If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Matthew, chapter 22. The last three weeks we have been looking at a series of exchanges between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders of Israel in His time. And, if you'll reflect for a moment and pullback, look at the big picture, the exchanges that we've already seen here in Matthew 22, beginning in verse 15 and running down to verse 40, are still significant to every single one of us today. As a person moves through life, he or she must ask and answer certain questions. There are just some questions that we can't avoid. These three questions that we've already looked at in Matthew 22 are among those questions that you just have to ask and answer as you move through life.
For instance, picking up in verse 15 in the first exchange with the Pharisees, we had the question put: 'what is my responsibility to the government?' Everybody has to ask and answer that question. And, even Christians have given different answers to that particular issue. But, Jesus gives a response to it. 'You render to Caesar that which is Caesar's, and you render to God that which is God's.' You know, there have been some Christians who thought that they owed no responsibility to the civil authority. And to them Jesus says: 'no, you render to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar.' you give it back.
And then, there've been other Christians who by their lives actually compromised their commitment to Christ in their commitment to the civil authorities. And to them, Jesus says, 'you render to God that which is God's alone'. We could really explore that rich statement for many, many weeks if we allowed ourselves that luxury. Perhaps some time in the future.
Then, a second question, as you continue to skim through Matthew 22. The question: is there life after death? Now, yes, the Sadducees first raised their question with the intent of mocking Jesus, but Jesus turned a mocking question into a serious question when He gave them His response. And so, we are pressed upon us with this question: is there life after death? Is there a resurrection? And Jesus gives an answer to that question that everybody has to ask and answer. No matter where you are in whatever part of the world, no matter what world religion you adhere to, everybody has to face that question of what happens at death and after. And, Jesus gives the answer to that question. God is not the God of the dead, He is the God of the living. And so He gives us much food for thought as we ponder that question. What will our destiny be after death?
And then, we saw that question, again, raised by that teacher of the law who came to Jesus. 'What is the supreme duty of life?' What is the chief command? What is the first, the prime duty of life? One can hardly conceive a more significant question than that. And to that question, Jesus said: 'the supreme duty of life is to love God with your whole being and your neighbor as yourself.' These three questions had been put to Jesus successively and over and over again.
As we come to the end of Matthew 22, Jesus himself adds a fourth question. But, Jesus' question to the Pharisees is the most profound question of all. The right answer to this question is the difference between life and death, the difference between heaven and hell, the difference between hope and despair, the difference between salvation and condemnation. In comparison to the other questions, this question is far greater. They pale by comparison to this question that Jesus is asking, right here in Matthew 22, verses 41-46. I'd invite you to turn with me there as we hear God's holy, inspired and inerrant word:
Our Lord and our God, we stand before our Savior in this passage. You speak to us. We ask that we would hear. Show us the glory of the mediator, the Messiah. And, enable us by faith to trust in Him alone for our salvation as He is offered in the gospel. We ask it through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For hundreds of years the rabbis of Israel, the teachers, the scribes, the priests, the Pharisees had taught the people of God in Israel that the Messiah was to be the son of David. They went to passage after passage out of the Old Testament showing and demonstrating that God had predicted in His holy word, the Old Testament, that the Messiah would come from the line of David. He would be an exalted descendant of David. He would be the coming Savior of God's people, Israel. He would be an heir to David. He would be a righteous ruler, appointed by God, who would foil the enemies of God's people and He would establish justice in the land. He would drive the oppressors of Israel out. He would reestablish the law of God amongst His people. Righteousness would flourish in the land. Injustice would be banished. He would be the ruler of rulers, this descendent of David – this Messiah.
And today, Jesus is standing before these Pharisees and He is saying, ‘No, He'll be much more than that. He'll be more than you have ever dreamt of.’ And His words to these Pharisees are just as relevant to us today as they were when He first spoke them to the Jewish leaders. You see, we are so familiar with Jesus that we have lost the sense of His greatness and His glory and His uniqueness. And Jesus is saying to us today, 'I am greater than you ever imagined.' 'I am greater than you have ever dreamt of.' 'I am greater than you ever dared hope for.' and so, I'd like to look at this passage today where Jesus points the focus very, very pointedly on 'who is the Messiah?' 'what is His identity?' 'what is His nature?' And I'd like you to look at the three phases of this discussion.
I. There is no more important issue in life than what you think about Christ.
You'll see the first in verses 41 and 42 where Jesus puts His first question to these Pharisees. He draws their attention to the issue of Christ. 'What is your view of the Christ?', He says. Having discussed the law, having discussed their relation to civil government, having discussed the issue of the resurrection, He zeros in on this issue: 'what do you think of the Christ?' and then, in verses 43 through 45, He follows up their response with an even more penetrating question, a deeper question. He asks them, 'okay, if the Christ is who you say He is, how does it come about that the word of God in Psalm 110, verse 1 says what it says?' He challenges them with a question. And then, finally in verse 46, we see their response, their reaction to Jesus' teaching.
I'd like to walk with you today through this passage, but bearing in mind all along that the issue is not what the Pharisees think of Jesus. The issue is what you think of Jesus. For, one of the things we learn in verses 41 and 42 is that there is no more important issue in all of life than what you think of the Messiah. There's no more important issue in all of life than what you think of Jesus Christ – Jesus the Messiah. And I really mean that today. I don't care what you're going through. If you are coming here today and your marriage is falling apart, I'm telling you that the most important issue in life is what you think of the Messiah. And, if you're coming today and your heart is broken and your family is falling apart, I'm telling you that the most important issue in life is, “what do you think of Christ?” You come today and your business has completely fallen off and you are faced with an insurmountable debt, you don't know where to turn. I'm telling you that there is no more important question in all of life than, “what do you think of Christ?” And I want to remind you that no matter what bad experience you have had with the church, no matter what you have experienced from other Christians who have betrayed you or let you down, that you have to deal today with Jesus. Jesus is the one coming asking you this question. Jesus is the one asking and saying, “what do you think of the Christ?” May I translate that? “What do you think of Me?Whose Son am I?”
And so, Jesus turns the table here in verses 41 and 42. Jesus had been the respondent so far in Matthew, chapter 22. Over and over they threw questions at Him and over and over He gave the most brilliant answers and now, Jesus goes on the defensive. Matthew lets us know that the Pharisees were still gathered together, around Him and against Him. And now, Jesus turns to this same group that had been questioning Him and He puts a question to them. The questions asked by the Pharisees and Sadducees so far in this passage pale in comparison to the question that Jesus asked. Jesus basically asked them this: 'what is your view of the Messiah, what do you think of Him?'
They gave Him the answer that every good Jew of their day would have given to that question. They said instinctively, like you would answer a children's catechism question – they said instinctively, “the son of David. That's who the Messiah is”. They had been taught it for hundreds of years. They'd been teaching it all of their lives. 'Of course, the Messiah will be the son of David.' That's what they said.
Now, I want you to remember there had been a little history between the Pharisees and Jesus about this issue of the Messiah and the son of David. Remember that Jesus had been identified by crowds in His ministry as the son of David. If you think back to Matthew, chapter 12 you'll remember that there was a crowd once after Jesus had performed a marvelous wonder. And the crowd began to say: “do you think that He could be the son of David?” And the Pharisees were furious. They said, “you people are blaspheming and He's letting you”. And in just the very last chapter that we studied, in Matthew, chapter 21, verse 15, the crowds again had openly pronounced Him to be the son of David as He entered into Jerusalem. They had said, “hosanna to the son of David!”. And we read that the Pharisees were indignant about this. They were not only upset that the people were following Him and that the people were calling Him to be the Messiah, the son of David, but, they were upset that Jesus wasn't stopping the children in the temple who were crying out and calling Him the son of David. Yes, Jesus had consistently refused in His ministry to object to being called the son of David. And, it had gotten Him crosswise with the Pharisees.
But now He is ready to go a step further. The time had come. Remember, this is Tuesday, three short days from the crucifixion. The time had come for Jesus to inaugurate a new understanding, a new appreciation of the Messiah, the son of David. Now, He was going to teach them something about the precise identity of the son of David that had never dawned on them. You see, the Pharisees answer to Jesus' question was half right. But friends, you don't want to give a half right answer to the most important question in life. And that is exactly what the Pharisees had done.
They expected a righteous man appointed by God, a descendent of David, an heir of Him to come as a warrior king and save their people. But that was only half truth. Why? Because they thought of Him as a human warrior rather than a divine Savior. Why was it, why was it that the Pharisees couldn't answer this question?
And why was it that they couldn't see that Jesus was the Messiah? Because they didn't understand their need. They thought that the greatest need pressing upon the people of Israel was to stop this imperialistic cultural invasion of the land and the people of Israel that had been brought about by these pagan Romans, to sweep the land clean of their filthy influence and reestablish the torah in the land. They had no idea that the greatest problem that they had was themselves. The greatest problem in Israel resided in their hearts and in the hearts of their people who were hardened against the lord and who needed a new heart and a new spirit within them. They thought that what their land needed was a king who would lead them out of the years of oppression from invading captors. And so they didn't see the glory of the Messiah that the lord had sent to them.
What is your view of the Messiah? What do you think your need is? Do you think you need better financial advice? You may. A little family counseling along the way? Better techniques for relationships? May all be true. But those aren't the fundamental things of life. You need the Messiah. You need to know who He is and you need to know how great and grand and glorious He is. And Jesus is standing before you today and He's saying, 'that's the issue. I'm not peripheral. I'm not someone that you come to to sort of pick you up and dust you off and give you a self help speech and send you on your way. I'm the one who transforms you from the inside out. I am the Messiah. Because the real issue that you face is sin. You are out of fellowship with the God of the universe and you need to be back in fellowship with Him. You need to be walking in His ways and loving Him with all your heart and soul and strength. And if you're not, there is nothing that you can do right that matters.' So Jesus stands before these Pharisees, He stands before us, and He asks the question: “what is your view of the Messiah?” This ia a question that can not be ignored. This is not simply a question for academic dispute. This is a question of the profoundest practical, spiritual and devotional significance. And no matter what you are going through today, this issue is the center. This is the hub. This is the question. It's the most important issue of life.
II. We are not trusting in the Jesus of the Bible until we acknowledge Him as the fully divine Son of God.
And Jesus pursues the Pharisees then, in verses 43 through 45, after they have given their half right answer: “well, He's the son of David.” Jesus follows up with another question. The answer to the first question they would have thought was obvious. It would have been like walking up to a profound scholar and asking the children's catechism question: “who made you?” Everybody knows the answer to the question “who is the Messiah?” “He's the son of David”. Everybody knows that! But, the question that Jesus follows up with was not so obvious. In fact, they were baffled. Jesus quotes from Psalm 110 and the first verse; and, He asks this question: “how can it be that David's son – who you say Messiah is – can simultaneously be David's Lord? How can it be that David's son is also David's Lord? How can that be?” Turn with me to Psalm 110. I'd like you to see this first verse.
In this Psalm, God the Father is speaking to His Anointed One, the one that He has appointed as the Mediator for His people, the Savior for His people. In this Psalm the Father speaks to His Anointed One and in the first verse He promises Him that He will subdue all His enemies under His feet. And, that picture in Psalm 110 is drawn from previous pictures in the Bible like the one that you find in Joshua, chapter 10, verse 24 where the kings of Canaan are brought to Joshua and Joshua lifts his foot up and puts it on their necks to show that he has conquered them under God. And here's the picture God is saying to His anointed one, “I am going to put all your enemies under your feet. They are all going to be subdued.”
And a key to Jesus' interpretation of this psalm is the attention that He draws to David's authorship. He says, “David is saying this”. David wrote this psalm under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And king David says, “the Lord said to my lord”. And Jesus says, “who in the world is David talking about?” “Who in the world would King David call, 'Lord'?” Jesus says, “Let Me tell you who he's talking about. He's talking about the Messiah. King David is referring to the Messiah when He says 'My Lord'”.
Now, Peter, Paul and the author of Hebrews learn their lesson well because each of them go back to this psalm and they apply it to the Messiah. They apply it to the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, this psalm gives us a glimpse into the eternal counsel of the almighty God. We're seeing a view of the covenant of redemption here. This is God the Father saying to the Son: “I will cause you to rule and reign because of the redemptive work that You have accomplished on behalf of all the people that I have given into your hand.” And I want to pause for a moment and remind you that this is three short days before the crucifixion. Isn't it comforting to know that Jesus walked into the blackness of those hours knowing that God was going to put His enemies under His feet? He knew the glory was coming even through the way of the cross.
Now, Matthew takes this theme of the son of David and he uses it over and over in his gospel to remind us of the deity of Christ and the messiahship of Christ. And here in Matthew chapter 22, when Jesus takes you back to Psalm 110, verse 1, what is He doing? He is asserting the deity of the Messiah. He is saying that the Messiah is more than they were expecting. He is more than you were expecting. Look at what Matthew does. Turn back to the gospel of Matthew and begin with the very first verse, Matthew 1:1. There are seven scenes in the gospel of Matthew in which Jesus is called the son of David. The first one comes in the very first verse. In Matthew 1:1, we see Matthew saying, “this is the record of the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of David”. He starts off telling you 'this Jesus that I'm about to tell you about is the Messiah. He is the son of David.' Then, in Matthew 9:27, two blind men (you get the irony?) two blind men cry out and say, “have mercy on us, son of David!” The most enlightened religious teachers in the land can't see that He's the Messiah, but blind men by the road know that He's the son of David. Then, Matthew 12:23; we're told that the crowds were amazed and they were asking what question? “could this be the son of David?” And then again in Matthew 15, verse 22, notice who Matthew records calling Jesus the son of David. A Canaanite woman. Now let's look. So far – the crowds, blind men and a Canaanite woman. And this Canaanite woman says: “have mercy on me Lord, son of David.” And again in Matthew, chapter 20, verses 30 and 31 He has these two blind men beside the road crying out, ” have mercy on us Lord, son of David”. In Matthew chapter 21, verses 9 and 15, the crowd as Jesus enters into Jerusalem and the children as Jesus is teaching in the temple shout out to Him, “Hosanna, son of David!”. And here, the seventh and last scene in Matthew 22, verse 42. This is the last time in the gospel of Matthew where Jesus is linked to the son of David. “What do you think of the Christ?” “Whose Son is He?” And in the very mouths of the Pharisees is the answer: “The son of David.” What is Matthew doing? Matthew is giving you a testimony that Jesus is the son of David.
And Jesus, in this passage, is showing you what it means that He is the son of David. He is saying to the Pharisees and He's saying to you: “I am greater than you ever thought I was.” He's saying God's provision for your salvation is greater than you ever dreamed. The person of the Messiah is more glorious than you ever imagined. He is greater than David; in fact, He's David's Lord. He's David's God. He's saying – Jesus is saying – “I am David's God, and I've come to save you from your sins”.
Have you come to grips to the claims of the divinity of Christ? Do you realize the importance of those claims? Do you realize that apart from the deity of Christ there is no hope of salvation? Do you realize that Jesus' ability to save you from your sin is absolutely, inextricably, connected to the truth that He is the son of God and lord of David? Jesus is saying to these Pharisees, “the Messiah is so much greater than you have ever imagined Him to be”. And He's saying to you, “I am so much greater than you ever thought me to be. I don't care how big you think your problems are. I am so much bigger than those problems, and I'm not just a solution to those problems out there. I am the answer to everything. I'm the answer to the center of life and all the rest of your life will be out of joint until you deal with me. You can't put me aside. I am the boulder in the road and you'll either be crushed by Me or you'll embrace Me and I'll shower blessings on you that you can never imagine.”
III. Silence is the wrong answer to the deity of Christ.
Now the sad response of that message, by the Pharisees, is recorded in verse 46. There we see the mouths of these mockers stopped, but we also learn that silence is the wrong answer to the deity of Christ. Jesus silences His opponents and, by the way, this is a foretaste of just what God had promised Him in Psalm 110 verse 1. He said that He would put His enemies under His feet and notice – His enemies stand before Him mute. They have not a clue what to say to Him. This is part of the conquest that had been promised to Him by God in Psalm 110 verse 1.
But I want to remind you that Jesus' words to these Pharisees are in fact words of love and grace, because, do you realize friends that here in Matthew 22, verses 41-46 this is the last time, this is the last time, that Jesus ever had a conversation with the Pharisees? Jesus spoke about the Pharisees to His disciples and to others in the remaining days of His life, but do you realize that this is the last time Jesus ever spoke to the Pharisees and do you see what He is drawing their attention to? In His love He wants them to understand who the Christ is that they might be saved. But their response is silence. They did not know what to say. They continued to conspire against Him.
But I want to remind you of another Pharisee. There was a great Pharisee – a renowned Pharisee, one of the leaders of his party – who was on the way to a city called Damascus to persecute Christians a few months – a few years – after this event. And, on His way to the city of Damascus, the Lord Jesus who stood before these Pharisees, stood before him and asked him the question; “Saul, Saul. Why are you persecuting Me?” And I want you to remember what are the first words out of Saul's mouth: “Who are You, Lord?” Saul believed on Jesus the Messiah and it cost him everything. It cost him his family. It cost him His career. It cost him his reputation. It cost him his relationships with friends. It cost him everything. There was nothing left of Saul when Jesus had gotten finished, but Saul lost nothing and in fact he gained everything, and I want you to know that that Pharisee understood what it meant – that 'David's son was also David's Lord'.
Let me prove that to you. Turn to Romans, chapter 1 verses 3 and 4. That Pharisee, Saul, who's life was changed and his name was changed, said this in Romans chapter 1, verses 3 and 4. “His Son, who was born a descendent of David according to the flesh, was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” Paul understood that David's son was David's Lord. God stripped him down to nothing and took everything away so that Paul, for the first time in his life, saw his heart and he saw his need. And at that simultaneous moment he saw his Savior, and his Savior was not an exalted man. His Savior was God in the flesh. And having taken everything from Saul He gave back more than Saul had ever imagined.
There are people in this room today who understand that. There has come a time in their life when God has taken away everything, but He's given them Jesus. And Jesus is so much bigger than the 'everything' that He took away, that they count the 'everything' rubbish for the surpassing greatness of the knowledge of the love of God in Christ. I want to tell you today that the most important thing – no matter where you are, no matter what you are going through right now – the most important thing in life is that you know Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Son of God. And, losing everything you'll gain more.
O Lord, help us to see Him – the Son of God and Savior of sinners, Lord of Glory – and embrace Him to the saving of our souls. We ask it in Jesus name, amen.