He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ’
To build the case He’s making against the Pharisees, Jesus quotes Psalm 110. Psalm 110 is the most quoted passage in Scripture, of course all of this quoting coming from the New Testament. This is interesting. It’s not Isaiah 53, not Psalm 22, not Genesis 3: 15, but Psalm 110, the Psalm about Jesus’ ascension. This goes to show how much Ascension Day is underrated in peoples’ minds.
Here is the Psalm in full:
“The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Your people shall be volunteer In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth. The LORD has sworn And will not relent, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at Your right hand; He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. He shall judge among the nations, He shall fill the places with dead bodies, He shall execute the heads of many countries. He shall drink of the brook by the wayside; Therefore He shall lift up the head.”
The “Sit at My right hand” part of the passage is directly quoted five times in the New Testament, three of which are repeated in the synoptic Gospels. The Melchizedek portion is quoted in Hebrews four times. The idea of Jesus’ enemies being under His feet comes up several times, albeit not direct quotes. Clearly the idea of the Messiah judging among the nations figures in numerous passages.
It’s not only the passage itself, but the powerful Trinitarian and incarnational theology undergirding the whole passage. There’s a reason Jesus Himself brought it up to teach the mystery of His Person.
Who is the LORD and who is the Lord? Typically when LORD is in all capital letters, it’s a translation of the word Yahweh (YHWH), or Jehovah, the divine name of God revealed to Moses. Lord not in all capital letters is a translation of Adonai, which also refers to God, but can also refer to “lord” as in “lord of the manor,” or “sir.” Things get somewhat confusing because in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, Kyrios is used for both, and Kyrios can also mean LORD, or “lord” and “sir.” So, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), it is essentially, “The Kyrios said to my Kyrios.”
Now, Jehovah’s Witnesses like to emphasize that this proves Jesus is Lord, but not LORD. Only the Father, Jehovah, is YHWH, or LORD. The “Lord” is just the Son of God, not God Himself.
But frankly, no one thought this way. Adonai was most frequently used as a reference to God, which is why the Greek translators had no problem using Kyrios for both Adonai and Yahweh. Yahweh is more a name, while Adonai is more a title, but both are used for God.
In any event, Philippians 2: 9 says God gave Jesus “the name which is above every name.” Ask any Jehovah’s Witness what the “name which is above every name” is and they’ll correctly say, “Jehovah.” Well, Jesus was given that name, for which reason St. Paul concludes in Philippians 2: 10-11, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, [and] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
That’s Kyrios. So, clearly, St. Paul understands that if Jesus is given the name Yahweh – the name above every name – the conclusion is that we confess Jesus is Kyrios. Kyrios is Yahweh, and Jesus is Kyrios; therefore, Jesus is Yahweh.
The idea that Jesus is “given” this name shouldn’t suggest He didn’t have it from eternity, but that in the economy of salvation, that is, the unfolding administration of certain mysteries, for us, the man Jesus became the instrumentality of everything that Yahweh is for us, and that happened at His ascension.
At Jesus’ ascension a man reestablished fellowship with God. He sat down at the right hand of the Father, the place of fellowship and authority. He attained to that authority, an authority executed in the baptizing and teaching of all nations. In other words, having established man at God’s right hand, we have the full meaning and revelation of what God’s divine name Yahweh means. Yahweh means “He Is” even as Jesus is “I Am” – God is life and life-giving. This life-giving in His name happens through baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Even as Jesus has eternal life given Him, His flesh and blood manhood, so now is He the source of eternal life for all who are baptized in Him. To be baptized into the name is to be baptized into the fellowship of that name – the three in perfect unity. One of those three is a man, who sat down in fellowship with the Father. That’s us, in Him!
We can see here why Psalm 110 is so critical. Jesus sitting at God’s right hand triggers it all. It manifests the fullness of the Holy Trinity. It bestows on the man Jesus the full divine name, granting the possibility of all mankind to have fellowship in the divine nature, through that same baptismal name.
It also triggers the sending of the Holy Spirit, about whom Jesus said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. …He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”
And faith in this name – and the teaching that goes with it – overcomes the world. It causes kings to fall under our feet. As St. John says, which could easily have the theology of Psalm 110 lurking behind it, “whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”
Yes, to be born of God is to be baptized in His name. To be baptized in His name is to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This name is revealed in such a way: the man Jesus has been given this name in His exaltation at God’s right hand, and this moment triggered the sending of the Holy Spirit, who gives to us by declaration everything Jesus has attained, including the name “He Is,” that is, eternal life.
No wonder people volunteer in the day of His power.