Who is Jesus, Really? Thinking Out Loud

One of my favorite riddles in Scripture is the one Jesus poses to the religious elite in Jerusalem in Mark 12. To catch how cool it is, you have to slip back into chapter 11 and see the beginning of the riddling interplay between Jesus and the religious elite. They try to trap him with a question about authority. You see, they’re the authority, they know they didn’t authorize his work, so they think they’ve got him trapped, and in public, no less. But Jesus flips the script on them by pointing to his cousin John the Immerser, another God-operative working without authority from Jerusalem. But he’s not just dodging — he’s answering — but to hear his answer you have to accept his teaching. Jesus has said from day 1 that John is the Elijah who was to come before the great Day of the Lord — to be the forerunner of YHWH Himself coming to save (or judge?) Israel. If John is the Elijah, who must the one who comes after him be?

Next, He tells a story about a master and servants: a master who established a vineyard, set up servants in it, and went on a long journey. In rabbinic literature, these stories are always about YHWH and Israel. Sometimes YHWH appears suddenly to settle accounts (as in the parable of the talents) and sometimes not. In this Jesus story, the master sends his son to collect — and then, in order to identify the son, Jesus pulls a very cool quotation of Scripture.

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes (Ps 118:22-23, cf. Dan 2:45)

Son, in Hebrew, is BEN. Stone, in Hebrew, is eBEN (as in eBEN-eZER -Stone of Help). In one line, Jesus identifies himself as Messiah, tells the authorities that he knows what they’re trying to do, and foreshadows his own victory. Sheer genius.

Then he confounds some more verbal tricks (first “Render unto Caesar,” then the “seven brothers married to the same woman” riddle, and finally affirming the rabbinic tradition that taught that Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18 were the pegs upon which all the Law hung) before getting back to his point with the question that finally silences his challengers. Matthew writes in his hero-honoring boast, “nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.”

Here’s the two-part question: the question the Jews couldn’t answer without shattering their own worldview. The first half, as always, is quite innocuous-sounding.

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Mt 22:42a)

There is only one possible answer for a devout Jew.

They said to him, “The son of David.” (Mt 22:42b)

Here it comes — and I wish I could be there to hear the religious elite choke on their retorts and gape at one another before retreating to the rooms where they plotted the ambush that would occur later in the week.

He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”
(Matthew 22:43-45)

David was no term-limited president. David never abdicated his throne. David died as King, calling no one but YHWH Lord. So how do you answer the question? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?


About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 12 February, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I’m glad I don’t question the Sovereign Lordship of Christ! I would hate to have to answer that question given their presuppositions!

    Awesome post bro!

    • Keith Brenton expressed much better than I could (as usual!) why I haven’t been able to just let challenges to the divinity of Jesus go. See comment 13 here

  2. After a while, though, you have to let the last Word be God’s. Thanks, Nick. Your blog continues to challenge and inspire me.

  3. NIck, you continually open my eyes to treasures in the Scriptures. Thanks!

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  4. great post. I do think that he reserved this type of gymnastics to those who tried to confuse instead of point to the father.

    • Perhaps — but remember that he has several audiences at once, which is the joy and power of the parable. I think he was using the argument style of the elite to take the elite right to the precipice. And the crowd, seeing a guy with a Galilean accent confound the Jerusalem cabal, just ate it up, even though they didn’t quite get it either, as John records with some sadness.

      Thanks for stopping by, and welcome to the Fumbling family!

  5. Acts: 4:24: And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:

    Pais — G3816
    1) a child, boy or girl
    a) infants, children
    2) servant, slave
    a) an attendant, servant, spec. a king’s attendant, minister

    If you notice the translated word Pais, is used at least three times in this conversation .
    To relate to a servant or child, but never a god.

    25: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things?
    26: The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
    27: For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
    29: And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
    30: By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

    • Laymond,

      Calling Jesus a child of God, even though your beloved KJV makes the weird decision to translate pais differently within the space of three verses, is hardly a radical rejection of Trinitarian thought. Jesus is unique – it doesn’t surprise me that pais isn’t God-language before He came. Never before had a god been an infant (or a beloved servant, for that matter).

      Do you have any thoughts about the actual post? Jesus says that David, in the Spirit, called his own son Lord. If we’re going to have any kind of conversation, we’ve got to actually talk about the things that the other person brings up. I always try to address your quotations and ideas (even if I don’t address them to your satisfaction). If you won’t deal with the topic directly here, why should anyone respond to your anti-trinitarian drive-bys?

  6. I will use your example over on Jays blog, say a son and his father worked for the same business, and the son was promoted to foreman who would be called boss, It simply means Jesus was placed above all things by God.
    If a person inquired of the father working for his son, who is the boss here, would it be right to say I am, because I am the foreman’s father. I don’t think so.

    If you are going to use the old “God can do anything” routine Take a look at the Trinity doctrine where it says the three are individuals of equal authority, and where Jesus said the one sent can’t be over the sender. If they are of equal status how can one be a child or servant to the other, if they are equal.

    • Hey Laymond,

      I apologize – I forgot to respond to this back in February. Here’s the answer: There was no higher position on earth than the one David held. No man could be higher than the anointed King of Israel. God’s anointed king only has ONE Lord – YHWH.

      David was God’s Anointed – Mesiach – Messiah – Christ. There’s only one position in all of existence that is higher than a non-divine Anointed One. Jesus of Nazareth being placed by God as God’s Anointed only makes him EQUAL to David, not David’s Lord.

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