SET-1: Season of Dedication of the Church
On the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar, we are celebrating the feast of Christ the King. As members of the church, we are in the Kingdom of God started and headed by Christ. The salvation history will culminate when the Father will enthrone Jesus as the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:16). Through his dispute with the Pharisees, Jesus proved that the Messiah is more than the “son of David.” He is also the Son of God who came to the world as the son of man. Jesus acknowledged to Pilate that he is king, but his kingdom does not belong to this world (Jn 18:36). Jesus told his disciples: “you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world” (Jn 15:19). Let us acknowledge the glorious sacrifice of our redeemer who has chosen us out of the world to be the citizens of his divine kingdom. We must be loyal to his leadership, so we later enter the fullness of his kingdom.
The Question About David’s Son
(Matthew 22:41) As the Pharisees were gathered there, Jesus asked them, (42) “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?” They answered, “David’s.” (43) Jesus then asked, “Why then did David, inspired by the Spirit, call him Lord? For he says in a psalm: (44) The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right until I put your enemies under your feet. (45) If David calls him Lord, how can the Christ be his son?” (46) No one could answer him, not even a word. From that day on, no one dared question him anymore.
(Mt 22:41) As the Pharisees were gathered there, Jesus asked them…
Diverse groups that opposed Jesus used to question him. Most of the queries were to refute him rather than to understand the divine truth from him. The context of this gospel passage is the Jewish leaders’ questioning of Jesus in Jerusalem for which he gave proper answers.
1. The chief priests and elders questioned the authority of Jesus for his teachings and his act of cleansing the Temple. They asked: “What authority have you to do all this? Who gave you this authority?” (Mt 21:23).
2. The disciples of the Pharisees and Herodians asked him: “Is it against the law to pay taxes to Caesar? Should we pay them or not?” (Mt 22:17).
3. The Sadducees, who did not believe in life after death, questioned Jesus on the resurrection based on the fictional story of a woman who married seven brothers one after another and died childless. “Now, in the resurrection of the dead, which of the seven will have her as wife, for all of them had married her?” (Mt 22:28).
4. A scholar of the law, representing the Pharisees, asked Jesus: “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law?” (Mt 22:36).
After responding to all these problematic questions, Jesus took his turn to ask a question to the Pharisees. Then the questioned became the questioner. While the purpose of those who questioned Jesus was to find some reason to put him to death, his purpose was to prove that he was the Messiah.
(42) “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?” They answered, “David’s”
The Israelites were expecting a Messiah that God would send to deliver them from their bondage. The word Messiah came from the Hebrew word Mashiach which means “anointed one” or “chosen one.” Its Greek version is Christos and English term is Christ. In Biblical times, priests, prophets, and kings were anointed with oil as a sign of God’s selection and consecration of them for a God-given role. The Jews were expecting a special Messiah, who would deliver Israel from the evil as God had promised right from the time of Adam and renewed through other holy men in Israel’s history.
Jesus’ question to the Pharisees was on the sonship of the Messiah. There are seven sonship titles of the Messiah in the Bible, out of which the Pharisees chose one.
1. The Son of God
Saint Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus back as the son of God (Lk 3:38) emphasizing the divine origin of Jesus. Though he was born of a woman, he had no human father. Angel Gabriel said to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be holy and shall be called Son of God” (Lk 1:35). At the time of his baptism and transfiguration, God revealed him as His Son. The Father confirmed this divine sonship at his resurrection (Acts 13:32-33; Rom 1:3-4). Saint Peter acknowledged Jesus as “the son of the living God” (Mt 16:16) and Saint Thomas as “My Lord and my God” (Jn 20:28) both affirming the divinity of Jesus. Because God directly created Adam, he was also a son of God. However, Jesus is far different from Adam. The Nicaean Creed states: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.”
2. The Son of Adam
Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus also as the son of Adam (Lk 3:38). This title emphasizes the humanity of Jesus as an outcome of the Adamic Covenant: “I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike at his heel” (Gen 3:15). Thus, the promised Son of Adam was to be born of a woman who would strike the head of the serpent.
3. The Son of Man
The Bible takes this usage with various meanings: the incarnation as the son of a human being, the Messiah’s suffering like a human (Mt 12:40; 17:22; 20:18-19, 28), the supernatural nature of Jesus (Jn 1:51), and his second coming in glory (Dan 7:13). Jesus preferred to use “son of man” for himself out of his humility.
4. The Son of Abraham
The genealogy of Matthew traces back Jesus as the son of Abraham (Mt 1:1). This shows the relationship of the Messiah to the Abrahamic Covenant. The circumcision of Jesus was on the eighth day following this covenant. Jesus was the fulfilment of Abraham’s words to his son Isaac: “God himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice, my son” (Gen 22:8). Though God saved Isaac’s life and replaced him with a ram, the actual replacement took place with Jesus, the Lamb of God, who sacrificed himself on the same mountain. God fulfilled all the three promises He made to Abraham in Israel and continued to fulfil in Jesus. Through Jesus also, God selected descendants of faith, promised a perfect dwelling place for the faithful, and a blessing to all nations through the faithful.
5. The Son of David
Matthew starts his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus presenting him also as a son of David (Mt 1:1). The emphasis here is on the royalty or kingship of Jesus and as the fulfilment of the Davidic Covenant. God promised to David: “When the time comes for you to rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your son after you, the one born of you, and I will make his reign secure. He shall build a house for my name and I will firmly establish his kingship forever” (2 Sam 7:12-13). The fulfilment of this promise happened only partially in David’s son Solomon who built the Temple. The promise came to its completion only in Jesus who established the universal kingdom and rules it forever. Jesus was a descendant of David through Mary and his adopted father Joseph as per the genealogy that Luke and Matthew present.
6. The Son of Mary
Jesus was also known as the son of Mary (Mk 6:3) emphasizing his human origin from Mary. His humanity came only from Mary who was also from the Davidic line according to the genealogy that Luke gives. Jesus had the royal blood of King David through his son Nathan and his descendants that reach Jesus through Mary.
7. The Son of Joseph
The people considered Jesus also as the son of Joseph (Mt 13:55; Jn 6:42). Though Joseph was not his biological father, Joseph was his adopted or legal father from the Davidic line. The genealogy of Jesus that Matthew presents traces back Joseph to Solomon, the son of David.
In answer to Jesus’ question, the Pharisees answered that the Messiah must be the Son of David. That was a popular expectation of the public regarding the Messiah. That is clear from many people addressing Jesus as the Son of David. Some examples are the crowds who doubted the Messiahship of Jesus (Mt 12:23), the Canaanite woman (Mt 15:22), the crowds that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem shouting Hosanna (Mt 21:9), and Bartimaeus who was a blind beggar (Mk 10:48).
Though Pharisees’ answer was correct, Jesus challenged their response to prove that the Messiah was more than David’s descendant.
(43) Jesus then asked, “Why then did David, inspired by the Spirit, call him Lord? For he says in a psalm: (44) The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right until I put your enemies under your feet. (45) If David calls him Lord, how can the Christ be his son?” (46) No one could answer him, not even a word. From that day on, no one dared question him anymore.
David, inspired by the Spirit
Jesus quoted from Psalm 110:1, “The LORD says to my LORD: ‘Sit at my right hand while I make your foes your footstool.’” David wrote this psalm under the Spirit’s inspiration because the words are not his but the LORD’s.
Call him Lord
The ‘Lord’ or the Messiah would be far higher than an earthly king because the Messiah would rule the kingdom forever, as God promised to David. No earthly king can rule forever. David addressed the future son to be born in his direct lineage as ‘Lord.’ Besides, the “Lord” was in existence before David. So, David said in the past tense that “the Lord said to my lord.” No son can exist before the father. The ‘Lord’ is not just a son of David. Instead, this son must be of divine origin who existed with God the Father and incarnated in the lineage of David. He is the creator of David and his descendant, as Jesus revealed to Saint John at Patmos: “I am the root and offspring of David, the radiant Morning Star” (Rev 22:16).
Sit at my right
The Bible presents Jesus as sitting at the right hand of the Father (Ps 110:1; Mt 26:64; Mk 16:19; Lk 22:69; and Acts 2:33; 7:55). The Biblical meaning of right hand is power, authority, or honour. The person next in the line of authority usually sits on the right side of the king. When Bathsheba, the mother of King Solomon, approached the king, he honoured her by seating her at his right on a throne (1 Kgs 2:19). Saint Stephen before his martyrdom had a vision of heaven. He said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). There is no mention in the Bible of anyone being seated at God’s left side though there is a Jewish belief that Abraham sits at the left side of Yahweh.
Until I put your enemies under your feet
In the past, there was a practice of the conquerors placing their feet upon the neck or body of their defeated enemies. Joshua 10:16- 27 is an example. The Amorite kings were hiding in a cave at Makkedah while the Israelites conquered their nation. When the commanders of Joshua’s army brought these kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon to Joshua, he asked the commanders to put their feet on the necks of the kings while all army of Israel was present. It was a sign of the victory of Israel over those kings. So also, the Spirit inspired David to say that one day the Messiah will bring the spiritual enemies under his feet.
(46) No one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
The Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and Scribes who used to question Jesus to put him in trouble found that he was a man of unbeatable wisdom. They could not defeat him in any theological disputes. So, they stopped interrogating him with religious questions.
THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING
The kingship of Jesus differs from the concept of kingship in the world. The Jews misunderstood Messiah as a secular king who would liberate them from foreign rulers. The alien monarchs one after another like Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans ruled the Israelites, and that frustrated them. Even the disciples asked Jesus before the ascension, “Lord, is it now that you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). However, Jesus’ role was to reestablish the Kingdom of God by saving humanity from the bondage of Satan, sin, suffering, and death that had entered the world because of the fall of the first parents. That is the permanent solution that God had offered to Adam.
“The envy of the devil brought death to the world, and those who take his side shall experience death” (Wis 2:24). This death is physical and spiritual. Christ, through his death and resurrection, broke the power of evil and set us free from the slavery of sin (CCC 421). By offering himself as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45), Jesus has regained us “the promised eternal inheritance” (Heb 9:15). “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not perish, but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). As St Paul wrote: “He is the head of the body, the church; he is also the first, the firstborn from the dead, that he may be the first in everything, for God was pleased to let all fullness dwell in him. Through him God willed to reconcile all things to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by establishing peace through his blood shed on the cross” (Col 1:18-20). At the end times, Jesus “is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with him are called, chosen and faithful” (Rev 17:14).
The term Christ or Messiah implied that God anointed him. Just as God selected and anointed the kings, prophets, and priests for His service, He sent Jesus as the Messiah in all the three roles. He performed the role of the prophet, priest, and king. As a prophet, he was the Word of God and preached it to the world (Lk 24:19). As a High Priest, “passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle… he entered once for all into the sanctuary…, with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Heb 9:11-12). Jesus is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:16). “He revealed his almighty power in Christ when he raised him from the dead and had him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, power, authority, dominion, or any other supernatural force that could be named, not only in this world but also in the world to come. Thus has God put all things under the feet of Christ and set him as head over all things for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph 1:20-23).
There are several references to the kingship of Jesus in the Bible. At the time of the annunciation, Angel Gabriel told Mary, “The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever and his reign shall have no end” (Lk 1:32-33). Jesus preached that the
Kingdom of God was at hand (Mt 4:17; Mk 1:14-15; Lk 4:43; 11:20). Nathanael acknowledged Jesus, “Master, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1:49). Matthew quoting from Zechariah 9:9 reported that the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was the fulfilment of a prophecy: “Behold, your king is coming to you” (Mt 21:5). The people welcomed him saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Mt 21:9). The accusation Jews brought to Pilate against Jesus was that he claimed to be the king of Jews because they knew that it would aggravate the Roman governor. Hence, Pilate questioned Jesus by asking, “Are You the King of the Jews?” to which he answered: “It is as you say” (Mt 27:11; Mk 15:2; Lk 23:3). Jesus clarified to Pilate, “My kingship does not come from this world” (Jn 18:36). The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus based on his claim to kingship. “Then, twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto his head, and placed a reed in his right hand. They knelt before Jesus and mocked him, saying, ‘Long live the King of the Jews!’” (Mt 27:29). The inscription Pilate placed on Jesus’ cross was: “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews” (Jn 19:19).
Origin of the Feast of ‘Christ the King’
The Feast of ‘Christ the King’ is of recent origin. The background for considering this feast was World War I (1 August 1914 to 11 November 1918) and the lack of peace even after the war. Pius XI, the then pope, wanted to give importance to the kingship of Christ as “Prince of Peace.” The pope published an encyclical, “Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio” in December 1922 and another one, “Quas Primas” in 1925. Pope Pius XI instituted the feast in 1925 and the church celebrated it on the last Sunday of October or the Sunday before All Saint’s Day. The Pope intended to remind the Christians that they should show allegiance to Christ the King rather than to the earthly rulers.
Pope Saint Paul VI moved the feast of Christ the King to the last Sunday of the liturgical year in 1970 and renamed the feast as “Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe.” That is relevant because of two remembrances. It reminds Christians of the second coming of Christ when he will establish God’s kingdom in its fullness with Jesus as the King. It also leads into the season of Advent when we prepare for Christmas, the birth of the newborn king.
1. Though Jesus was born in the line of David as the fulfilment of the Davidic covenant, He was also the Son of God. Through baptism, we are reborn in the spiritual family of Jesus. Jesus told his disciples: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, my sister, and my mother” (Mt 12:50). Let us do the will of God and remain in the family of Jesus.
2. Jesus’s seat at the right hand of the Father shows how pleasing he is to the Father. At the last judgement, Jesus will place the righteous on his right side. Let us perform the works of Christian charity based on faith in Jesus to be eligible for this privilege at the last judgement.
3. Jesus Christ established the church as his kingdom with himself as the head. As Christians, we form the body of Christ in the church with diverse gifts and functions to exercise in this world (Rom 12:4-6). Are we working in unison with the church and the representatives of Christ?
4. Jesus said that he is the vine and we are the branches. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it has to remain part of the vine, so neither can you bear fruit if you do not live in me” (Jn 15:4). Let us remain in the love of Jesus and bear the fruits of Christian love.
5. “On Judgement Day at the end of the world, Christ will come in glory to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil which, like the wheat and the tares, have grown up together in the course of history” (CCC 681). So, let us continue fighting against evil with the grace of Christ and persist in doing good awaiting the glorious return of Jesus.
6. After the last judgement, the Father will enthrone Jesus Christ as the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:16). Let us pray and work for our admission into this perfect kingdom of the Lord.