Christ ' s question to the Pharisees concerning the Messiah. ( Mark 12:35-37 ; Luke 20:41-44 .)
The Lord said unto my Lord ( Psalms 110:1 ). The quotation is from the Septuagint. But neither this nor our English Version is an adequate rendering of the original, where the word translated "Lord" is not the same in both parts of the clause, More accurately, the solemn beginning of the psalm is thus given: "Utterance [or, 'oracle'] of Jehovah to my Lord ( Adonai ) . " The psalmist acknowledges the recipient of the utterance as his sovereign Lord; this could be no earthly potentate, for on earth he had no such superior; Jewish tradition always applied the term unto the Messiah, or the Word. The prediction repeats the promise made by Nathan to David ( 2 Samuel 7:12 ), which had no fulfilment in his natural progeny, and could be regarded as looking forward only to the Messiah. Sit thou on my right hand. Thus Messiah is exalted to the highest dignity in heaven. Sitting at God's right hand does not necessarily imply complete Divine majesty (as Hengstenberg remarks), for the sons of Zebedee had asked for such a position in Messiah's earthly kingdom ( Matthew 20:21 ); but it denotes supreme honour, association in government, authority second only to that of Monarch. This is said of Christ in his human nature. He is "equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; inferior to the Father, as touching his manhood." In his Divine nature he could receive nothing; in his human nature all "power was given unto him in heaven and earth" ( Matthew 28:18 ). Till I make ( ἑ ì ως ἀ Ì ν θῷ ) thine enemies thy footstool; ὑποπο ì διον τῶν ποδῶν σου . This is the Septuagint reading. Many manuscripts here give ὑποκα ì τω τῶν ποδῶν σου Till I put thine enemies underneath thy feet. Some few have both ὑποπο ì διον and ὑποκα ì τω . Vulgate, Donec ponam inimicos tuos scabellum pedum tuorum. The complete subjection of all adversaries is denoted; and they are subjected not merely for punishment and destruction, but, it may be, for salvation and glory. The relative particle "till" must not be pressed, as if Christ's session was to cease when his victory was completed. We have before had occasion to observe that the phrase, ἑ ì ως οὗ , or ἑ ì ως ἀ Ì ν , asserts nothing of the future beyond the event specified. As St. Jerome says of such negative phrases, "Ita negant praeteritum ut non ponant futurum" (comp. Matthew 1:25 ; Matthew 5:26 ; Matthew 18:34 ). Of Christ's kingdom there is no end.
I. THE QUESTION OF THE LAWYER .
1 . The gathering of the Pharisees. The multitude were astonished at the wisdom, the deep and holy teaching, of the blessed Lord. He had answered the pretended difficulties of the Sadducees, and had proved the great doctrine of the resurrection from the very books which they prized most highly. The Pharisees heard that he had put their adversaries to silence. They came together. Their feelings, doubtless, were various: many of them were angry and troubled at the Lord's success and popularity; some were vexed at his superiority in theological argument,—he had done what they could not do; some few had better motives.
2 . The lawyer. He had beard the Lord reasoning with the Sadducees; like the scribes mentioned by St. Luke ( Luke 20:39 ), he perceived that he had answered them well, that he knew far better than himself the meaning of that Law of Moses which the scribes and lawyers professed to understand and to teach. He asked him a question, tempting him. We must not take it for granted that the intention was evil. The word may mean no more than "trying" him, as "God did tempt Abraham," trying his faith; as the Queen of Sheba came to "prove Solomon with hard questions." We know from St. Mark's narrative that the lawyer or scribe belonged to the better class of Pharisees. He recognized the wisdom of our Lord, and felt the truth and holiness of his words. "Which is the great commandment in the Law?" he said; or, as the words may perhaps be rendered, "What sort of commandment is great?" He may have been thinking of the Pharisaic distinction of commandments into great and small, heavy and light.
3 . The Lord ' s answer.
II. THE COUNTER QUESTIONS OF THE LORD .
1 . The first question. The Pharisees were still gathered together; most of them were filled with jealousy and hatred. All so understood the great truth of the unity of the Godhead as to suppose it impossible to regard the expected Messiah as other than merely human. Hence the Saviour's question, "What think ye concerning the Christ [the Messiah]? whose Son is he?" They thought the answer easy. They knew that the Scripture had said that the Christ cometh of the seed of David; they had said so before ( John 7:42 ), and now they answered at once, "The Son of David."
2 . The second question. Jesus quoted the hundred and tenth psalm—a psalm regarded by the rabbis as Messianic, "The Lord said unto my Lord [Jehovah said unto Adoni], Sit thou at my right hand." How could David speak of the Christ as his Lord? How could the Son of David be the Lord of David? David spoke in the Spirit, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. How did they, the teachers of Israel, understand those sacred words? They could not answer him. They did not deny the Messianic character of the psalm, as, alas! some do without good reason now. They believed that the psalm was David's, and that he was speaking of the Christ; but they did not know, as we know, that Christ "was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead;" that he was "God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of his mother, born in the world." We can answer the Lord's question readily; we know the Christian faith. The Pharisees could not answer him a word; and none from that time durst ask him any more questions.
1 . "The great commandment is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." Keep that commandment, and you are safe; neglect it, and no exactness of external obedience will atone for that neglect.
2 . The second commandment is like it: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." It is the rule which must guide the Christian in his relations to others.
3 . "What think ye of Christ?" He is the Son of God; he became for our sake also the Son of man. He is our God, our Saviour, our Example, our Life, our All in all.
The Divine Christ.
The often quoted question, "What think ye of Christ?" should be, "What think ye of the Christ?" Jesus was not asking the Pharisees for an opinion about himself, the speaker addressing them, as he had asked his disciples on a previous occasion ( Matthew 16:13 ). He was referring to the Jewish expectation of the Messiah, and without now pressing his own claim to be the Messiah, he was asking what idea the Pharisees had as to this great Hope of Israel. They had been questioning him; he now turns upon them with a penetrating inquiry.
I. THERE IS TESTIMONY TO THE CHRIST IN THE OLD TESTAMENT . Jesus quotes ancient prophecy. It may be said that he would thus find an argumentum ad hominem when arguing with a Jew. But it is evident that our Lord appealed to the Old Testament as to an authority which he himself valued. Thus he gives his own authority to support the Divine message of the prophets, and he justifies us in searching these Scriptures for the testimony they bear concerning him ( John 5:39 ). The value of the Old Testament in this respect is not that it shows how certain men were gifted with a miraculous foresight, by means of which they predicted the advent and life of Christ. This would be interesting chiefly as throwing light on the powers of the prophets, but it would not be of much practical use to us. We may see the Old Testament setting forth important truths about Christ. It foreshadows in a way to prepare the reader for understanding Christ. Thus it has its own gospel message.
II. THE OLD TESTAMENT TESTIFIES TO THE DIVINE GLORY OF THE CHRIST . Jesus selects one striking instance of this specific testimony. Psalms 110:1-7 . plainly represents the Messiah as greater than David, for, while written in the name of the king, it yet makes the founder of the Jewish dynasty address his descendant as "my Lord." This argument holds good, whether we believe the psalm to have been composed by the shepherd-king, or follow the recent criticism that rejects its Davidic authorship. For even in the latter case, it is plain that the inspired writer of the psalm taught that the Messiah was to be so much greater than his famous ancestor that it would be seemly for David to address him as "my Lord." This truth, then, was in the Old Testament. Yet those who most honoured their ancient Scriptures did not perceive it. We need the Spirit of Christ to help us to understand the prophecies of Christ.
III. OUR LORD GAVE THE HIGHEST INTERPRETATION TO THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES OF THE CHRIST . This tact is important in itself, as a light on the prophecies. But it is much more weighty when we consider it in relation to Jesus himself. We know that he claimed to be the Messiah, although he did not make that claim public till the end of his life. Therefore his interpretation of prophecy must be applied to his thought about himself. He was calm, unselfish, unambitious, lowly in heart and life. Yet he argued for the very highest attributes of the Name which he knew to be his own. Was he not speaking out of the depth of his self-consciousness? If he used such words as are here before us, he could not have been satisfied with being regarded as only a man. In veiled language to the Jews, but in language that is open as the day to us, Jesus claims to be Divine, and his character, his life, and his work all agree with his unique claim.—W.F.A.
In teaching his interrogators to love God, Jesus proceeds to direct them to the God they ought to love. This question, "What think ye of Christ?" was put to a representative assembly—Herodians, Sadducees, scribes or Karaites, and especially Pharisees, beside his disciples and the people. By proposing this one question of moment, Jesus proves the folly of those who by malevolent questions would prove his wisdom. It showed them that ignorance of the prophecies was the source of their captiousness. The question is for us.
I. WHAT THINK YE OF THE SONSHIP OF CHRIST ?
1 . He is the " Son of David. "
2 . He is the Son of God.
3 . He is at once the Son of David and the Son of God.
II. WHAT THINK YE OF HIS CHRISTSHIP ? As the Sonship is a rule of nature, the Christship is a title of office.
1 . As the Christ he is our Prophet.
2 . As the Christ he is our Priest.
3 . As the Christ he is our King.
We may estimate our character by our views of Christ. Some do not think of him at all. Some think too meanly of him, Some think too hardly of him. His true bride will esteem him "the fairest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely."—J.A.M.