Many questions the Pharisees had asked Christ, by which, though they thought to pose him, they did but expose themselves; but now let him ask them a question; and he will do it when they are gathered together, Matt. 22:41. He did not take some one of them apart from the rest (ne Hercules contra duos—Hercules himself may be overmatched), but, to shame them the more, he took them all together, when they were in confederacy and consulting against him, and yet puzzled them. Note, God delights to baffle his enemies when they most strengthen themselves; he gives them all the advantages they can wish for, and yet conquers them. Associate yourselves, and you shall be broken in pieces, Isa. 3:9, 10. Now here,
I. Christ proposes a question to them, which they could easily answer; it was a question in their own catechism; “What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He? Whose Son do you expect the Messiah to be, who was promised to the fathers?” This they could easily answer, The Son of David. It was the common periphrasis of the Messiah; they called him the Son of David. So the scribes, who expounded the scripture, had taught them, from Ps. 89:35, 36, I will not lie unto David; his seed shall endure for ever (Isa. 9:7), upon the throne of David. And Isa. 11:1; A rod out of the stem of Jesse. The covenant of royalty made with David was a figure of the covenant of redemption made with Christ, who as David, was made King with an oath, and was first humbled and then advanced. If Christ was the Son of David, he was really and truly Man. Israel said, We have ten parts in David; and Judah said, He is our bone and our flesh; what part have we then in the Son of David, who took our nature upon him?
What think ye of Christ? They had put questions to him, one after another, out of the law; but he comes and puts a question to them upon the promise. Many are so full of the law, that they forget Christ, as if their duties would save them without his merit and grace. It concerns each of us seriously to ask ourselves, What think we of Christ? Some think not of him at all, he is not in all, not in any, of their thoughts; some think meanly, and some think hardly, of him; but to them that believe he is precious; and how precious then are the thoughts of him! While the daughters of Jerusalem think no more of Christ than of another beloved; the spouse thinks of him as the Chief of ten thousands.
II. He starts a difficulty upon their answer, which they could not easily solve, Matt. 22:43-45. Many can so readily affirm the truth, that they think they have knowledge enough to be proud of, who, when they are called to confirm the truth, and to vindicate and defend it, show they have ignorance enough to be ashamed of. The objection Christ raised was, If Christ be David’s son, how then doth David, in spirit, call him Lord? He did not hereby design to ensnare them, as they did him, but to instruct them in a truth they were loth to believe—that the expected Messiah is God.
1. It is easy to see that David calls Christ Lord, and this in spirit being divinely inspired, and actuated therein by a spirit of prophecy; for it was the Spirit of the Lord that spoke by him, 2 Sam. 23:1, 2. David was one of those holy men that spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, especially in calling Christ Lord; for it was then, as it is still (1 Cor. 12:3) that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now, to prove that David, in spirit, called Christ Lord, he quotes Ps. 110:1; which psalm the scribes themselves understood of Christ; of him, it is certain, the prophet there speaks, of him and of no other man; and it is a prophetical summary of the doctrine of Christ, it describes him executing the offices of a Prophet, Priest, and King, both in his humiliation and also in his exaltation.
Christ quotes the whole verse, which shows the Redeemer in his exaltation; (1.) Sitting at the right hand of God. His sitting denotes both rest and rule; his sitting at God’s right hand denotes superlative honour and sovereign power. See in what great words this is expressed (Heb. 8:1); He is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty. See Phil. 2:9; Eph. 1:20. He did not take this honour to himself, but was entitled to it by covenant with his Father, and invested in it by commission from him, and here is that commission. (2.) Subduing his enemies. There he shall sit, till they be all made either his friends or his footstool. The carnal mind, wherever it is, is enmity to Christ; and that is subdued in the conversion of the willing people that are called to his foot (as the expression is, Isa. 41:2), and in the confusion of his impenitent adversaries, who shall be brought under his foot, as the kings of Canaan were under the feet of Joshua.
But that which this verse is quoted for is, that David calls the Messiah his Lord; the Lord, Jehovah, said unto my Lord. This intimates to us, that in expounding scripture we must take notice of, and improve, not only that which is the main scope and sense of a verse, but of the words and phrases, by which they Spirit chooses to express that sense, which have often a very useful and instructive significance. Here is a good note from that word, My Lord.
2. It is not so easy for those who believe not the Godhead of the Messiah, to clear this from an absurdity, if Christ b David’s son. It is incongruous for the father to speak of his son, the predecessor of his successor, as his Lord. If David call him Lord, that is laid down (Matt. 22:45) as the magis notum—the more evident truth; for whatever is said of Christ’s humanity and humiliation must be construed and understood in consistency with the truth of his divine nature and dominion. We must hold this fast, that he is David’s Lord, and by that explain his being David’s son. The seeming differences of scripture, as here, may not only be accommodated, but contribute to the beauty and harmony of the whole. Amicae scripturarum lites, utinam et nostrae—The differences observable in the scriptures are of a friendly kind; would to God that our differences were of the same kind!
III. We have here the success of this gentle trial which Christ made of the Pharisees’ knowledge, in two things.
1. It puzzled them (Matt. 22:46); No man was able to answer him a word. Either it was their ignorance that they did not know, or their impiety that they would not own, the Messiah to be God; which truth was the only key to unlock this difficulty. What those Rabbies could not then answer, blessed be God, the plainest Christian that is led into the understanding of the gospel of Christ, can now account for; that Christ, as God, was David’s Lord; and Christ, as Man, was David’s son. This he did not now himself explain, but reserved it till the proof of it was completed by his resurrection; but we have it fully explained by him in his glory (Rev. 22:16); I am the root and the offspring of David. Christ, as God, was David’s Root; Christ, as Man, was David’s Offspring. If we hold not fast this truth, that Jesus Christ is over all God blessed for ever, we run ourselves into inextricable difficulties. And well might David, his remote ancestor, call him Lord, when Mary, his immediate mother, after she had conceived him, called him, Lord and God, her Saviour, Luke 1:46, 47.
2. It silenced them, and all others that sought occasion against him; Neither durst any man, from that day forth, ask him any more such captious, tempting, ensnaring questions. Note, God will glorify himself in the silencing of many whom he will not glorify himself in the salvation of. Many are convinced, that are not converted, by the word. Had these been converted, they would have asked him more questions, especially that great question, What must we do to be saved? But since they could not gain their point, they would have no more to do with him. But, thus all that strive with their Master shall be convinced, as these Pharisees and lawyers here were, of the inequality of the match.