The closing vignette in Matthew 22 contains one of the more interesting Old Testament quotations spoken by Christ himself. (Mt 22:41–46; cf. Mk 12:35–37; Lk 20:41–44) The Pharisees and Christ’s disciples are there together as Jesus inquires of them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” (Mt 22:42) The reply is unanimous, “David’s.” Surely the Pharisees knew their Old Testament prophecy; they knew from whose line the Messiah would come. (Is 9:6–7) But Jesus presses his audience further by aggravating the inquiry:
How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls hims “Lord”: “The Lord declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet’? If David calls him ‘Lord,’ how then can he be his son?” (Mt 22:43–45; cf. Ps 110:1–7)
Jesus’s logic is sound: How could the promised Messiah be rightfully designated the “son of David” when David himself writes that the Messiah is his (David’s) own Lord? (Ps 110:1) Indeed, Jesus’s inquiry so stupefies his listeners that Matthew records that “from that day no one dared to question him anymore.” (Mt 22:46) A glance at the aforementioned royal song of David, Psalm 110, sheds a brilliant light on Jesus’s purpose for not only the inquiry itself but on his specific citation of Psalm 110:1 as well. As one of the most oft-cited Old Testament references throughout the New Testament, Psalm 110 would have been immediately recognizable to those in earshot as a Messianic Psalm. This remark by Jesus wasn’t articulated in such a way as to inspire doubt in his disciples regarding his Messiaship. Rather, his intent was to bring into sharp focus the truth that the Messiah is God incarnate. The promised Messiah would not only be a descendant in the Davidic line of kings. He would not have mere royal blood coursing through his veins. He would be divine.
Accordingly, this statement by Jesus is meant to reconfigure previously held notions about the Messiah. He is the “son of David,” yes, but he’s also “Lord of all.” He is the “Davidic Messiah who will triumph over all his enemies.”1 His sovereignty is unrivaled. His might is unparalleled. He props up his feet on the backs of his enemies (Ps 110:1) in a graphic display of absolute victory over those who oppose him — indicative of the victory God will have over sin and darkness. The Messiah, therefore, as the heaven-sent king, would come to bring everyone into submission to his righteous rule.
Jesus’s declaration, here, is a purposeful pronouncement of his deity and rightful place alongside the Father in heaven. He is more than David’s heir. He is more than a political trailblazer through whom Roman dominance would end. He is the Ruler of the entire created order. He is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, seated at his right hand. (Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20) He is both Lord and Messiah, duly worshiped as Yahweh enfleshed.
And so it is that what Jesus is about to do — namely, substitute himself on the cross for sinners, subsuming the horrific suffering rightly deserved by us because of sin — is amplified to degrees beyond finite comprehension. Golgotha’s scene takes on new meaning. The blood that would be spilled there wouldn’t only be royal, it would be divine.
D. W. Pao, “Old Testament in the Gospels,” Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 2nd edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 635.