“It’s the Son of David!”
What might someone be thinking of and hoping for when making such an exclamation?
Most often I think of early (first century) Jewish messianism in military terms: when the son of David comes, he’s the one who will muster an army to kick out the Romans. (Maybe that’s why Mark seems somewhat ambivalent about the title.)
But there’s another prong to Davidic expectation. Matthew develops it in a couple of places. It has to do with David as exorcist and healer.
In Matthew 12 we read of an instance in which people bring Jesus a person who was demon possessed so that he could not see or speak. Jesus healed him. Their response is this:
All the crowds were amazed and said, “Might this be the Son of David?”
Son of David meant exercising an authority that subdued hostile spirits.
Son of David meant exercising an authority that mended broken bodies.
This prompts an alternative rendering of Jesus’s story by the Pharisees: “No, he’s casting out demons by the authority of the prince of demons.”
Jesus enters this argument. It is not by Satan’s power that Satan’s minions are cast out. A better interpretation is this: “If by the Spirit of God I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.”
Son of David means the man who has been empowered by the Spirit to rule the world for God.
Son of David means king, and the kingdom over which he reigns is God’s.
The question of Jesus’s authority is the question of kingship: who is ruling, and whose power is on display?
The son of David title is one that encompasses not simply a vague promise of a future king, but one that has specific content. David’s son will rule the spiritual forces that war against the thriving of humanity on earth.
The son of David will receive the Spirit of God–like David did. And will therefore be empowered to rule the world on God’s behalf.