Mark 12:35-37

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 12

35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in 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. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

In December of 2004, Italian police took the image off of the famous “Shroud of Turin” (a burial clothe that some believe contains an image of the face of Jesus) and fed it into their computers in an effort to reconstruct what the face of a twelve-year-old Jesus would have looked like. Here is The New York Times’ explanation.

ROME, Dec. 25 – Using the same technology that adds wrinkles to the drawings of Mafia bosses to identify them after decades on the lam, the Italian police have shaved years, and a beard, off an image taken from the Shroud of Turin to create what newspapers here this week hailed as the very visage of a young Jesus.

“Here it is, the real face of the baby Jesus,” declared the front page of the newspaper Il Giornale. Italy’s largest newspaper, Corriere della Sera, ran a more cautious headline, “Here Is Jesus at Age 12 (According to a Computer).”…

The angelic face is reminiscent of the prayer cards sold in Vatican souvenir shops and of the New Age portraits displayed at Venice Beach. The image shows a 12-year-old boy with fair, smooth skin, glassy blue eyes, fleshy lips and waves of dirty blond hair streaked with just enough purple and pink to suggest a sprinkling of cosmic dust.

The scientific unit of Rome’s police force created the image at the behest of reporters of another investigative report about Jesus to be televised the night after Christmas. For that program, the police took photographs from the Shroud of Turin and subtracted about 20 years of aging.

“It came to us an illumination, maybe it was inspiration, What was his face like?” said Elena Guarnieri, the host of the news special. “If that is the face on the shroud, then this is the face of Jesus as a child.”

The Vatican refused to comment about the face of the 12-year-old Jesus, but Professor Damon expressed bewilderment. “The boy would not be blond,” he said…[1]

No, the boy likely would not have been blond. How interesting. After all of their supposedly objective and scientific work they produced a Jesus that looked just like an Italian twelve year old boy!

It is a desire that is 2,000 years old, this desire to know what Jesus actually looks like. But even before He came in flesh it was a desire of the Jews to know what the Messiah was going to look like. And, like the Italian police, or like us, many Jews, knowing that the Messiah would be a Jew, overemphasized the expected “us-ness” of the coming Messiah, that is, overemphasized the Jewishness of the coming Messiah to the extent that they had narrowed their understanding of what the Messiah would be to the size of their own borders of their own national identity. That is, the Jews, like the modern Italian police, fashioned the Messiah too much in their own image and, as a result, had developed certain misunderstandings about his person and work. For this reason, Jesus decided to address this issue in Mark 12:35-37 in order to stress the very important point that the He, Jesus, the Messiah, was greater than they realized and would accomplish more than they expected.

Jesus’ identity is greater than the religious authorities think it is.

Jesus first makes a point about His own identity. He does so this time not in response to a hostile question. Rather, He raises the issue Himself. It is as if He is saying, “I have answered your questions. Now you guys answer me!”

35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?

It is an interesting question. While the exact title “son of David” was not a popular Messianic title among the Jews of the Old Testament, the idea that He was a son of David was pervasive. It was understood that the coming Messiah would be in the lineage of the great King David. By the first century, the title had gained at least some traction as can be seen in examples of people using the title in the gospel accounts. Even so, by raising the question Jesus was clearly suggesting that the Jews had developed certain misunderstandings surrounding the title. He next moves to the heart of the issue:

36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

What Jesus is doing here is quoting Psalm 110, which reads:

1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!

There are three characters presented in the first six words of Psalm 110:1. Here is how it should be read: “The Lord [God] says to my [David’s] Lord [the coming Messiah]…” In other words, God calls the coming Messiah “Lord”! This, of course, raises all kinds of interesting questions.

“[N]o father calls his own son ‘lord,’” writes Joel Marcus, “This would be especially true in the hierarchical Greco-Roman world, where ‘lord’ and “son’ were near opposites, the father being, so to speak, the lord of the son…”[2] That is true in our day as well. No parent (except certain very misguided parents who seem to worship their children!) would think of their child much less refer to their child as “Lord.” Yet God calls the Messiah “Lord.” Jesus asks the obvious question:

37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

We need to understand this rightly. Jesus has not rejected the title “son of David.” Rather, He is saying that they have become so comfortable with the title that they have reduced the true character of the Messiah from what He actually is to something that they want Him to be. The title “son of David” is not wrong, then, it is simply insufficient.

One of the things that was happening is that there had been a reductionism in many of the Jews’ understanding of the coming Messiah that was based on a faulty understanding of this title. First, they called Jesus “son of David.” Next, they interpreted it politically to mean that the coming Messiah would restore just government and establish a righteous rule over the Jews and also over the world. Finally, they also imported their prejudices to mean that this just rule would lead to the casting out of the Gentile Romans as well as a rejection of all Gentiles.

I do not say that all Jews did all of this, but this was the mindset of many in that time. In other words, the title “son of David” had come to mean that the coming Messiah would sit on a throne, protect Israel, and cast out the Gentiles. In other words, by “son of David” many had come to mean something like an “uber David.” To some it had come to mean something like an “uber politician and military leader.”

Thus, they had whittled the coming Messiah down into their own image! Jesus is therefore responding against this kind of fallacious view by pointing out that, according to Psalm 110, the coming Messiah was more than just a man, more than just a politician, more than just a military figure. Thus, God refers to Him as “Lord.” What an astonishing idea!

Jesus’ identity was greater than the religious authorities thought it was.

The coming Messiah was to have a righteous rule, it is true, but not in the way that many had come to think. He was greater than they imagined! No mere human gets called “Lord”!

“They did not understand that he was God,” wrote St. Augustine, “and on that ground also the Lord even of David.”[3] That is well said.

A few years ago I read a fascinating book entitled This is Not the End of the Book. The book was simply a conversation between two intellectuals, the late Italian writer Umberto Eco and the French novelist Jean-Claude Carrier. At a certain point in the book they discussed the problem of widespread ignorance concerning things that people should know. Here is the brief exchange:

Umberto Eco: A London study found that a quarter of the people surveyed thought that Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens were imaginary characters, whereas Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes had really existed.

Jean-Claude Carriere: Ignorance is all around us, and often arrogant and proud. Evangelical, even.[4]

This is all pretty depressing. If people think Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens were imaginary but Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes were real then we are in a bad way indeed! Yet lots of people fail to grasp reality when it comes to people. Lots of people fail to grasp the truth about people they claim to know a great deal about. The Jews did this with Jesus, but, in truth, so do a lot of us.

Let me ask you a question: have you whittled Jesus down into your own image? Have you forgotten that He is the great and mighty God who has come to us? Do you realize that when you look on the face of Christ you are looking on the face of God? Has your Jesus become too small? Are you seeking to force him into the cramped space of your own assumptions and prejudices?

Jesus cannot and will not be lessened! He is Lord! Honor Him as Lord!

Jesus’ work accomplishes more than the religious authorities think it will.

With a reduced understanding of His person came a reduced understanding of His work. Hear, again, Jesus’ words:

35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in 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. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly.

If we are not careful, we will miss something beautiful that is happening here. As we said, Jesus is quoting Psalm 110 when He says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’” But if you read that carefully you will notice that it is not an exact quotation. For Psalm 110 says:

1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!

Did you catch it? Compare:

Mark 12:36 – “until I put your enemies under your feet”

Psalm 110:1 – “until I make your enemies your footstool”

Well that is interesting. Some might say it is inconsequential since “under your feet” and “your footstool” are the same basic idea. It is indeed the same basic idea but it is not the same word. This gets even more interesting when we realize that the phrase Jesus uses is used in Psalm 8:

6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all

things under his feet

So compare once again:

Mark 12:36 – “until I put your enemies under your feet”

Psalm 110:1 – “until I make your enemies your footstool”

Psalm 8:6 – “you have put all things under his feet”

So Jesus pulls a phrase from Psalm 8 and brings it into His quotation of Psalm 110! This gets even more interesting when we realize that Psalm 110 is a Messianic psalm (i.e., it is about the coming Messiah) and Psalm 8 is an Adamic psalm (i.e., it is about the creation of human beings).

Put all of this together and you suddenly realize that Jesus combined the idea of Messiah with the idea of Adam. In doing so, Jesus was saying that His work will go beyond the merely ethnic and national. Rather, what He, Jesus, the Messiah, is going to accomplish affects the entirety of the human race! He is, in other words, Adam come again, the second Adam!

Paul will pick up this image and communicate it powerfully and beautifully in 1 Corinthians 15.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

In Ephesians 1, Paul appears to likewise combine the “sit at my right hand” of Psalm 110 with the “under his feet” of Psalm 8.

20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Thus, the concept of “Messiah” and the concept of “Adam” are joined powerfully in Jesus!

Peter does the same in 1 Peter 3:

23d …Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

How beautiful! In Adam, all die, but through Christ, the second Adam, all can have life! He is not merely going to be a national hero of ethnic Israel. He is going to be the Savior of all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike! William Lane has poignantly written:

The point made is that David himself distinguished between his earthly, political sovereignty and the higher level of sovereignty assigned to the Messiah. The Messiah is not only “son of David”; he is also, and especially, his Lord. His role is not to restore on earth the Davidic kingdom or the sovereignty of Israel. He does not simply extend the work of David, but comes to establish a wholly different Kingdom, the throne of which is situated at God’s right hand. It is thus the question of another kind of fulfillment to the promise than that which contemporary Judaism expected. The political-nationalistic concept of the messianic mission supported by the scribes is simplistic.[5]

Do not reduce Jesus’ person and do not reduce Jesus’ work! He is more than a personal hero to you and He accomplishes more than the rectifying of your personal crises…though He is and does those things as well! He is not a life-coach or a some kind of Oprah for your own perceived felt needs. He does not come merely to patch things up for you. He is, rather, the divine second person of the Trinity who reigns in glory and power and who has come to bring resurrection to a dead world! He has not simply come to help Israel! He has come to lay down His life for the world!

Do not underestimate who Jesus is and what Jesus does! Do not misunderstand His person or His mission. He is the love of God enfleshed. He is the great “I AM!” He is the second Adam who comes to take us back to Eden! He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

He is no mere man, though He was a man. He is no mere “son of David” though it was through David’s lineage that He came. He has not come merely for Israel, though for Israel He did come. He defies the categories, shatters the assumptions, and frustrates the prejudices. He is who He is: Jesus the Christ! And He has done what He has done: lain down His life on the cross and then risen from the dead in victory over sin, death, and hell. And He is doing what He is doing: creating a people who demonstrate what the Kingdom of God is like and will be like!

Let us thank God for Jesus the Lord! Let us bow heart and mind and soul and strength and body and knee before Jesus the Lord!

 

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/26/world/europe/italian-police-create-a-wanted-image-jesus-as-a-12yearold.html

[2] Joel Marcus, Mark 8-16. The Anchor Bible. Vol.27A (New Haven, CT: The Anchor Yale Bible, 2009), p.847.

[3] Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall, eds. Mark. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. New Testament, Vol. II (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), p.176.

[4] Jean-Claude Carriere and Umberto Eco. This is Not the End of the Book. (London: Harville Secker, 2011), p.311.

[5] William Lane, The Gospel According to Mark. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Gen. Ed., Joel B. Green (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), p.437-438.

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