Other sermons in this series
Jesus is not what you hoped for; but far more significant than you ever expected.
A BRAIN TEASER
I’ve noticed there are two kinds of people when it comes to cryptic crosswords. The people who get them. And the people like me. Who just don’t.
To me cryptic crosswords are just a bunch of completely nonsensical clues. That make my head spin. I don’t even understand the question, let alone have any idea of the answer.
My friend Hayley was great at them. And it was just amazing watching her work out the solutions. Which when you saw them made perfect sense.
Have a look at some of these for example:
Q. Fashion statement, old or new, booked long ago.
A. Testament [anagram of statement]
Or what about this one:
Q. Put half of them with iron ruler
A. Empress [half of them – em; iron = press]
How you can figure those out – I’ll never know!
It’s interesting when you look at Psalm 110; because in a way it’s like a giant cryptic crossword question. It’s confusing when you first read through it, but then it makes perfect sense once you know the solution.
And this morning as we have a look at this Psalm, we’ll come to see that the solution to the cryptic question is far more significant than the Sunday crossword.
There are actually two different brainteasers here packed into the one cryptic crossword question.
And the first brainteaser comes when you notice the words right at the start of the Psalm. In fact, before the Psalm even starts. And then read forward into verse 1.
Notice in the small print who it is who’s actually writing the Psalm. We’ll often just brush over the superscription on the Psalms. And it’s kind of obvious. It says, Of David. A Psalm.
It’s not so unusual – David wrote lots of Psalms.
But keep it in mind. Because last time I checked there was no one higher in authority than David.
And so here’s a brain teaser.
Have a look at verse 1: and see if you can work it out.
The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
Until I make your enemies
A footstool for your feet.”
“The LORD says to my Lord.”
That’s a little bit odd isn’t it?
So here’s the first little puzzle in the Psalm.
Just one little point to get you started. You’ll notice that ‘the LORD’ is printed in our bibles in upper case letters, while the Lord in my Lord is not.
And it helps at that point if you understand that our translators are following a long tradition. Of replacing God’s personal name Yahweh… with the LORD in upper case letters.
So the first LORD there is God’s personal name – Yahweh.
But the second Lord, is just a title – which means boss or master, or leader.
Which means verse 1 reads: “The LORD God says to my master….”
Which is still confusing. When you think back to who’s saying it. David. A king appointed by God himself. A king unequalled in influence over the nation of Israel.
But here in Psalm 110, that King David… is talking about someone else as his master; his boss. His Lord.
Which is a puzzle. Who can possibly be greater than the King?
It’s a real brainteaser. And it gets even more cryptic when you keep reading. Look at verse 1 again:
Sit at my right hand
Until I make your enemies
A footstool for your feet.
This master has been told to sit down. At God’s right hand – that’s a place of great privilege; great honour; great authority – this is someone who’s God’s right-hand-man.
He has unparalleled closeness to God – which you can see in verse 2.
The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying,
“rule in the midst of your enemies!”
And he’s surrounded by loyal troops. Who’d give everything for him. Verse 3.
Your troops will be willing
On your day of battle.
Arrayed in holy splendor,
Your young men will come to you
Like dew from the morning’s womb.
This Lord – king David’s Lord – whoever he is – he won’t just enjoy amazing proximity to God; he’ll also experience complete power over his enemies and complete loyalty from his troops!
This is a king of remarkable proportions.
But the mystery still remains, who is it? Who is it that David calls Lord? who is it who can possibly live up to this description?
And if you thought the first half of the Psalm was confusing, then you haven’t read the rest of it. Because it goes from confusing to down-right bizzare.
There’s more to the job description in verse 4: because it seems being just a king isn’t quite enough… read his words.
The Lord has sworn
And will not change his mind:
“You are a priest forever,
In the order of Melchizedek.”
Not just a king; a priest. Forever.
So again. Part two of our cryptic clue. Who is it? Who does David in the Psalm calls his Lord? Who does David in the Psalm calls a priest, forever?
This is a guru level brainteaser that even my friend Haley would be struggling with. And look, for generations of Israelites, it was just as confusing.
A cryptic crossword sitting there with one answer blank. For hundreds of years. A priest-king somehow greater than the great king David. And yet somehow according to God’s promises, in the family line of David.
And everything he does, in verses 5 and 6, seems to go well. His enemies are falling on every side.
The Lord is at your right hand; He will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead
And crushing the rulers of the whole earth.
Complete victory over his enemies; complete dominance over the whole world. This is one incredibly powerful King.
Here’s a King with unequalled authority and unequalled closeness to God. Here’s a King who even David calls his Lord and master; here’s a king who takes on the role of a priest; standing between God and man. On our behalf.
Who the heck is this person? By this stage I’d have just thrown the towel in; given up on the clue; and moved on to the simpler basic crossroad. Or started reading the comics page.
And that’s exactly what happened for the Israelites. The mystery Psalm. Full of questions they just couldn’t answer.
THE MYSTERY CONTINUES
Until we find it again on the lips of Jesus on Matthew chapter 22.
If you’ve been here that last couple of weeks, you’re maybe expecting a clear answer about how this Psalm points to Jesus – He does after all say that the Psalms are all about him.
But if you were expecting an easy answer, guess again. Because for the religious leaders of Jerusalem, Jesus just adds to the confusion.
They’ve come to Jesus and they keep asking him questions. And they’re not asking out of politeness or because they want to learn, but because they’re trying to catch him out – seeing if he stuffs up.
But Jesus takes it all in his stride and makes fools out of them. And throws them a question of his own. You guys think you’re so smart. Try this one.
We’re in verse 41:
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42“What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. 43He said to them, “How is it then… that David, speaking by the Spirit, callshim ‘Lord’? For he says…
And here’s Psalm 110,
44The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand Until I put your enemies Under your feet.”
So here’s the puzzle. Jesus spells it out.
45If then David calls him ‘Lord,‘ how can he be his son?” 46No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.
How is it… That David can call his own descendant… his own great great great great grandson… with a few more greats in the line… how can he call him his Lord and master? When in a culture of respecting your ancestors it should be the otherway round.
How can a son be greater than his father? If this King is greater than David himself, how can he be a son?
And just like a cryptic crossword – you think you’ve nearly solved it, and it doesn’t fit into the spaces and so you’re back to square one.
So who is this King?
If you think these Lords are getting all confusing and they’re all blurring into each other – I think that’s the point.
You see the reason David calls his descendent his Lord is because Jesus is the one who breaks all the rules. He’s the one who is so much more than you expect.
He takes the expectations of the religious leaders and throws them out the door. He says you’ve underestimated the Messiah. He’s far more than anything you expected.
Jesus is not what you hoped for – he is much, much better!
He’s saying, “Your hopes, your dreams, your fantasies of what you think your life should be, they are anaemic; they are shallow; they are dissatisfying compared to what I’ve got planned. I’m breaking all the rules. I’m overturning your expectations. I’ll even break out of the bonds of death to deliver blessing that you’d never even anticipated or hoped for.
Believe it or not, David’s son, David’s descendant, is way, way bigger. Than David ever was. At which point the teachers of the law are silent. Lost for words. And stop pestering Jesus with their questions.
THE SOLUTION THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING
Now those are big claims. And as we approach Easter next weekend it’s worth making the point that when those same religious leaders finished crucifying Jesus a little while later, that should have been the end of the story. Full stop.
Jesus. Saying he’s the one David was talking about. And he’s the one. Bigger than David. And he’s the one. Who’s a king and a priest. They nailed him up. And left him there. And that should have been the end of the story.
Unless what he said was actually true.
So step forward with me to a time not long after that. When after an amazing turnaround on Easter Sunday, the disciple Peter is reflecting on exactly the same puzzle in exactly the same Psalm.
And finally, it all makes sense. Finally, everything fits.
Finally, Peter knows with crystal clarity that Jesus is the five letter answer to the clue in Psalm 110. And it’s so obvious that he’s the one who David calls his Lord. Because he’s far better than anyone could have hoped for.
32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”‘ 36Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord andmessiah.
God has made this Jesus… the Lord over everything. This Jesus, who Peter has seen risen from the dead, who he’s seen ascend to be seated at the right hand of God. This Jesus… is the one David calls Lord in Psalm 110.
And in verse 37, when the people hear this, they’re cut to the heart; and they say to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Have you ever had those times when you’ve finally joined the dots … and you’ve suddenly realized that you’ve done something stupid?
That’s the crowd listening to Peter – the penny drops.
The King that Psalm 110 describes as having ultimate authority and power; the same guy the religious leader couldn’t figure out – that king – he’s the guy we just killed. We’re done for.
It may be that you’ve done the same. Not killed him so much as just ignored him. Treated him like nothing at all. When all along, he’s been the one that even kings bow down to. Who even now, Queen Elizabeth says is the one she bows down to in a recent book.
The question is, do you? It’s got to start though with that same realisation as the Israelites listening to Peter that to this point they’ve been really really dumb. This wasn’t just a tricky cryptic crossword question. It’s actually the answer to life itself.
They said, Is it too late? What do we do?
Here’s the good news. Peter says to them in verse 38, it’s not too late at all. He says,
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
Turn your life around – starting from the heart. Stop ignoring Jesus and start serving him as the King. Peter says to the crowd – if you’re prepared to admit you were wrong; if you’re prepared to ask for forgiveness and submit to him as Lord – just as kingDavid did – then it’s not too late at all.