by Father Mike Stubbs
Since we elect our government leaders in this country, the concept of a royal dynasty may sound somewhat foreign to us. At the same time, there are a few families, such as the Kennedys and Bushes, which have managed to enjoy some success in that direction.
In Sunday’s first reading — 2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16 — God promises to establish a great dynasty made up of David’s descendants: “The Lord also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. . . . Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”
David’s immediate successor, Solomon, largely lives up to that promise. But after him, the kings of Judah, for the most part, fail to rule as effectively as David had. The kingdom goes into decline, splits into two, and eventually falls to the Assyrian Empire. All appears to be lost.
Despite that, the promise made to David endures and continues to give hope. It gives rise to the belief that a descendant of David would restore the kingdom and fulfill the promise God made to David. Such a massive task would require a descendant of the same stature as David, if not greater. This descendant would be the Messiah, the anointed one.
That is why the Gospels emphasize David as the ancestor of Jesus. People address Jesus as “Son of David” (Lk 18:38; Mt 21: 9) When they do that, they are in effect calling him the Messiah. Even the apostle Paul, who otherwise does not appear to know much about Jesus’ earlier life, knows this important detail about his origins (Rom 1:3).
And as we approach Christmas, we recall that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, because Joseph “was of the house and family of David.” Both the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew, which supply accounts of Jesus’ birth, agree on that point, while they diverge in many other respects.
The title of “Son of David,” which held so great importance for people at the time of Jesus, does not resonate with us now in quite the same way. For them, it identified Jesus as the Messiah, the one who would fulfill all their hopes. And yet, that is what we share in common with them. Whether we call him the Son of David or not, Jesus is the one who will fulfill our hopes. He is the one God has sent to us.