David’s Son or David’s Lord?

A sermon by Pastor Michael Pahl on February 17, 2019, called “David’s Son or David’s Lord?” It is the sixth in a series called “Reading the Bible with Jesus.” The sermon is a reflection on the importance of Psalm 110:1 for Jesus (and throughout the New Testament).

Here is a written excerpt:

James Tissot, Jésus dans la synagogue déroule le livre

Psalm 110 speaks of “enemies” being made a “footstool”: the image is of a victorious warlord seated at the right hand of the king, his feet on the neck of his conquered enemies lying prostrate before him. And if you go on in Psalm 110, it speaks of “kings” being “shattered” on the “day of the Lord Messiah’s wrath”; it speaks of corpses filling the earth in this Lord Messiah’s judgment.

That sure doesn’t sound like Jesus’ kind of Messiah, does it? This is not Jesus the Messiah teaching “love of enemies” and praying forgiveness for his crucifiers from the cross! How is it that this Psalm became such a favourite of Jesus and his Apostles?

Well, Jesus follows in a stream of Jewish thinking that did not see “peoples” or even individual “human beings” as our ultimate “enemies.” Rather, behind all the unjust and evil oppressors of this world—all the “lords” of this world, all the Caesars and Führers of this world—behind all these human powers there are deeper, darker powers at work, forces that seem to control us but that we can never seem to control.

These are “spiritual” forces, meaning they are not human, not mere flesh and blood, however much they work in and through human beings and groups. These are not even necessarily “personal” forces; there is not an invisible being lurking behind every act of evil. But these “spiritual” forces are real, nonetheless.

Think of what happens when a crowd becomes a mob. A crowd is simply a bunch of different people in the same place at the same time. A mob, though, is a crowd compelled by more animal instincts, animated by a spirit of fear, perhaps, or a spirit of violence.

Or think about what happens when an ordinary person gets in a position of power. That access to power over others, power to do what they want in the world, that can change people profoundly—as if they are inhabited by a different spirit, a different temperament, than they were before.

People will do things as a mob that they would never do as individuals. People will do things when they have power that they would never do without that power. This—people driven by a spirit of power and mobs driven by a spirit of fear and violence—this is how Jesus got crucified.

It is these deeper, darker powers at work in our world—baseless fears, willful ignorance, stubborn pride, selfishness, greed, lust, hatred, violence, and more—“sin,” in other words, and the “death” that comes from it—these are our true enemies. Not each other, not any human being or human group.

These powers at work in us and among us, these can become built right into the structures and systems of our societies. They can be manifest in individual people, people in positions of authority in our world. But it is these forces—Sin with a capital S, and Death with a capital D—that are our ultimate enemies.

“Our struggle,” Ephesians 6 reminds us, “is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil.”

This is how the first followers of Jesus understood Psalm 110:1, then: Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of David who brings about God’s reign on earth, has been exalted by God as Lord, raised up from the dead to God’s right hand, given all authority in heaven and earth, and he will reign relentlessly until all God’s true enemies—all these deeper, darker powers at work in us and among us—are brought into submission to his reign of love.

In other words, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

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