In the final days of Jesus’ ministry, he stands in the temple arguing with the leaders of Jerusalem and teaching his disciples and the crowds of people. You can imagine how much he would have taught so these few passages in Mark’s Gospel might be considered selections from his teaching over the course of the Passover week. Mark 12:35-37 is only a few verses, yet in these few verses is a profound lesson from Jesus. Rather than being asked a question, this time, Jesus raises the question before the crowd listening to him. Verse 35 reminds us that he is in the Temple teaching these things. We have already seen how Jesus’ teaching is reorienting the Temple worship around himself and this teaching continues to do this.
It was believed in Jesus’ day that the Messiah was to be a descendant of David. I’ve mentioned this before and it is an idea reflected in the term “Son of David,” used in the New Testament. This is the title Jesus was called the blind and deaf man he healed in Chapter 10, just before he rode into Jerusalem on a colt where they said “Blessed is the coming Kingdom of our Father David” in Chapter 11. But Jesus is taking the term, and expanding it here in these verses. His question shows a problem with limiting one’s understanding of the messiah to a person from the lineage of David. He’s not denying this, but expanding it.
The Messiah was to come from David’s line, he was going to be a King like David. The popular conception was that the Messiah would be as great as David, but Jesus uses this quotation from Psalm 110 to show that the Messiah would actually be greater than David. He is like David because he is from his lineage and because he is a king. But, he is also not like David because he is David’s Lord. Jesus is teaching that he is both the Lord and the Son of David. The conception of a political messiah that would fulfill Israel’s patriotic and nationalistic hopes was communicated through referring to the Messiah as the Son of David. David was a warrior bringing peace through victory over Israel’s enemies. So the thought was, the Messiah will do the same thing; wage war and achieve victory. But Jesus points to being a Messiah that is greater than this. “Son of David” made the average Jew at this time think of a Messiah who conquers, waging war and overthrowing Rome. Jesus was helping his followers unlearn this.
“Son of David” was a misleading title for the Messiah for Jews, but it was a meaningless title for non-Jews. Non-Jews knew nothing of David, so calling the Messiah Son of David was unhelpful. So Jesus brings in both Jew and Gentile by referring to himself as Lord here. “Lord” was a title the early church would adopt for Jesus and one that we continue to use today. Jesus is Lord. He is Messiah and King together, man and God together. This can be seen in Romans 1 also where verse 3-4 says, “concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord”. Romans 1:3-4 shows that understanding Jesus as Son of God and Son of David are complementary truths. Verse 4 also says “Christ” which is the term Messiah in Greek, and he is referred to finally as Lord here.
We understand the Lord Jesus as the Son of David fulfilling God’s promises to his people Israel, and has the Son of God bringing the Kingdom of God through his sacrificial death and resurrection. Paul’s Gospel is the same as Mark’s Gospel: Jesus is fulfilling promises and being King bringing the Kingdom through resurrection.
This is another example in Mark’s Gospel of what Jesus means when he says the Time is fulfilled. He is the one fulfilling the promised Time and keeping God’s promises. He is the one like David that was to come, and he is the one who is God dwelling amongst his people. He is the one who rescues us from our oppression, not a government or a tyrant. Jesus rescues us from the oppression of Satan’s Kingdom of Darkness, and he rescues us from the oppression of our sin and the result of death. As Messiah, King, and Lord he gives us true life eternal and resurrection into God’s presence forever.
He is like King David, but he is greater to an infinite degree. This is how Jesus uses this passage from Psalm 110 to teach his followers here in Mark 12:35-37.