King David plays the Harp,
Painted by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656),
Painted in 1622,
Oil on canvas
© Centraal Museum, Utrecht
David himself, moved by the Holy Spirit, said
At that time while teaching in the Temple, Jesus said, 'How can the scribes maintain that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, moved by the Holy Spirit, said:
The Lord said to my Lord:
Sit at my right hand and I will put your enemies under your feet.
David himself calls him Lord, in what way then can he be his son?' And the great majority of the people heard this with delight.
Reflection on the painting
King David was known to be a poet and accomplished musician. Tradition holds that he wrote many of the psalms (such as Psalm 110 which Jesus quotes from in today's Gospel reading). The rich relationship between God and his people comes beautifully to the fore in the Psalms. In art, as David was a musician, he is usually depicted holding a harp, and wearing a crown to signify his royalty. Before the Middle Ages, in early manuscripts, this regal aspect would usually be depicted by David standing under an imperial arch or sitting on a throne. As King David is a multifaceted and complex character, throughout art history his depictions are equally varied, showing him as a shepherd, victor, musician, ruler, king….
I am sharing with you a rather traditional image of David, and one I personally always seem to go back to when thinking of him. He is seen holding the harp, and looking towards God as he is playing his music or composing a psalm. There is gentleness in the touch of his fingers on the harp's strings. The woven linen head band reminds us that he was a shepherd boy when he was chosen to follow in Saul's footsteps. The slightly opened mouth is striking. It is a mouth of wonder, a mouth of awe, a mouth of composing and singing.
Many Jews at the time of Jesus expected the coming Messiah to be a son of David, a descendant of David. Jesus suggests that the title, ‘Son of David’, is not adequate for God’s Messiah, as the messiah is much more than just a descendant from a royal lineage. Jesus argues his case on the basis of a verse of Scripture, from the Psalms. It was already generally understood in the time of Jesus that King David was likely the author of many of the psalms. In one psalm, 110, the person praying, understood to be David, refers to the coming Messiah, as ‘my Lord’. Jesus argues that if David refers to the coming Messiah as ‘my Lord’, then the Messiah must be much more than just a descendant of David. Jesus is really saying that there is much more to him than people imagine. Yes, he is a son of David, a Jew from the line of David. Yet, Jesus’ full identity is not exhausted by the title Son of David.
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Readings related to Mark 12:35-37
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