Son of David

Jesus is the son of David and heir to the Davidic throne, the beloved Son of God and ruler of the kings of the earth.

Jerusalem Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
The gospel of Matthew calls Jesus the “son of David,” but this is far more than an entry on his genealogical chart or another messianic title. And this gospel account demonstrates what it means to be the Messiah and “Son of God.” Even the several individuals who call him “son of David” in Matthew hold deficient understandings of who and what he is - [Jerusalem Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash]

Matthew shows that he is the heir of David by applying the scriptures to him. For example, at his baptism, the Spirit descends on Jesus “like a dove,” and the voice from heaven declares, “This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I delight.” The description combines words from two messianic passages - (Matthew 3:17):
  • (Psalm 2:7) – “Yahweh said to me: YOU ARE MY SON; this day have I begotten you.”
  • (Isaiah 42:1) – “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; MY CHOSEN, IN WHOM MY SOUL DELIGHTS. I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.”


But Matthew’s account is not simply piling on prooftexts to prove who he is. By combining these two prophecies, he presents a figure who fulfills both roles.

First, he is the “son of David” destined to reign from Zion. Second, he is the “suffering servant” found in the book of Isaiah who is “cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people.”

One role cannot be understood apart from the other - they are inextricably linked. The very same words are heard again at his Transfiguration when “a voice out of the cloud said: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear him!” – (Isaiah 53:8, Matthew 17:5).

In the New Testament, the second Psalm is applied to Jesus in his present role as the one who reigns from God’s “right hand.” This is the Psalm of David that promised one of his descendants would reign on his throne forever:
  •  (Psalm 2:1-9) – “Why do the nations rage, and the peoples meditate a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh, and against his anointed… Yet I have set my king on my holy hill of Zion. I will tell of the decree: Yahweh said to me: YOU ARE MY SON - This day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.

As predicted by the Psalmist, Jesus endured this malevolent conspiracy when the religious leaders of Israel set out to destroy him - the “chief priests and the whole council sought false witness against Jesus, that they might put him to death -  (Matthew 26:59, 27:1).


And that was how the early church interpreted the Psalm. For example, after enduring threats from the priests and Sadducees, Peter prayed:
  • O Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them iswho by the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant, did say, WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES IMAGINE VAIN THINGS? THE KINGS OF THE EARTH SET THEMSELVES IN ARRAY, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER, AGAINST THE LORD, AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.’ For of a truth in this city against your holy Servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever your hand and your council foreordained to come to pass” - (Acts 4:24-28).

Like Matthew, Peter also combines the image of the “suffering servant” with the royal figure from the second Psalm. But it was not just the nations of the earth that raged “against Yahweh and His anointed,” but also and especially the priestly leaders of the Jewish nation.

Cross Solitary - Photo by Jussara Romão on Unsplash
[Photo by Jussara Romão on Unsplash]

His murder by the “chief priests was anticipated in Christ’s parable about the vineyard and its tenants. At harvest time, the owner sent several servants to “receive the fruit” that was due. However, each time he did so, the “tenants” abused and even killed his servants.

Finally, the owner of the vineyard sent his “son,” expecting the tenants to respect the son and heir. But they were bent on “seizing the inheritance” for themselves, so they murdered the “son” and heir - (Matthew 21:33-45).

The parable echoes the words from the Psalm that speak of the conspiracy against “Yahweh’s anointed.” Jesus directed the parable against the very ones who were plotting his death, for “when the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he spoke of them.


Jesus certainly is the heir of David who is destined to reign forever. But before his accession to the throne, he must suffer as the “servant of Yahweh,” and that is precisely what occurs in Matthew’s account.

And he is exalted and given “all power in heaven and on earth” only after his Death and Resurrection. Paradoxically, he conquers his enemies by undergoing an unjust and shameful death even for them.

However, ever since his resurrection he has reigned on the messianic throne as the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” which is why he now sends his disciples to herald the good news of God’s kingdom “to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

Now is the time for the “kings of the earth” to “kiss the son, lest he be angry and you perish in the way”; now is the opportune time of salvation for all men – (Psalm 2:12, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:6-9).

The final act in Matthew is the “commissioning” of the disciples. The picture is not of a political revolutionary or the founder of a new religion, but of an already ruling monarch sending his messengers throughout his domain to announce his reign, for now, there are no limitations on the sovereignty of the “son of Yahweh” – (Matthew 28:18-20).

Thus, Jesus IS the heir to the kingdom, the “son of David.” But to be the Messiah necessitates first becoming the “servant of the Lord” who suffers for His people - THE WAY TO ZION LIES THROUGH GOLGOTHA.



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