Beloved. Today’s Gospel plunges us right into the middle of the great mysteries of the faith—great because they are well beyond our understanding; and great because they are necessary for us to know and believe for our salvation. The first mystery is that of the Person of Jesus—that He is both true God begotten of the Father from all eternity and also true man born of the blessed Virgin Mary and that He is our Savior. The second great mystery flows from this—namely that the one true God is the holy Triune God; He is one God and yet three distinct Persons.
What is it that we read in the Gospel? While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The Son of David.” He said to them, “Then how can David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? “So if David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” This happened during Holy Week, just a few days before Jesus’ betrayal, suffering, death and resurrection. His enemies had been coming to Him to ask Him questions in order to trip Him up, to show that He wasn’t who He said He is: the long awaited Savior. So now Jesus turns the tables on them and asks them a question—but not to trip them up but to show them the error of their way, to save them. He wanted to lead them to recognize Him rightly, so He asks them: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” And they answer correctly: “The Son of David.” That is, the Christ/ Messiah is to be a physical descendant of St. David, the King—and that means that the Messiah is a true man. And so far their answer is correct! Jesus is “The Son of David”; He comes from the house and line of St. David, He is born of Mary, a physical descendant from David. From St. Mary Jesus receives His humanity.
But if the Savior/ Messiah they were looking for was indeed truly to be the Messiah, He couldn’t just be a person, a mere physical descendant of St. David. He was more. That’s what Jesus brings up next when He asks the religious leaders of the Jews: “Then how can David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? “So if David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” He was trying to get them to “connect the dots” with this well-known psalm/ prophecy. Notice that St. David is in the Spirit, that is, he is blessed to see something that is normally hidden from our human eyes. Here he is blessed to hear a conversation between the Persons of the holy Trinity. He hears the Father say to the Son: Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet. For Jesus to point to this verse means what? –That the Jews, and rightly so, regarded this verse as a prophecy of the coming Messiah. But they also believed—and rightly so—that the Messiah would be a descendant of St. David. So what does Jesus do? He connects the dots for them with the question: “So if David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” Jesus points out, if—as he does—St. David calls his son/ descendant “Lord”, this Son must be much greater than David the king; this Son cannot be merely a man or earthly monarch but must also at the same time be true God! After all, how else could He sit at God’s right hand? He must be God, of the same power and honor, His eternal and only begotten Son. So: the Messiah, the son of David must be both true man, The Son of David, and true God, my Lord, in one Person. This is the great mystery of who Jesus is—true God and true man in one Person; this is the great mystery of Christmas.
This is the first great mystery we discover in today’s Gospel—that Jesus is both true God and true man in one Person. The other great mystery is one that is related to it—the Trinity, that there is one God and yet three distinct Persons.
What is it happening in that psalm [Psalm 110] that Jesus is quoting in today’s Gospel? The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet. St. David is listening to a conversation—a conversation between Persons of the holy Trinity. He hears the Father, The Lord, speaking to the Son, my Lord: Sit at my right hand. As the psalm continues, St. David again records the words of the Father to the Son: The LORD has sworn and will not relent, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” And the very next words of the Psalm are: The Lord is at Your right hand. So follow this here: The Father says to the Son: Sit at my right hand; so the Son is at the Father’s right. And then after speaking to the Son, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, we have the words: The Lord is at Your right hand. So who, then, would be at the right hand of the Son? –The Holy Spirit. He is at the right hand of the Son. He was poured out on Pentecost, He was sent by the Son to conquer the nations by creating and preserving faith in the hearts of people by the word and sacrament.
So, yes, the great mystery of the Trinity is all over the Old Testament. The Trinity is not some invention of the NT Church. To be sure, many might see the doctrine of the Trinity much more obviously and clearly in the New Testament, but a careful look at the Old Testament reveals it differently but so beautifully. In the Old Testament, one way to spot these Trinitarian references is to see in a verse the Lord’s name being used three times in a row. For example, in our liturgy we have the Sanctus, the song of the angels in heaven St. Isaiah [Isaiah 6.3] was blessed to hear: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Sabaoth; also the benediction at the end of the service [Numbers 6.24-6]: The Lord bless you and keep you… Our text today is also an Old Testament Trinitarian reference: For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king; He will save us. Notice three times: the LORD—judge, lawgiver, king.
For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king; He will save us. What a glorious and comforting message for us today—the holy Triune God will save us. Just like He rescued His OT people in the past, we can confidently look to Him for deliverance from all harm and danger. He is with us, His Church. And, in fact, because He is with us, because He has rescued us from our spiritual enemies, we can be utterly confident that nothing can disturb His Church, His dear Christians. Does that mean that we will not have trials and hardship in life, that the devil and his allies will not attack us? Certainly not! But what it does mean is that the holy Triune God is with us; He will use our times of trial—that the devil intends to use to destroy us and our faith—to strengthen and purify our faith. Precisely in our times of suffering and trial, we look to our holy Triune God and we are right to do so! For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king; He will save us.
To say the LORD is our judge is not something frightening. The picture here of God as judge is not one of His wrath and anger over our sin; of Him waiting to condemn us forever in hell. How do we know this? Look at the end of the verse! He will save us. Because the LORD is our judge…He will save us. The image here of God as judge is the image of the judges that God raised up in the OT. The Israelites had just come into the Promised Land. They didn’t have a king; they were loosely connected. Over the course of time, they would forget about the Lord and sin; the Lord would raise up/ allow some enemy to conquer them and oppress them; the people would cry out to the Lord for rescue and deliverance; and the Lord would then raise up a judge like Gideon or Samson and rescue the people from their oppressors and give them peace—until they forgot about Him once again and began to live anew in a life of sin.
This is the sense that the LORD is our judge. Like the judges of the OT were raised up by God to deliver and protect His people, so the LORD is our judge. He rescues and saves us from our spiritual enemies. He is the God of our salvation. He brought about our salvation. We didn’t earn it or deserve it. His mercy and love toward us sinners moved Him to send His only Son to be our Savior, to rescue us from sin, death, devil and hell. In Christ Jesus, His Son, true God and true man, we are truly rescued from sin—because Jesus lived a sinless life for us; from death—because Jesus died on the cross loaded down with our sin and cursed by God for them and rose from the dead as victor over sin and death. Jesus reconciled us sinners to the holy God. The LORD is our judge because He rescued and delivered us. We can look to Him always in any and all situations: the LORD is our judge…He will save us.
Next, the Lord is also described in a way that sounds rather ominous: the LORD is our lawgiver. It sounds like He gives us laws to trip us up, to make things hard for us, to make it even harder for us to get into heaven. But again the LORD is our lawgiver…He will save us. But a lawgiver is a picture of what? One who has absolute power. Who makes the laws of the land—the ruler or some peasant? So to say the LORD is our lawgiver means He is ruling with absolute authority. That ties in to what St. David wrote in the psalm that Jesus shows points to Him: The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’. Jesus, the Son of God, my Lord, has that absolute power and authority. That’s what sitting at the right hand of God the Father is all about. Because Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, because He is the LORD…our lawgiver, the one with absolute power and rule, it means that the devil and his allies will not and cannot do as they please; it means that Jesus has not been or will ever be frustrated by the devil and his evil forces. It means the will of Christ is always being carried out and that He is ruling and directing all things for the good of His Church and the good of each of His dear Christians. He will save us. In every trial and suffering we can go to our dear Lord Jesus—He who is not just almighty eternal God, but who is also true man who knows what life is all about in this sin contaminated world and precisely what we are suffering. We can go to Him, who is the almighty Ruler of all, the LORD is our lawgiver…He will save us.
Finally, in our text which is an OT Trinitarian verse, we read: the LORD is our king; He will save us. Although this seems to mean much the same thing as the LORD [being] our lawgiver, a slight difference is noted. The lawgiver seems to emphasize the absolute authority connected with ruling; the image of a king seems to emphasize the rule itself. And what glorious comfort we have from His rule: He will save us. In the midst of struggles and sufferings, our faith is revived and we say with the psalmist [Psalm 74.12]: But you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth. The point? The Lord, in grace, has brought me/ His dear Christian salvation. As Christians we know that nothing can separate us from God’s love for us in Christ Jesus. We have that glorious certainty because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. St. Paul writes [Romans 8.16-17]: The Spirit Himself bears witness to our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—joint heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. How blessed we are, dear Christian, the throne of power and mercy has been established within each of us as the Holy Spirit dwells in us. He is guiding us, leading us, strengthening us all the more to hold firmly to Jesus our Savior and to fight against sin. He is leading us more and more deeply into the truths of the holy Christian faith so that we know God aright and marvel at the great mysteries of the faith and ponder them all the more. As we do so, the Holy Spirit in us is bringing us into greater faith and love of the holy Triune God, our Savior. INJ