I’m going to guess you’ve never heard a sermon on these verses. They are surrounded by 3 lessons that you’ve probably heard lots of sermons preached, especially about stewardship. The first lesson is Jesus’ teaching about paying taxes, rendering to Cesar what is Cesar’s and to God what is God’s. Then, a lesser known teaching about marriage in the resurrection followed by the greatest commandment. Then, we have our verses today, followed by the story of the widow’s mite or offering.
These are all part of one conversation or lessons within one teaching session. The session appears to start in Chapter 11 with the teachers of the Law questioning Jesus’ authority, carries through Chapter 12 with the parable of the tenants we heard last week and ends with the widow’s mite teaching. For an obvious reason, these few verses I read this morning get missed; they’re not easy to interpret and it’s not easy to say how these verses apply to our lives.
We think we know what it means to call Jesus Lord and Son of God, but we don’t understand what it means to call Jesus the son of David. We skip these verses and move on to verses that are easier to understand. Honestly, I chose these verses several weeks ago. When I sat down to work on this sermon earlier in the week, I wished I had chosen other verses. But, here we are…asking Jesus, “Whose Son are you?”
So, what does it mean to call Jesus the son of David. This is a politically charged title. Matthew uses son of David as a title for Jesus more often than Mark. Ten times compared to 2, because Mark doesn’t want such a politically charged title attributed to Jesus. So far, in our coverage of Mark’s Gospel we’ve learned that the Disciples didn’t know who Jesus was or what it meant to call Him Messiah because they hadn’t witnessed His glory. Now, Jesus is asking the crowds if they understand who the Messiah is.
The Messianic hope of many would be that the Messiah would restore the Davidic kingdom of Israel and they would once again be a sovereign nation with a king like David on the throne with the anointing of God. It was believed this Messiah king would be a descendant of David or a son of David. Jesus asks, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David?” The question is, “how can the Messiah be a descendant of King David if King David calls the Messiah Lord?”
In Psalm 110, which is attributed to King David’s authorship, King David writes, “The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” What King David is saying is “God said to the Messiah who is my lord…” And, to this, Jesus says, “David himself calls the Messiah Lord, How then can the Messiah be David’s son?”
From the Gospel of Matthew, the lineage of Jesus is presented as the lineage of the Messiah the son of David through Joseph who was a descendant of David. But, Mark knows giving Jesus political titles like Lord and son of David are troublesome. Ultimately, it is politics that gets Jesus killed. Jesus was killed by the Romans for treason against the empire under the suspicion of being the King of the Jews.
Jesus was misunderstood by most before the crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus was killed because He was thought to be re-establishing the kingdom of Israel. He wasn’t expected to be establishing a different kind of kingdom. The people’s Messiah would be one that saved them from Rome; instead, God sent them a Messiah who saved them in another way.
We still want God to intervene in our political world. Recently, I heard a presidential candidate say that he wanted to be president if it is God’s will then talk about taking back the country after 7 years of poor leadership. Talk like this is dangerous, because it leads people to believe that our president is chosen by God.
In the Bible, when the people of Israel asked for a king, a theocracy was established meaning the nation was governed by a king chosen by God. It was expected that the king would rule as guided by God. The king had priests and prophets to help guide him in the ways of God. In a theocracy, the leader is chosen and anointed by God. It is not so with America.
America is a democracy, not a theocracy. Our leaders are selected by the will of the people casting votes. We can say we vote based on who we think will be best guided by God’s principles, but, even that is our interpretation of what we believe are the principles of God. If we believe we are voting for a candidate who is ordained by God and that person does not win, it is easy then to jump to the conclusion that America has somehow strayed from God’s will.
God didn’t intervene politically in 1st century Palestine by sending a new king to drive out Rome. What would we expect a God-chosen president to do in America? We’re not oppressed by a foreign occupier. I guess we could talk about corrupt politics and excessive taxes, but it is nothing compared to 1st century Palestine.
We should be careful when talking about God and politics, not because God doesn’t care or because God isn’t involved, but because we can believe God is more involved than He is. God hasn’t chosen a president for America, but God does care…just not enough we should call our candidate the chosen one.
So, let’s NOT say that Jesus is a son of David. Jesus was a political figure in that he challenged the politics of the Temple, even Rome, but he wasn’t going to amass an army to overthrow either. Jesus might be better compared to the Old Testament prophets than King David. A prophet called the people’s attention to the mandates of God. In the second part of our Scripture reading, Jesus, like a prophet, calls attention to the leaders of the Temple who are not acting in accord with God’s will.
Jesus says, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to be showy and be honored, but they don’t care about the poor. They pray long prayers.”
You know. It’s really difficult to not talk about politics with this Scripture in this political climate. Because, here’s this teaching from Jesus saying watch out for the ones who make long speeches and don’t care about the poor. If God isn’t going to choose our president and Jesus gives us this warning about leaders who don’t care for the poor, what are we to make of it?
Throughout the Bible, it is undeniable that God is concerned about the poor, widows and orphans. In the Old Testament, God passes judgment on Israel throughout her history for 2 reasons: false worship or not caring for the poor, but more often for not taking care of the poor. In the New Testament, James tells us that religion is taking care of the orphans and widows.
I think America is confused about who should take care of the poor, whose responsibility it is and how to best take care of the poor. In the Bible, it was everyone’s responsibility. Society was to set up means by which to care for the most vulnerable. Some examples were a family redeemer who would marry a widow to care of her if she had no sons. Another example was the gleaning system of leaving the edges of your fields unharvested for the poor to take some for their needs. I don’t know how either of those are easily translated to our modern economic system.
In American history, the village took care of her own. But, times were much different. There were fewer single mothers. Disabilities were different. Opportunities were different. It’s not so easy to take care of a woman’s children so she can work because we’re all working and/or raising kids. Helping a man with his income isn’t as easy as the village farmers all working together to work his farm.
How America takes care of the disadvantaged is what God cares about in our nation. Any one of our candidates…well, most…of our candidates have plans to improve the economy and create more jobs. Some go further into suggesting other ways to help American families. What we have to ask ourselves is, “how do we want to take care of the poor?” You can’t read the Bible and believe God isn’t concerned. Someone has to do it. And, as we’re watching all these candidates make long speeches and receive honor and fame, we have to think faithfully about how their plans for taking care of the poor are worth our vote.
In the 21st century, we can’t say that what worked 6000 or 2000 or 100 years ago will work today to provide sustenance and opportunity for the disadvantaged. As we prepare to go to the polls next week, please consider the poor in your decision. There is a lot of rhetoric about immigration, national security, healthcare, education and jobs. I promise you that what God is most concerned about is how we will care for His little ones who can’t care for themselves.