A Fuller Picture of Christ
Christ, Deity, Psalms
Most people have some kind of picture of Jesus in their head. Some see Him as a great man, others as a victim. Some see him as a historical figure who people say died and rose again. Still others see Him as a leader of “a movement”. In all of these cases one thing is certain: This morning we are going to expand that picture. Surprisingly, we will do so using Psalm 110.
Psalm 110 points to Jesus as the Divine King installed at the right hand of God in heaven and presently extending His spiritual rule throughout the whole earth.
Psalm 110 is one of the most quoted Psalms in the Bible. Theologian and Pastor R.C Sproul says “including direct quotations and allusions, the New Testament books refer to Psalm 110 no less than thirty-three times.” In many respects you could argue that the entire book of Hebrews is built on the foundation of this Psalm.
The Psalm clearly is about Jesus and the first line is key.
1 The LORD said to my Lord,
He is More than a Great Man
It is important to notice something in the very first line of the Psalm: one “LORD” is in capital letters and the other is in regular case. This is the way translators alert us to something important. The first (the LORD in capitals) stands for Yahweh (I Am), which is the formal name of God given to Moses. The second (regular case “Lord”) is a title of respect roughly equivalent to “Master”.
In the gospels Jesus uses this to help the religious leaders expand their understanding of who He is. We read in Matthew 22:41ff,
Surrounded by the Pharisees, Jesus asked them a question: 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
They replied, “He is the son of David.”
43 Jesus responded, “Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, call the Messiah ‘my Lord’? For David said,
44 ‘The LORD said to my Lord,
Sit in the place of honor at my right hand
until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’
45 Since David called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?”
46 No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Jesus argues that if King David was calling his future heir “lord” it means that David knew the future Messiah was going to be greater than Him. The normal course would be to call a future heir “my son” or even “the one who comes after me”. Calling his human descendant “my Lord” shows that David recognized the future Messiah as David’s Ruler and Master.
In this Psalm David understood that Jesus the Messiah was to be more than a mere man. He is unique. W read the same thing in Hebrews 1 where we are told that Jesus is superior also to the angels. He is fully and truly man AND He is fully and truly God. As man he faced everything we face but did not sin. As the Divine Son of God, He could give His priceless life as payment for our sin and lead us to redemption and eternal life.
I wish I could give you a good illustration here to help you grasp this . . . but there is no one or nothing that compares to Jesus.
He Continues to Rule
This is not all David tells us, He says the LORD said to David’s Lord,
“Sit in the place of honor at my right hand
until I humble your enemies,
making them a footstool under your feet.”
2 The Lord will extend your powerful kingdom from Jerusalem;
you will rule over your enemies.
3 When you go to war,
your people will serve you willingly.
You are arrayed in holy garments,
and your strength will be renewed each day like the morning dew.
People miss the significance of Jesus when they think of Him merely as a historical figure. He was the man who lived, died and rose again and someday will return. Of course all those things are true. But it sounds like we think Jesus is on vacation right now!
The fact that Jesus is seated at the Right Hand of God does not mean he is sitting as a spectator on Creation like He is sitting on the bleachers watching to see what happens in the drama of life. Jesus seated at the right hand of God means He is given the seat of highest authority in the Universe. To sit at the right hand of a king was not simply to sit in a place of honor; it was to share in his rule! Jesus reigns and governs His Kingdom on earth RIGHT NOW!
We call this the “session” of Christ. When Congress is in “session” it means they are enacting laws (or at least that’s what they should be doing) which govern the country. The word “session” is from the Latin sessio, which means “the act of sitting”. Jesus is currently reigning!
We are told several things about the reign of our Savior. First, He will be victorious. At times it may feel like the Kingdom of God is being overrun. It is not! Jesus will be revealed as the great and final conqueror of evil. The battle is not yet over but the decisive or game changing victory took place at the cross and the empty tomb.
In the riveting book UNBROKEN by Laura Hillenbrand we are told the incredible true story of Louis Zamperini. At one point Zamperini was being held as a POW during World War II. One day they heard rumors of a single bomb that was dropped in Japan that destroyed an entire city. Then another bomb was dropped and another city was destroyed. Shortly thereafter Japan surrendered. The war was over but it took weeks before the POW’s were actually rescued. It took much longer for these soldiers to throw off the horrors of war.
The spiritual battle is over. Jesus has conquered our foe. However, we are still in the process of finding and experiencing the release and victory that belongs to all who belong to Christ. Just because life is painful; just because there is struggle does not mean the outcome of the battle is in doubt.
Second, the Lord’s Kingdom will continue to increase. God is already doing this. In the mission field, on college campuses and in remote corners of the world the Kingdom of God continues to grow. As we look around in the United States it may feel that the Kingdom is shrinking. Perhaps it is in our country. It is not throughout the world. The message of the gospel is still working hard to gain release for prisoners.
Third, we are part of His army. Our Lord also has the angels as His command. In both Heaven and earth our job is simple: “we are to serve Him willingly”. As we live out our lives we must never forget that He is the commander, we are His soldiers. He gives direction because He sees the big picture.
He Is Our Priest or our Access to God
We are told that the Father says to Jesus:
4 The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow:
“You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”
Before you get distracted by who or what is a “Melchizedek” don’t miss what would have been shocking to the Jew: this One who is to come will not only be the King, He will also be a priest. The Jews kept those two things separate. Kings descended from the line of David and priests descended from the line of Aaron.
God built into the Jewish community a separation of powers. In our country we seek to accomplish this with three branches of government: the Executive, Legislative and Judicial. These branches are supposed to serve as a check on each other. Our founding fathers understood their theology. They knew that men are sinful and allowing absolute power to rest in any one branch of government would open the door to abuse of that power. God did something similar in Israel. He separated the Kings from the Priests as a way to put a check on power. We have seen in history that whenever Kings sought to rule the church there was corruption. Whenever Popes tried the rule the government there was likewise corruption.
Jesus can be King and a Priest (our intermediary before God) because He is incorruptible because He is perfect and without sin. But this was incomprehensible for the Jew.
How could it be possible for Jesus to be both King and Priest? Jesus was a descendant of David so he could be a King, but he was not a descendant of Aaron. David is saying (and the book of Hebrews says) Jesus will be a priest of a different order. He will be a priest like Melchizedek.
We first meet Melchizedek in the book of Genesis (chapter 14) and he is identified as the King of Salem and a priest of God most High. He seems to appear out of nowhere as Abraham returned from a battle to rescue his nephew Lot. We are told Melchizedek brought out bread and wine and blessed Abraham. Then we are told Abraham gave Melchizedek 10% of the spoils of war.
The next reference to Melchizedek in the Bible is here in Psalm 110 and then we don’t see him again until the book of Hebrews. In the book of Hebrews the significance of Melchizedek is explained. We are told
- Melchizedek’s priesthood shows that there is a priesthood other than the priesthood of Aaron (which will not be established until many generations from now).
- It shows one can be both a Priest and a King
- Since Abraham is the forefather of Aaron, there is a sense in which the priests of Aaron were “in the loins” or contained in the seed of Abraham. Therefore when Abraham acknowledged the priesthood of Melchizedek, it was as if Aaron was paying a tithe to Melchizedek (showing him to be a superior order to the priestly line of Aaron.
- The name Melchizedek is even significant. It means “King of Righteousness”. The title King of Salem means “King of Peace”. These titles are both appropriate for Jesus.
Personally I think David would have been distressed if he knew we were going to spend so much time talking about Melchizedek. His intention was to point to Christ as a Superior Priest. He is superior for at least three reasons.
First, He is a priest forever. He is not a priest that will move on to another church, retire, or die. His term will not expire. He is always on the job. Therefore, we can rely on Him.
Second, the sacrifice He offers is one that is superior to any other sacrifice. The priests of Aaron had to offer sacrifices day after day. They offered these sacrifices not only for the people but also for themselves! The sacrifices were only good for the sins that were in the past. Future sin would require another sacrifice. It was a vicious treadmill of blood. The sacrifice of Christ however was a perfect and eternally sufficient sacrifice. The value of His life was sufficient for our past and future sin. He is the mediator before God that we all desperately need.
Third, the Bible tells us that Jesus is continually making intercession for us. Think about this! We have periods of prayer (often in a crisis) but Jesus is bringing our every breath before the Father! We pray for what we think is best (and which is often very short sighted), Jesus intercedes directly to the Father with perfect wisdom and clarity. He knows what to ask on our behalf.
He will be the Final Judge
The Psalm ends this way:
5 The Lord stands at your right hand to protect you.
He will strike down many kings when his anger erupts.
6 He will punish the nations
and fill their lands with corpses;
he will shatter heads over the whole earth.
7 But he himself will be refreshed from brooks along the way.
He will be victorious.
The Father and Son (and Holy Spirit) will stand together to strike down kings and punish the nations who have resisted His rule and rejected His provision of salvation. Once this Judgment begins, it will be relentless and He will be victorious.
The evil that seems to be overlooked, the wrongs that appear to be swept under the rug, the good that often goes unappreciated, will all be brought to light before the Lord. He will separate the sheep and goats, the wheat and the weeds, the believers and the unbelievers. It may sound like fantasy to you but the Just, Holy and Righteous God will one day look at your life and mine and those who do not have Jesus pleading their case will be sent to everlasting Judgment.
In light of all of this we need to examine our view of Jesus. Pastor Tim Keller imagines Jesus explaining what we are supposed to learn,
“If you can look at me and talk to me and walk away saying, ‘Okay, okay,’ if you can walk away saying, ‘He is a good teacher. I can learn from him. He is inspirational,’ you have missed the point. I am not inspirational. I am devastating. If you just use me to get over the humps in your life, if you use me as an example, if you use me as somebody to refer to when you’re in trouble, you have put me in a little box.
I am breaking out. I am not a mere mortal. I am the judge of the earth. I am the eternal high priest. I am the way to God. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.”
Jesus is not merely a good and inspiring example from History. He is much more than a great teacher. He is the God-Man. He is the only One who can save us. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He reigns over us. And if you understand who Jesus is in all His splendor, power, majesty and love, then you will not serve him half-heartedly. If you understand that He alone is King and alone deserves your allegiance, then His agenda should be your agenda. His Word should be seen as your command.
Have you surrendered to the Jesus who is not only Savior but also Lord?
R.C. Sproul writes,
“I love the legend of Robin Hood. In one version of the story, King Richard the Lionheart leaves England to fight in the Crusades, leaving his brother, Prince John, in charge of the realm. John mismanages the kingdom for his own benefit, forcing Robin and others to become outlaws. Robin and his compatriots, known as his merry men, live in Sherwood Forest, evading John and his henchman, the sheriff of Nottingham. The merry men are known for their joy, but they are known especially for their loyalty. They want to protect the realm until their king comes home. My favorite part of the story happens near the end, when Richard returns to England in the guise of a monk. At an inn, he hears talk about Robin Hood and his opposition to Prince John, so he purposely travels through Sherwood Forest. Suddenly, Robin and his men waylay Richard and his fellow travelers, and try to relieve the king of his purse. The king asks Robin, “Why are you doing this?” Robin replies, “Because of my allegiance to my king.” Then Richard pulls off the monk’s garments and displays the lion and the cross on his chest. Robin recognizes him and falls on his knees, saying, “My liege.” In the end, Richard knights Robin because of his faithfulness during the absence of the king.
I love that story as a metaphor for the church. Our King is seated on the right hand of God. He expects us, His people, to remain loyal to Him while the whole world goes for Prince John. In time, He will return and put all things right.”
Are you willing to stand with the King even though other forces threaten us and entice us? If you understand who Jesus really is then you will not hesitate to answer, “I will serve you in whatever way you ask”. And you will do so because you recognize that He is our true Lord and King.