In the very first verse of the New Testament, Jesus is called “the Son of David” (Matthew 1:1). Matthew is showing that Jesus is on the human side of David through his earthly father, Joseph. Despite Jesus’ being born to a virgin, he nevertheless had legal standing in the Jewish community through His father’s lineage, and so Matthew emphasizes how Jesus “descended” from David, through Joseph.
The word “Son” here is interesting. A.T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures in the New Testament,1 notes: “The Hebrew and Aramaic often used the word “son” for the quality or character, but here [in Matthew 1:1] the idea is descent.” There is a sense in which Jesus had the royal and faithful characteristics of David, too, but here the point is that Jesus was in David’s line. It was very important for Matthew’s Hebrew readers to understand that Jesus was in this line, because they expected Him to come from David’s family (John 7:32; Acts 13:22-23). This was part of the identification of Jesus as the Messiah, as it had been prophesied extensively (Isaiah 11:1-4; Jeremiah 23:5; Psalms 110:1-7, 132:11).
When the angel Gabriel came to Mary to tell her that she would conceive a child of the Holy Spirit, he told her: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33, emp. added). As we might expect, the grown-up Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of David, as did others (e.g., Matthew 12:23, 22:41-46; Mark 12:35; Luke 18:38).
In Jesus’ role as David’s Son, He is not inferior to His forbear, but rather superior. This is a point in the prophecy of Psalms 110. David himself calls his descendant “Lord” in this passage, as Jesus observes in debate with the Pharisees (Matthew 22:41-46). After all, Jesus was the Son of Man as well as the Son of David. As Robertson writes, the Christ was “not merely a real Jew and the heir of the promises, but the promise made to Abraham. So Matthew begins his line with Abraham while Luke traces his line back to Adam.”
Since Christ’s authority has been so well established—not only through His lineage but also through the mighty, miraculous works He did while on Earth—we must make sure that we live in obedience to Him. God has given Jesus “authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27). Have you obeyed this ultimate authority?
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