Jesus v. His Opponents, Round 4

This will be the final round of this one sided theological throwdown. Jesus has just been clobbering his opponents one after the other as he wields divine knowledge with deft skill. Up to this point, Jesus has been goaded to come out and defend himself. But now Jesus is the instigator as he asks them a question (v.41), gives an answer (v.44), and then issues a warning for his disciples (v.46-47). It is Jesus coming out of his corner swinging for the knockout punch which he delivers.

The Leaders of Israel Misunderstood the Christ

Jesus asks a probing theological question of the leaders of the people concerning the Christ: whose son is he? Matthew records that they answered Him “David’s son.” This is line with what these Pharisees, scribes, and others of the first century believed about the Messiah – that he would come as a physical conquerer who would come and defeat all of Israel’s enemies once more and establish an earthly kingdom. All these things Jesus did not do. The reason is because his kingdom was a spiritual kingdom, not of this world (John 18.36, twice he says this). It should be noted that Jesus is not denying his Davidic heritage; in fact, throughout Luke this has been stressed (1.27, 32, 69; 2.4; 18.38ff). What he doing is working to correct the incorrect theology of these leaders. To do this, he points them to Scripture.

Psalm 110 is one of the most quoted passages in the New Testament, esp. v.1. Jesus grabs this verse and applies it to Himself. So what you have is David calling Christ (i.e. Jesus) Lord. Now it is not in our English or even in the Greek, but if we go all the way back to the Hebrew (the language the Old Testament was originally written in) you catch the subtly of what all is being said. What you have is Yahweh (Jehovah in English) saying to Adonai (still a term for God but viewing him as lord and master) “Sit at my right hand…” David calls the Christ (again, Jesus) Adonai, Lord, thereby placing Christ above him. Therefore, Jesus says, “David thus calls him (Christ) Lord, so how is he his son?” In other words, you understanding of this passage, your interpretation is all wrong.

In addition to all this, here is Jesus the Christ making a very plain claim to divinity. As discussed above, Adonai was a name applied to God signifying his Lordship over creation and creature. You pour over this gravy of being the position of authority that belongs to be at the right of Jehovah…For that audience it would have been unmistakable. This is a participation of Christ with the omnipotence of God thereby pointing toward his deity. The religious leaders would not be able to give a response final question of Jesus.

The Leaders of Israel Meddled with Condemnation

Having dealt that theological blow to his opponents, he draws his followers close to him to impart a very clear and serious warning concerning these religious leaders, especially the scribes. He lays out a six-fold description of their hypocrisy for which a very great condemnation is coming upon them. First, they walk around in long robes. These types of robes were wore by men of distinction and pointed to a life of leisure; anyone engaged in work in the fields or mills would not wear these cumbersome robes. They have their money on display. Second, there are greetings they desire in the market place. In other words, they want attention from men. Third, they desire to have the best seat in the house (of God, that is). Of course it would follow that if they are wearing the flowing robe, they don’t want to get it dirty so they need the best place. Here they are seeking the prominence among men. Fourth, they need the place of honor at the feast. This would be a place near the head of the table, by the host (if not in the place of the host). Again, more preeminence. Fifth, these men are robbing old ladies of their money. More money, more money…and it doesn’t matter who they take it from so long as they get it. Even helpless widows. Here is greed. Finally, Jesus remarks on their prayer life. It is is not to cultivate a relationship with God. Instead it is to make a display for men. “Listen to his prayer, how long it is. Surely God has heard him.” It was this very practice Jesus accused Pagans of (Matt 6.7) and condemned. This is religious shallowness as their prayers feature length but lack depth. “They were prayers that gave the illusion of piety, but as they were offered in pretense they availed nothing before God” (Morris).

These descriptions sum up lives spent in greed and pride. They show men full of hypocrisy and self-glorification. Everything they do, they do to satisfy their own appetites and desires. They are men who are focused on God, but are focused on self. Because of that, a condemnation greater than the hypocrisy within them was coming upon them. How many Christians today do the same thing? You may not rob widows or wear long robes, but your piety is simply an afront for men. Your religion is worthless, having the marks of self-glorification and self-centeredness. You don’t attend worship to please God but to be seen by men, to grease a few palms and glad-hand the brethren. Check the box, see you next week. There is no internal change of heart; it empty external show. Again, the message from John the Baptist, Christ, and the apostolic church of Christ is “Repent.” Change your heart and turn to God.

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