If you are like most people you don’t like tension. We usually try to avoid it and keep things nice and smooth. But what I find fascinating is that Jesus doesn’t avoid tension, especially theological tension. He tends to run right into it—and he invites others to do the same. In Matthew 22 Jesus endured a long day of questions from his opponents. During the week leading up to his death, Jesus stood in the Temple area and fielded questions laced with jealousy and deceit. But in their malevolence, we are ushered into some important considerations. One of which is this seemingly paradoxical statement about David’s son and David’s Lord. The Pharisees were, of course, experts in the Law of God. They would have had large portions of the Scriptures committed to memory and ready to offer a take on how to apply it at a drop of a hat. However, they seemed to have avoided working through the tension of a question that stared them right in the face. Jesus asks them,
He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son? (Matt. 22:43-45)
It’s a good question. And, it’s a hard question to answer. How can David refer to his own son (offspring) as his Lord? Further, how can it be that God seems to be exalting his son to a unique and special place of prominence? It seems like this son could be divine. It also seems pretty clear that he is Davidic. How can we work this out? I’m not exactly sure how they wrestled through this, but if this passage is any indication, they just avoided answering it. You’ll notice that after this messianic mic drop, “no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions” (Matt. 22:46). In his question, Jesus flips over the rock of Psalm 110. He invites them in to consider it. When we take a closer look we see something amazing. We find that David is privy to an inter-Trinitarian conversation. The LORD (Yahweh) is speaking to my Lord (Adonai). And, what’s more, the relaying of this conversation is, as Jesus says, “in the Spirit” (Matt. 22:43). And in this conversation, we learn about the exaltation of the Son of David to the place of authority where he will sit until his enemies are all under his feet. With the incarnation of Christ, we learn that the Son of David is also the Son of God. He is Davidic, but he is also divine. Jesus is truly God and truly man.
Our instinct is to avoid tension. But, when we come upon theological tension we’re humbled by the glory of God and the beauty of his Word. So, run to, not from, this tension.
Looking at a passage like this we have to admit, yes, it is difficult. But, it’s also glorious. There is a treasure in the tension! Knowing that God is unchanging and his Word is sufficient we can bury ourselves in it to find the answers we need. Or, at least we can faithfully pursue these answers even as our mental muscles shake feeling the weight of the tension. There are countless other examples. Some include the doctrine of election, the responsibility of one to believe even in light of human depravity, the two authors of Scripture (divine and human), the mystery of the incarnation, the return of Christ, the relationship between Israel and the church, and the Trinity. There are things we don’t understand. There are pressure points. But, we have the Bible. It’s God’s inspired, inerrant, and sufficient Word. It beckons us into the tension where we can confidently pursue a deeper and more robust understanding of who God is and how he works. When we run into the theological tension we will often be greatly humbled by the glory of God and the beauty of his Word. So, run to, not from, this tension.