“One day as he was teaching the people in the temple and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the scribes, with the elders, came and said to him, ‘Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?’” (Luke 20:1-2)
Have you ever been to a boxing match, and a hockey game breaks out? If you know, you know.
Yes, I’m talking about hockey, not boxing.
I’m not a huge hockey fan, but I enjoy it better than most other sports because of its fast pace, relatively simple rules, and sheer competitiveness. To me, it’s a combination of remarkably graceful skills and brute force. Seriously. Have you ever seen and heard a full-body check into the boards? It’s awesome in its power. I’m amazed any players can skate off the ice at the end of the game. I would swear that many deliberately take a penalty just to rest in the penalty box, staunch the blood flow of blood, or check for misplaced bodily organs. “Say, is that my spleen on the blue line? Could you just toss that over to the bench for my team doctor to hold for me? Thanks!”
While I enjoy the rough-and-tumble of hockey, I’m not a big fan of the fights between hot-headed players. You can feel tensions rising as the gameplay gets increasingly physical. Then suddenly, the gloves are off, and the fight is on. Flesh against flesh, knuckles to the nose, cheek, head, or anything else until the refs arrive to pull the now-boxers apart and send them to their respective corners, the penalty boxes.
Speaking of fights, there comes the point when dominions clash – hard. One person tries to Conquer and Dominate another just too many times or a little too hard. The gloves come off, and the fight is on.
This looming battle is where we find Jesus in our Subdue and Rule Mandate study. Jesus and the Jewish leaders have been sparring on and off throughout Jesus’ ministry, but when He raised Lazarus from the dead, that was too much for the High Priest, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin.
The epic clash of dominions came to a head when Jesus sat down on a donkey and declared through this one action that He was indeed Israel’s Messiah, whether the wicked shepherds of Israel liked it or not. And when Jesus reached Jerusalem, the gloves came off, and the fight was on.
To quote the movie Highlander, “There can be only one.”
The leaders knew that Jesus was an existential threat to their dominion over Israel, and Jesus knew the leaders were an existential threat to Himself. Either way, the contest for dominion would be decided in seven days, from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday.
Jesus’ Triumphal Entry: His Dominion Declaration
Jesus’ most extraordinary public messianic claim was His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. For significant reasons, Jesus deliberately began His procession in Bethphage (Beth Pagi, “the house of unripe figs”). Bethphage was the only area outside the walls of Jerusalem that the Sanhedrin considered an official part of the city. The village served as the easternmost entrance of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day (Martin, Edersheim, and jewishencyclopedia.com/bethphage).
Bethphage was where a smaller court of the Sanhedrin sat as “elders in the gate of the city.” “The main seat of the Sanhedrin was in the Temple, but certain things could only be determined when they were at Bethphage” (philologos.org/bpr/files/d004.htm) such as setting the religious calendar, making legal measurements and decisions for the nation such as measurements involving finding a dead body, deciding what was pure or defiled, what could enter the city and what could not, death sentences for rebellious leaders, setting limits on the size of the city, the Temple, censuses, etc.
Did you catch that? Death sentences for rebellious leaders. The people viewed Jesus as a leader and potentially the anointed leader of Israel, King. But who were the real rebellious leaders of Israel?
Death sentences for rebellious leaders of the nation (Deuteronomy 17:8-13) were validated at Bethphage (Sanhedrin 14b). Why? These kinds of decisions were to be made “in the gates, i.e., at the entrance to Jerusalem (Martin). A rebellious elder was an “elder who refuted a halachic/legal ruling of the Sanhedrin…and did not listen to them…even though the Sanhedrin has told him he is wrong” (dafnotes.com/english_dafyomi/sanhedrin/Sanhedrin_14.pdf).
Another commentary says a rebellious elder may be tried at Bethphage but may only be declared rebellious at the Temple Mount court. Since a city’s authorities sit in the city’s gate (Ruth 4:1-11, Genesis 19:1) and Bethphage was the “easternmost gate” to Jerusalem, this seems to explain why Jesus began his public declaration of his Messiahship at Bethphage. Martin notes, “As Israel’s Messiah, it only made sense that Jesus started His entrance to Jerusalem at Beth-pagi. It was like going to the Supreme Court area of the land in order to get his royal position for legal sovereignty approved.”
Since Bethphage was the location of the minor Sanhedrin, which sat in judgment of rebellious elders, we’ve uncovered a critical underlying meaning of Jesus’ Triumphal Procession. Jesus’ start in the town of Bethphage appears to announce that an examination of a rebellious elder (Jesus) or elders (the Jerusalem leaders) was about to begin. The Heavenly Father and the Sanhedrin would hold court simultaneously regarding their respective accused. If found guilty of “rebelling against the authority of the court after being warned” (either by the earthly Sanhedrin or heavenly court), the elder’s (Jesus) or elders’ (Jerusalem leaders) punishment was execution.
Jesus not only openly declared Himself as Israel’s king via the donkey (Zechariah 9:9, John 12:13) and accepted accolades with palm branches and the crowd’s cry for help (Psalm 118:25-26, foreshadowing the Messianic Kingdom), it was Jesus’ direct challenge to the Jewish leadership that held God-delegated authority over His domain – His people, city, and land. Would the Jewish leaders receive Jesus’ authority and submit to His dominion? The Good Shepherd had arrived to evaluate and remove the faithless undershepherds as Ezekiel prophesied (Ezekiel 34:10).
In other words, the gloves came off at Bethphage for the dominion battle between God’s ultimate viceregent and the Jerusalem viceregents.
Jesus’ Priestly Dominion and Actions Challenged
But Jesus came to His people as more than their King. He arrived to claim His right as Israel’s High Priest. We see that by what Jesus did after His Kingly procession – cleansing the Temple.
The Synoptic Gospels record Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple at the end of His ministry, whereas John places it at the beginning. Regardless of placement, but most revealing in the Synoptics, Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple (God’s house) was a profound revelation of Jesus’ priestly dominion.
To recap, Scott Hahn shows the father of the family in ancient times served as both the king and priest of the kinship covenant family, “By maintaining covenant relations in the family, the father fulfilled a royal-priestly function that entailed cultic duties” (Hahn). As before, Adam, as God’s firstborn (and Eve, too, by being made from Adam), served God in Eden as His kings (Genesis 1) and priests (Genesis 2). Hahn also contends the priest-king of Salem was not a mystical character but the most famous priest-king in the Middle East post-Flood, Noah’s firstborn son Shem.
After the notorious tower of Babel incident when God created nations, God bypassed the normal birth process and created His own firstborn, a unique nation among the nations, the people of Israel (Exodus 4:2). Israel is to be God’s priest-king among the nations, “…you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).
Among Jacob’s twelve sons, Reuben was the firstborn. However, due to Reuben’s infraction (Genesis 35:22), Jacob “demoted” Reuben (Leah’s firstborn) from firstborn status, which carried the firstborn’s blessing and birthright. From that moment on, the single line of firstborn, king, and priest fractured into three. It split among Joseph (firstborn blessing and birthright, Rachel’s firstborn, 1 Chronicles 5:1), Judah (family kingship, Genesis 49:8-10), and Levi (family priesthood, Numbers 3:12).
God could do this reassignment of the firstborn’s responsibilities since He was the “father” of this nation by enabling Abraham and Sarah to conceive. God retained His fatherly right to pass firstborn status to the second-born son or any other son as He desired (e.g., from Ishmael to Isaac, Genesis 17:18-19; Esau to Jacob, Genesis 25:22-23; and as we’ve seen from Reuben to his three other brothers).
This background is essential to our dominion mandate topic because all three firstborn functions (birthright/blessing, king, priest) are once and for all reconnected in God’s firstborn Son, Jesus.
Jesus’ Triumphal Entry was His declaration that Israel’s ultimate firstborn status belonged to Him. He was God’s unique-among-all-humanity firstborn son and was chosen to rule as King over Israel (Luke 1:32).
Jesus’ Temple cleaning was His declaration that the firstborn’s priestly status also belonged to Him and that His Father would soon choose Him as Israel’s High Priest. How so? By examining the law of mildew within a house (Leviticus 14:13-53).
This law is found within the Torah portion, “Leprosy-Cleansing of the Leper,” which addresses the bodily physical affliction called tzara’at. According to the rabbis, “tzara’at is not a bodily disease, but the outward physical manifestation of an inward spiritual malaise, a punishment designed to show the malefactor that he must mend his ways” (Art Scroll Chumash). The primary sin which caused this condition was determined to be slander as Miriam was stricken with tzara’at immediately upon slandering her brother Moses (Leviticus 12:10-12). The rabbis’ deduction is fascinating as Jesus also declared that outward sin starts on the inside and defiles a person before anything manifests outwardly (Matthew 15:11, 16-20). Therefore, an outward manifestation is an indicator of inward corruption and defilement. (Stay with me here.)
Following the law of skin disease (tzara’at), the Torah addresses a type of tzara’at that afflicts homes – mildew. Mildew sometimes occurred in ancient Israelite homes because they were constructed of “loose or quarried stone…and mud-dried brick, covered with clay plaster” (Eerdmans), and Israel’s damp winter season created the risk of mildewing walls. Furthermore, the Bible says God Himself may place the mildew within the home (Leviticus 14:34). Why would He do this? Just as the God-imposed tzara’at was a bodily indicator of hidden sin, mildew sometimes served as a type of tzara’at, indicating sin and defilement within a person’s home. Mildew’s appearance on a wall was regarded as an indicator sent by God to reveal hidden sin so it could be remedied.
Per the Torah command, the defiling mildew is identified, and the house cleansed is as follows (Leviticus 14:36-43). When mildew appears, the homeowner immediately alerts the priest, who gives the command, and the home is cleared for inspection. If the priest finds mildew below the wall’s surface, the house is closed and quarantined for seven days.
On the seventh day, the priest returns and reinspects the wall to see if the mildew has spread. If so, the affected stones are pulled from the wall and thrown into a ritually unclean place outside the city. All the home’s plaster is scraped off and discarded in the same unclean place as the stones. New stones are set in place, and the walls are replastered.
If the mildew reappears, the priest examines the spot to see if the mildew has spread again. If so, it is declared harmful mildew, which renders the entire house unclean and makes anyone living in it unclean. Therefore, the house is condemned, and “It must be torn down with its stones, its beams, and all its plaster, and taken outside the city to an unclean place” (Leviticus 14:45).
With this in mind, after Jesus entered Jerusalem as Israel’s King, He immediately began “cleaning His Father’s house” like a priest would inspect a home. Only this time, it wasn’t physical mildew’s corruption He was looking for, but hidden sin, spiritual corruption, in the heart of the nation and its leaders.
Jesus’ shocking actions followed the defiled-house-cleansing pattern. He spotted the outward signs of rot (commercialization and financial corruption) as an indicator of deeper defilement (the spiritual state of the leadership) and violently “cleared the house” (Mark 11:15-16). Over the next three days, Jesus continued His inspection tour through the back-and-forth debates between Himself and the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees. They questioned Jesus’ authority while Jesus assessed their spiritual fitness to continue serving God and His nation (Matthew 21:23-22:46).
It’s also fascinating that Jesus’ inspection tour paralleled the days leading up to Passover when a house is searched to find and remove all traces of leaven (a metaphor for sin) before Passover begins. So, at the same time houses in Jerusalem were being examined for hidden leaven, God’s house (the Temple and the people) was being examined for “hidden leaven.”
Jesus revealed Himself as His Father’s most qualified priest by conducting the Torah’s house-cleaning process within the Temple precincts. He knew people’s hearts, could discern motives (Luke 6:8), and identify hidden sins.
As His Father’s official inspecting priest, Jesus was responsible for declaring “the house” clean or unclean. Under the house-cleansing law, the house would be torn down if mildew corruption continued after the first remedy. The house of Israel (Temple and nation) were torn down precisely as Jesus prophesied at the end of His inspection tour. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See, your house is abandoned to you. I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’!” (Luke 13:34-35).
Because Jesus was His Father’s firstborn son, His Father invested Jesus with a firstborn son’s kingly and priestly commissions to equip and enable Him to exercise dominion over His Israelite family. As His Father’s unique firstborn, preeminent over humanity, He received a birthright and blessing no other human being could ever hope to receive – absolute dominion over all creation, physical and spiritual.
But Jesus’ inspection tour didn’t stop with cleansing the Temple. Jesus launched a theological challenge with His chief opponents, the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees. This time, it would be a three-day, bare-knuckle fight over leadership qualifications. The stakes? Submission to the winner.
Jesus’ Qualifications Questioned
The first qualification about which the leaders questioned Jesus was the basis of His authority. The leaders had no doubt about what Jesus claimed for Himself. The meaning of His Triumphal Entry was obvious. Therefore, at the start of their theological match, the leaders asked for Jesus’ credentials, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do these things?” (Mark 11:28). If Jesus’ source was man-based, the leaders could claim authority over Him since God’s authority instituted the priesthood. Jesus would therefore have to submit to their dominion. But if Jesus’ authority proved to be from God, the leaders would have to submit to Jesus’ dominion since His claim to Israel’s throne was validated.
Wisely, Jesus linked the source of His authority to John the Baptist’s authority, which backed the leaders into a corner. The people regarded John as a genuine prophet whose baptism had been authorized by God. Since John gave his stamp of approval to Jesus, Jesus would carry His Father’s authority as His “Beloved Son,” i.e., the Messiah (Luke 3:22; Psalm 2:6-7). But to deny Jesus’ claim as Israel’s Messiah, they would also deny John’s authority as God-given, which the people had already accepted. Unwilling to submit to Jesus’ dominion and for fear of the crowds, they chickened out and refused to answer Jesus’ question.
The parables of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32) and Tenant Farmers (Matthew 21:33-45; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19) follow the authority question. While much can be said of these two parables, their importance to our Subdue and Rule Mandate is that Jesus used them to get to the heart of the problem. The Two Sons parable’s point is that only those who obey God’s word prove they are under God’s dominion.
The leaders regarded John the Baptist as having God’s authority and who spoke in His name. John told them what the “way of righteousness” was in the coming kingdom (Matthew 21:32). Even though they accepted John’s word as God’s word, the leaders refused to obey God’s will by joining the new kingdom movement. Their refusal to obey proved their unwillingness to submit to God’s dominion.
In the Tenant Farmer parable, Jesus cast the leadership as temporary workers entrusted to care for the owner’s vineyard. Through the parable, Jesus revealed the leaders’ corruption and willingness to commit murder to keep what belonged to God alone. Rather than honoring God’s dominion and serving Him, they coveted God’s domain (control over God’s people) and what it could produce for them – recognition, honor, and esteem (Matthew 23:6-7), and material goods to satisfy greed and self-indulgence (Matthew 23:25). The leaders knew Jesus was speaking of them (Matthew 21:45). Still, the crowd’s presence hindered their attempt to stop Jesus.
According to Matthew, the leaders next tried to entrap Jesus. If they couldn’t establish their authority over His, they would try to outmaneuver Jesus and create a reason for arresting (getting control over) Him. The question about paying taxes involved the Pharisees’ disciples and the Herodians. Nothing is known of the Herodians outside of the Gospels. Eerdmans Bible Dictionary describes them as partisans of Herod’s house, “Although they were primarily a political party, they were religiously oriented and joined the Pharisees in opposing Jesus.” The NKJV Bible commentary says the Herodians were Jews who supported Herod and his collaboration with the Roman government. Therefore, politically, the Herodians would generally oppose the Pharisees, but stopping Jesus was a cause upon which the opposing sides could agree.
Their trap for Jesus was based on “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” The trap could be sprung with either choice. The referred to taxes were a specific annual tax paid by every Jewish adult directly to the Roman government as a citizen tax, and for Jews to pay it acknowledged Roman rule over Judea. The underlying meaning of the question was, “Do you stand with our occupiers or us?” and standing directly in front of Jesus were the representatives of both “us” and “them,” those of the Jewish leaders’ domain and those of Rome’s domain.
The leaders’ disciples led with deceptive flattery, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You don’t care what anyone thinks nor do you show partiality.” In other words, “You stand for God, and you show no partiality,” but their trap demanded that Jesus show partiality, for which either side would arrest Him.
On the one hand, Jews resented paying taxes to the conquering and dominating powerful Roman empire. To say no to paying the Roman tax would be siding with the Jewish nationalists, which would put Jesus in conflict with the ruling authorities. The Herodians could accuse Jesus of insurrection (an act of revolt against the ruling civil authorities) or sedition (conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state, in this case, the Roman government). Jesus would be painted as just another Messiah-wannabe urging rebellion. As with Barabbas, Jesus would be subject to arrest and execution as an insurrectionist.
On the other hand, saying yes to paying the Roman tax would confirm that Jesus sided with the Herodians, bringing Him into direct conflict with His oppressed Jewish countrymen, the same ones to whom He had just declared Himself as their king. And how could a bona fide candidate for Israel’s kingship submit to foreign occupiers and sell out his people? The Pharisees could denounce Jesus as a traitor or have him tried (and possibly stoned) for being a false Messiah. The inquisitors’ clever question brought dominion into play and was designed to force Jesus to decide whose dominion to whom He would submit, Rome’s or the Jews’. The Herodians and the Pharisees needed to maintain the dominion status quo. Doing so would preserve the Pharisees’ place of position, and they could continue to enjoy the “produce of the land,” i.e., living off the people, similar to Ezekiel’s wicked shepherd accusation (Ezekiel 34:2-3).
Viola! Jesus responded by recognizing both domains and violating neither, but we must get into the language weeds a bit to see that. When the Pharisees first asked the question, they posed it as “pay” taxes. In His response, Jesus changed the word from pay (Greek didomi) to pay back (apodidomi). Both the coin and people have an image stamped on them, designating to which (or whose) domain each ultimately belonged. The coin was stamped with Caesar’s image so one could pay back to Caesar what belonged to him while paying back to God what was stamped with His image and belonged to Him – the person. Jesus affirmed his impartiality by honoring both domains with their respective “image” (Christianson).
The second round began with a question from the Sadducees. It was a Torah question meant to reveal Jesus’ qualification as Israel’s king via how well He affirmed or denied the Torah. In short, their question about levirate marriage was designed as a theological query with a hidden trap about the question of the afterlife and resurrection of the dead.
While the Sadducees accepted Hebrew scripture as God’s word, they took the Written Torah (Moses’ books, Genesis to Deuteronomy) as God’s highest word for doctrine and legal matters. Furthermore, the Torah had to be interpreted literally. The Sadducees rejected the Pharisees’ Oral Torah as divinely inspired and binding and “apocalyptic material, or any Greek syncretism, they rejected outright” (bible.org/seriespage/3-sadducees).
The first part of their question to Jesus was based on the Written Torah (levirate marriage, Deuteronomy 25:6-10), but its conclusion was based on the resurrection of the dead as clearly described in Daniel 12:2. The nature of their question was to reveal whose scriptural domain Jesus was in – the Sadducees’ or the Pharisees’? How could Jesus affirm a Written Torah-based question from the prophets, writings, or the Oral Law, which the Sadducees did not regard as authoritative enough to “permit legal or doctrinal deductions” (Ibid.)
The Sadducees’ dominion trap was this: If Jesus affirmed the resurrection and afterlife, then to the Sadducees, He was not faithful to the Written Torah and, therefore, not a legitimate candidate for king. But if Jesus was the Written Torah-faithful King of Israel, how could He affirm the doctrine of a resurrection and afterlife from scripture that was not authoritative enough for legal or doctrinal deductions?
With His answer, Jesus struck at the heart of the Sadducees’ dominion-based claim that only the Written Torah was authoritative. Jesus declared their theological misunderstanding came from not knowing the scriptures nor God’s power (Matthew 22:29). In short, Jesus blamed their partial knowledge on a partial acceptance of the scriptures. The Sadducees’ inability to dominate Jesus with their question came from their assumed dominion over God’s word by deciding what scriptures were authoritative and which weren’t (Christianson).
The final question of the series did not come as a trap but as a legitimate question to prove Jesus’ finesse with the Torah. The question, “Which command is the most important of all?” (Mark 12:28) was common between sages. The question could be restated, “Rabbi Jesus, how would you sum up the entire Torah? What is the overriding principle of the Torah?” In essence, the scribe was asking for Jesus’ scholarly credentials.
What Matthew leaves out Mark includes – the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). The first half of Jesus’ answer was, “There is only one God, and He is to be loved with everything a person is and has.” When the Torah is understood in terms of a covenant, the command to “love” God means keeping covenant faithfulness to Him, something that the leadership had failed to do, as shown by their constant rejection of Jesus, mishandling of God’s word, and self-serving practices (Matthew 23).
But Jesus didn’t stop with the Shema. He continued with the Royal Law of Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and welded it to the Shema into one overriding command that summed up and incorporated all others. The Royal Law is superior to all other laws and affects all other laws in the Torah (Matthew 22:40). In essence, the Royal Law says, “As much as people love themselves, how much more should they love others and look out for their welfare and best interests?” This is not about feelings but a lifestyle of loving actions.
The Shema, when bonded to the Royal Law as one command, is God’s grand governor on the Subdue and Rule Mandate engine that prevents it from racing into the corrupted Conquer and Dominate mode. The proper way to exercise our Subdue and Rule Mandate, our drive to control our world must be regulated by love to prevent us from over-stepping into another person’s world, infringing on their God-given rights, encroaching on their responsibilities, and usurping control over them and their world.
Jesus’ final question to the Jewish leadership during Jesus’ three-day “house inspection” came from Psalm 110, a messianic psalm. Jesus challenged those who claimed authority over Israel at the beginning of their back-and-forth battle. He told His challengers that they were the leaders who were disqualified due to disobedience (Two Sons Parable), were self-serving and scheming to retain power rather than faithful to God (Tenant Farmers Parable), and were unwilling to join in with God’s plan in Jesus (Wedding Feast Parable, Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 14:15-24).
Then it was the leaders’ turn to examine Jesus regarding His qualifications as Israel’s prospective Messiah (the Pharisees’/Herodians’ question regarding taxes), His theological position on the Torah and faithfulness to it (the Sadducees’ question of the widow and the afterlife), and His Messianic credentials (the Greatest Command question) (Christianson).
Now it was Jesus’ turn. Jesus hit the core question about what the leaders believed about the Messiah. If faced with God’s Messiah, would the leaders accept Him? Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:22:41). After the Pharisees answered that the Messiah is David’s son (i.e., descendant), Jesus followed with, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’?” (v. 43).
Jesus used the common teaching technique of using a short quote to refer to an entire portion of scripture. His quote was from Psalm 110, King David’s messianic psalm. First, Jesus locked in the psalm’s authority by affirming David had written it via the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Therefore, what is said of the Messiah was revealed by God Himself.
David begins with “Yehovah said to my lord” (Ps. 110:1) and proceeds to describe his “lord.” David’s “lord” sits at Yehovah’s right hand, meaning David’s lord carries Yehovah’s authority and power. This “right-hand man” is Yehovah’s chosen King who will rule from Zion, and Yehovah will give Him (David’s descendant, Messiah) total victory (vv. 2-3). The “sitting at Yehovah’s right hand” reference would have instantly recalled the Son of Man reference from Daniel 7.
Furthermore, by Yehovah’s oath, David’s lord is also a Priest like Melchizedek (v. 4), meaning that David’s heir would be a priest-king who was the Son of Man (Flusser).
Finally, the link between the Son of David/King Messiah with the Son of Man/Melchizedek is found in Isaiah 16:5, “Then in the tent of David a throne (Messiah) will be established by faithful love. A judge (Son of Man) who seeks what is right and is quick to execute justice will sit on the throne forever.” David’s Lord, the one to whom Yehovah speaks in Psalm 110, is the Son of Man, God’s right-hand man, and like Melchizedek, He is God’s Priest, God’s King, and God’s Judge, who appears from nowhere, lives and rules forever, and is a superior person who blesses God’s faithful ones. By referring to David’s psalm, Jesus revealed clearly and powerfully His messianic identity. According to Psalm 110, Jesus is ALL of these functions in one person (Christianson).
Finally, Jesus posed the problem to His challengers, “If David calls him ‘Lord,’ how then can he be his son?” (Matthew 22:45). The upshot of Jesus’ question was, “If the Messiah is David’s descendant, then how can David call him Lord, a title due to a superior, the reverse of what was done in ancient days. For David to call the Messiah ‘Lord’ more so implies that his Lord was already alive. And yet David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is saying that his Master is yet to be born in the future. So how can David’s Lord be alive and not yet, present and future?” The answer is simple – only if David’s Lord is divine (existing now) and human (arriving later through David’s line). If that is the case (and it is), then this Messiah can reign forever. By posing this final question, Jesus claimed ultimate dominion over Israel’s leaders; they had no answer.
Jesus wins with a full-body check into the boards of God’s word!
But even though Jesus established His right to exercise dominion over Israel, that didn’t mean the leaders, the wicked shepherds of Israel, were helpless. We learn quickly that when a Conquer and Dominate-motivated person is backed into a corner, they reach for their most potent weapons to overcome their opponent. In the leaders’ case, it was a fabricated accusation to convince the Romans to kill Jesus.
The climax of Jesus’ conflicts with the Jewish leaders that led to His execution came under Caiaphas’ interrogation (Matthew 26:57-66; Mark 14:53-64; Luke 22:66-71). The focal point of the trial, which gave the leaders the basis for their false accusation, was Caiaphas’ direct question to Jesus. After Jesus remained silent under a barrage of allegations from false witnesses, High Priest Caiaphas made his ultimate move. He placed Jesus under oath and demanded, “Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63). Jesus answered truthfully that yes, He was Israel’s King, the Messiah. Remember, the “Son of God” title referred to Israel’s king, not Jesus’ divine nature (Boyarin).
However, what shocked Caiaphas the most was Jesus’ addendum. “But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64). Put another way, Jesus told Caiaphas, “Under your dominion now, you judge Me now. But when My dominion arrives, I will judge you.” With this answer, Jesus declared Himself the “Lord” of Psalm 110 – Israel’s King, Priest, and the divine-human Son of Man who will establish the Ancient of Days’ kingdom on earth (Daniel 2:44-45), an everlasting kingdom of absolute dominion over heaven and earth with all authority and power.
There was no in-between for Caiaphas regarding Jesus’ claim. In Caiaphas’ eyes, Jesus’ testimony proved He was an existential threat to the nation and the leaders’ dominion over it with His teachings and indisputable miracles. How could the leaders ever hope to control such a man to their ends?
The leaders’ Conquer and Dominate drive kicked into high gear. Jesus must be “controlled” permanently through execution.
Boyarin, Daniel. The Jewish Gospels, The Story of the Jewish Christ
Christianson, Pharisees – Which Law To Break, Jesus? God’s or Man’s? Sermon at Issachar Community, 3/24/2018
Christianson, The Sadducees Examine the Lamb: The Resurrection Question, Sermon at Issachar Community, 3/31/2018
Christianson, What Do YOU Think About The Messiah? Sermon at Issachar Community, 4/14/2018
Edersheim, Alfred, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah
Flusser, David, and Steven Notley. The Sage From Galilee, Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius
Hahn, Scott W. Kinship By Covenant, A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God’s
Martin, Ernest L., hope-of-israel.org/bethpage.html
Myers, Allen C., ed. The Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary
Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible, Nelson Bibles, div. Thomas Nelson Publishers
philologos.org/bpr/files/d004.htm (Bethphage and judging rebellious leaders/elders, Sotah 45a)
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts