The Son of David

The Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as the “Son of David.” In his life and death, he demonstrated what it meant to be the King of Israel. This last designation was linked traditionally to the House of David; but in Matthew, that understanding of the Messiah is altered in unexpected ways. The Greater “Son of David” is more than the Ruler of Israel or King over the Nations, for he is the Messiah of a radically different kind, the “Servant of Yahweh.”

Scriptural citations and allusions are applied to Jesus to establish his royal status even though he was destined to die on the Cross. At his baptism, for example, the Spirit descended on him “like a dove,” and the Voice from Heaven declared, “This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I delight.” The description combines words from two Messianic passages:

  • (Psalm 2:7) – “Yahweh said to me: You are my son; this day have I begotten you.”
  • (Isaiah 42:1) – “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delights. I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.”

Matterhorn sunrise - Photo by lovely shots on Unsplash
[Photo by Nikolai Kraemer on Unsplash]

Yet Matthew does not simply accumulate proof texts to validate his genealogical credentials. By combining such prophecies, a Messianic figure emerges who fulfills the roles of the Davidic King and the Servant of Yahweh from the Book of Isaiah, the one who was “
cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of My people.”

One role cannot be understood apart from the other. Though they appear incompatible, they are inextricably linked. The same words are heard again at the Transfiguration when “a voice out of the cloud declared, This is My son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear him!” – (Isaiah 53:8, Matthew 17:5).

In the New Testament, the Second Psalm is applied to Jesus in his present role as the Anointed One who reigns from God’s “right hand,” but he attained his exalted position through the humiliation and horror of the Cross - (Psalm 2:1-9).


As predicted in the Second Psalm, Jesus endured the conspiracy to overthrow God’s Son when the religious leaders of Israel plotted to destroy him - The “chief priests and the whole council sought false witness against Jesus that they might put him to death - (Matthew 26:59, 27:1).

This is also how the early church interpreted the Psalm. After enduring threats from the priests and Sadducees, Peter prayed:

  • O Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is, who by the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant, did say, Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord, and against his Christ; for of a truth in this city against your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy council foreordained to come to pass” - (Acts 4:24-28).

Peter also combined the image of the Suffering Servant with the royal figure from the Second Psalm. It was not just the nations that raged “against Yahweh and His Anointed,” but the priestly leaders of Israel. Since they rejected and persecuted God’s Chosen One, they were no better than pagan Gentiles or the representatives of the Roman Empire.

His murder was anticipated in his parable about the vineyard and its tenants. At harvest time, the owner sent several servants to “receive the fruit” that was due, but the “tenants” abused and killed his agents. Then he sent his “son,” expecting them to respect the heir. But the “tenants” were determined to “seize the inheritance” for themselves, so they murdered him - (Matthew 21:33-45).

The parable echoes the words in the Second Psalm about the conspiracy against the Messiah, and it was directed against the very ones who were plotting his death: “When the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking of them.


Jesus certainly was the Heir of David, but first, he suffered for his people as the “Servant of Yahweh.” He was exalted and given “all power in Heaven and on Earth” but only after his death and resurrection. Paradoxically, he conquered his enemies by enduring an unjust death, dying for his enemies rather than slaying them.

Sunrise Mountains Photo by Mary Pokatova on Unsplash
[Photo by Mary Pokatova on Unsplash]

Since his Resurrection, he has reigned on the Messianic Throne as the “
Ruler of the Kings of the Earth,” which is why ever since he has been sending his disciples as his envoys who herald his Good News “to the uttermost parts of the earth” – (Psalm 2:12, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:6-9).

The final act in Matthew is the “commissioning” of the disciples by Jesus. The picture is not of a political revolutionary or dictator dispatching his armies to destroy his opponents, but of an already ruling monarch sending his heralds throughout his domain to announce his victory and sovereignty – (Matthew 28:18-20).

Thus, Jesus of Nazareth is the Heir to the Throne, the “Son of David,” but he first became the “Servant of the LORD” who suffered and “gave his life as a ransom for many,” for the Royal Road to Mount Zion passes only through Golgotha.

  • His Name is Jesus - (‘Jesus’ means ‘Yahweh saves.’ In the man from Nazareth, the salvation promised by the God of Israel arrived in all its glory)
  • Son of Abraham - (Jesus is the true Son of Abraham, the heir of the promises, the Anointed One who fulfills and implements the inheritance for his people)
  • The Anointed Son - (Jesus is the anointed Son of God. From the start, his life was characterized by the empowering presence of the Spirit)



Salvation for the Nations

His Name is Jesus