Jesus Seizes the Initiative

Mark 12:35-37

Parallel Texts: Matthew 22:41-46; Luke 20:41-44

On that fateful Tuesday, Jesus has fought off three waves of attack from Jewish authorities who each peppered Him with questions designed to entrap Him into a mistake they could use as a pretense to arrest and kill Him. Now, Jesus moves to counter-attack.

His opening salvo comes in the form of a question in verse 35:  “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David?

To be fair, the teachers of the law were not wrong about the Messiah being the son of David in the sense that Messiah would clearly be of the House of David, the royal house of Israel, the house of kings. So, while they were technically correct as legalists usually are, they missed the larger point that Messiah would also be the Son of God, here on earth to establish an entirely new kind of kingdom; one that is not of this world at all.

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.”’

Mark 12:36; c.f. Psalm 110:1

Take careful notice, dear reader of this statement of Jesus, for many in our time seem to miss its ultimate significance. Jesus is making the point that David himself in the Psalm refers to this Messiah as “lord” and the son is not the lord over his father; it’s the other way around under the Law (Honor your father and mother). Therefore, the Messiah is not merely of the clan of David, because He is also the Son of God, and being God’s Son entirely supersedes the fact that He is of the House of David.

Here’s an example of this relationship: Suppose the president had a son who was also a brigadier general. Everyone calls the son “general” and he receives the honor and respect of that rank. If a brigadier general walks up to the southwest gate of the White House, and his name is not on the guest list, he is turned away. If the son of the president walks up to the gate, he is always admitted because he is the president’s son, for being the president’s son supersedes his military rank when it comes to access to the president. So also does the fact that Jesus is the Son of God supersede His rank in the House of David.

Probably for all of the wrong reasons, the crowd was delighted.

Mark 12:38-40

Parallel Texts: Matthew 23:1-39; Luke 20:45-47

Jesus denounced the teachers of the law in this brief passage. His bill of particulars contains several charges:

They dress richly and expect to receive respect from the people.

They expect to get the best seats at public gatherings.

They “devour widows’ houses.”

They make long public prayers for show.

The other accounts add the Pharisees to this indictment, and Matthew records the seven woes here, while Mark as usual, is pithy. Consider what Jesus is accusing them of. Oh yes, He is calling them colossal hypocrites, but look at the priority system of these “righteous” and “religious” men. They want, more than anything else apparently, to be honored, respected and powerful. It is doubtful whether or not they care at all about their relationship with God, or about being faithful to Him; they are altogether worldly in their outlook in spite of their pious exteriors. They are using their lofty religious positions for personal advancement, and in the end they will rue the day they started down this path.

Let’s not get too carried away throwing stones at the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, and let’s also not get too carried away with looking for the Pharisees in our midst, even though there are many, for this passage is within a larger context. This larger context runs through the entire chapter, and the climax and application is in the last few verses, and we will look at the them tomorrow:

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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3 Responses to Jesus Seizes the Initiative

  1. Mel Wild says:

    “Probably for all of the wrong reasons, the crowd was delighted.”

    Ha…so true. Of course, the church is still a bit foggy on this hypostatic union of Christ.

    God’s grace…specially designed for us who don’t get it! 🙂

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