Hence, Pilate questioned Jesus by asking, “Are You the King of the Jews?” to which he answered: “It is as you say.” (Matthew 27:11, Mark 15:2, Luke 23:3). Jesus clarified to Pilate, “My kingship does not come from this world.” (John 18:36). The soldiers of Pilate mocked Jesus based on the accusation against his claiming as king. “Then, twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto his head, and placed a reed in his right hand. They knelt before Jesus and mocked him, saying, ‘Long live the King of the Jews!’” (Matthew 27:29). The inscription Pilate placed on Jesus’ cross was: “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” (John 19:19).