While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.”
This passage introduces a simple topic that always bears review. Who is the Christ? What is this title and role emerging from the Old Testament? Jesus’ question to the Pharisees demonstrates that “the Christ” was most certainly a “thing,” that is, the idea of a “Jesus Christ” wasn’t some new thing that would have surprised the Jewish people. God had been preparing the way for Christ since, well, since already in Genesis.
But let’s refine this thought a bit. When exactly did the Lord first begin preparing the way for Christ? Well, there’s the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus, and the Christ, and each of those have different preparations in Genesis. You could say that the first specific prophecy about Jesus, as a Savior sent to rescue us from sin and death, is in Genesis 3: 15. The first reference to the Second Person of the Trinity is the first word of the Bible (in Hebrew), which is In-the-beginning. In Revelation says, “I am the…beginning.” And then we see Him again right away in the phrase, “And God said, ‘Let there be…’” Jesus is that Word.
The entire cosmic story is a Jesus show. Again, Jesus isn’t the backup plan for Plan A in God’s work. Everything centers on Him, to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given, and who fills all things in heaven and on earth.
That being said, certain titles of Jesus emerge through various revelations in the Old Testament, and among those is the title, “the Christ.” And yes, this goes back to Genesis.
Specifically Genesis 49: “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. Binding his donkey to the vine, And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, He washed his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, And his teeth whiter than milk.”
This is the prophecy of a king to arise from the tribe of Judah. We get hints of Jesus riding His donkey into Jerusalem, hints of communion in the “blood of grapes,” and this figure “Shiloh” who is a messenger and was seen as a messianic name. In any event when Samuel anointed David, this prophecy began to be fulfilled. “Anointed one” in Hebrew is “messiah,” and in Greek, “christ.”
The critical prophecy serving as the basis for “the Christ” is from I Samuel: “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”
Here we learn that the Christ will build a temple, and His throne would last forever. He would be chastised, but the Lord’s mercy would remain with Him.
When the Davidic dynasty fell, the promise remained. So people awaited an “anointed one” who would fulfill this promise to David. Truly, as Jesus demonstrated in this week’s passage, the Christ is a “Son of David.”
Very often, when suppliants (blind men, the Canaanite woman) cried out the Kyrie, “Lord have mercy,” they began “Son of David.” Of course they would! As the above prophecy said, the Lord’s mercy would not depart from the Christ. We also see a more refined understanding, among these suppliants of “great faith,” what the messianic reign looks like. It’s not about golden crowns and rule over land. It’s about reigning over sin, death, and the devil.
The “Hosanna to the Son of David” of Palm Sunday is the prayer beautifully working with both the names “Jesus” and “Christ.” The word itself means “Please save us” and builds off the same root word that roots the word “Jesus,” that is, “to save.” “Hosanna” turns Jesus’ name into a prayer, something like, “Please be Jesus, our Savior, for us!”
But it’s not just “Hosanna,” but “Hosanna to the Son of David” on Palm Sunday. They knew what the Messiah meant for them. It meant being saved. Those on Psalm Sunday were likely unclear about what they were being saved from – the Roman Empire? taxes? – but the blind men and the Canaanite woman knew what they were being saved from. And Matthew’s Gospel also reminds us, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
The Sanctus nicely ties everything together in a high-protein canticle. Beginning in heaven with the “Holy, Holy, Holy,” we’re with angels and archangels. We end in the mouths of children and child-like suppliants begging that the Lord of heaven would descend to us in the Person of Jesus Christ, and be that Person for us, be Jesus (Savior) for us, and be Christ (the anointed king and champion against our enemies, sin, death, and the devil) for us.
And that’s exactly what He does for us, in what follows the Sanctus, Holy Communion.