With Gladness

I started reading the Gospel in the wrong place this morning, a little early, and began with a passage that was actually from the previous week, and I saw something I’d never noticed before:

35 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.”’
37 David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly. (Mark 12:35-37 ESV)

Jesus is quoting Psalm 110:

The Lord [YHWH] said to my Lord [Adoni] (נְאֻ֤ם יְהוָ֨ה לַֽאדֹנִ֗י)

At this point in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has been called “Son of David” (υἱὸς Δαυίδ) exactly once — by Bartimaeus the blind, the last person Jesus heals in Mark. I think here, he’s responding to a general belief, that the Christ, the anointed one, will be a descendant of David, a legitimate king.

The question is actually posed in Matthew 22, where in Matthew’s recounting of this story, he has it begin this way:

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” (Matthew 22:41-42 ESV)

And all this is interesting. But it isn’t what excited me this morning.

What got to me was that last phrase:

And the great throng heard him gladly.

Gladly — ἡδέως. It’s a word that shows up again in the New Testament only in Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth, in chapters 11 and 12, where Paul attempts to shame the Corinthians into putting up with him as they gladly put up with fools, in which he gladly boasts of his weaknesses (because the power of Christ is made perfect in weakness), and when he says he gladly spend himself and be spent for the souls of the church at Corinth. This is a gladness that does hide itself. It pokes and it prods and it even boasts. This is a gladness that cannot be kept to itself.

And this is the kind gladness this crowd has when they hear this strange news. Why would the crowd be glad of that? After all, a restored Davidic kingdom with a proper king from the line of David is allegedly what everyone has been waiting for. But that, apparently, is not what has been promised after all.

The crowd listening to this in Matthew is apparently too afraid to ask Jesus any more questions after this. But here, in Mark, they are glad — glad to hear this news that the Christ, the anointed one, is not the Son of David, but is rather David’s Lord.

It also means that all these attempts in the Gospels to link Jesus to David — the genealogies in Matthew and Luke — are akin to window dressing. True, but also completely beside the point. The Lord who is coming, who will sit at the right hand of God, who will have his enemies put underneath his feet, is not a Son of David. He’s something else entirely.

And the crowd heard this news gladly.

I’m struck by that gladness. It truly is unexpected.