In last week's sermon we briefly explored the title, "Son of David" as it related to Jesus. We recognized that in Mark 10 that blind Bartimeaus used this title to call Jesus' attention. But what does the title Son of David have to do with Jesus and the term Messiah?
In an excellent paper written by Randall Price (see web link below) he explains how the concept of the Messiah (in the Greek the same word for Messiah is Christ) was understood in the 1st century of Palestine. Price writes, " The record of messianic fulfillment that appears in the New Testament presumes a prior revelation of prediction in the Old Testament. In like manner, the use of the term “Messiah” (as well as the concept of the Messiah) reflects the development of the messianic idea expressed in seminal form in the Torah and Writings and expanded in the Prophets in accord with the hermeneutical principle of progressive revelation."
In the OT, the term Messiah was used to describe someone who had been given a special anointing by God to complete a specific mission which God had ordained him to accomplish. This anointing was both spiritual as well as physical. For instance, kings would be anointed with oil, symbolizing the coming of the Holy Spirit into their lives. However, it was not only kings which received the Holy Spirit. Prophets and priests were also anointed in the OT for tasks which God empowered them to accomplish. " For example, the term is employed variously with respect to kings (Saul): 1 Samuel 24:7, 11; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Samuel 1:14, 16 (cf. 1 Samuel 2:10, 35; 12:3, 5; 16:6; Psalm 28:8), (David): 2 Samuel 19:22; 22:51; 23:1; Psalm 2:2; 20:7; 84:10; 89:39, 52; 132:10, 17 (cf. 18:51), (Solomon): 2 Chronicles 6:42, (Zedekiah): Lamentations 4:20; of patriarchs: Psalm 105:15; 1 Chronicles 16:22; foreign rulers - Cyrus, the Persian king: Isaiah 45:1; Israel: Habakkuk 3:3 (cf. Psalm 28:8); priests: Lev. 4:3, 5, 16; 16:15; and prophets: Psalm 105:15; 1 Chronicles 16:22."
Now in addition to these earthly rulers, Moses spoke of a greater prophet (Duet 18:15), while Genesis addresses an unending priesthood. Earthly kings and priest would die, but a greater king and a forever high priest would be raised. These concepts of a forever king, prophet, and priest became merged with the messiah concepts of special anointing. This forever prophet and priest and king (this Messiah) would be called to restore Israel back into a right relationship with God and a right relationship with the world (a rightful promised land). We can see traces of restoration after the Babylonian exile.
It was prophesied that this forever Messiah would be of a royal line- namely the line of King David. This makes perfect sense when you consider that it is under David's rule that Israel is unified and is at its peak of power. Therefore, the term "Son of David" became another way of saying Messiah.
By the time of Jesus, the Jews were under the occupation of the Romans. The Romans respected the Jews to worship God (as long as the Jews did not reject the idea that Caesar himself was of divinity), but were still brutal oppressors. This oppression fostered an environment which saw the hope of the people for a deliver, as Moses had delivered the people from Egypt. However, the addition of the forever place of peace had now entered into the equation. God's Messiah would not only restore Israel, but God's Messiah would restore all of Creation. Price writes, "Stimulated by oppressive religious and political conditions, this messianic hope during the intertestamental period expressed itself in late Second Temple Judaism through a development of the prophetic concept of messianic deliverance in the eschatological age. Jewish apocryphal and pseudepigraphal apocalyptic literature of this period contain explicit references to the Messiah that will appear at the end of the age to wage the messianic wars, defeat Israel’s adversaries, restore the nation and priesthood, and rule on a universal scale."
This is the world into which Jesus splashes into. It is a world that is ripe with religious fervor, messianic hope, and a deep desire for the restoration of all of Creation. The world in which Jesus enters is a unique time in history for many reasons, which I will not list here. Instead, we need to understand that when we read NT passages that refer to Jesus as the anointed one, king of the Jews, messiah, or Christ, all this political and spiritual baggage comes along with those titles. Theologian Alister McGrath writes, "to designate any first century Palestinian as the "anointed one" would be to make a powerful and deeply evocative affirmation of the importance of such a person."
One last word on Messiah. While I will not go into the divine nature of Jesus' title as Messiah, let me write that the Messiah was always expected to be victorious over his enemies. The messiah was supposed to win- and in 1st century Israel, that meant victory over the Romans. The fact that Jesus suffers and dies caused many to disregard him as the Messiah; however, throughout his life, Jesus never taught that He would overthrow the Romans. Instead, Jesus taught of the Kingdom of God and the coming Kingdom- Jesus taught eschatology. Therefore, "it suggest that Jesus is to be regarded as the fulfillment of classical Jewish expectations..." In other words, Jesus, Messiah, has had victory over man's greatest enemy- death- and has ushered in the new kingdom of the new Creation.