One of the main titles of our Lord is the messianic title of Son of David. It is the second of twelve titles for our Lord that Cardinal Newman presents as a reflection for Good Friday. The title Son of David, however, does not mean much too most people today since they are not familiar with the Old Testament figure of King David and the promise made to him that his house or family kingdom would last forever (2 Kings 7).
Newman explains how the Jews expected a Messiah that would descend from the house of David through Mary, a descendant of David:
The Prophet Isaias had foretold; “there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse;” Jesse was the father of David, the King of the Jews—and by “rod” or plant is meant the Blessed Virgin; “there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root” (Isaias xi. 1); by the flower of the plant is meant our Lord the son of the Blessed Mary.
Newman indicates that by David’s kingdom is meant a spiritual kingdom in which Christ will reign.
“And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him” (verse 2); this the Holy Ghost did at His Baptism. And Jeremias says: “Behold the days come, and I will raise up to David a just Branch, and a King shall reign, and shall be wise, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In those days Juda shall be saved … and this is the name that they shall call Him—the Lord our Just One” (Jeremias xxiii. 5-6). Hence the Jews when disputing whether our Lord were the Christ, said, “Doth not the Scripture say, that Christ cometh out of the seed of David?” (John vii. 42).
Next Newman continues with some comments on the tragic course of history of the Jewish people, using words which could possibly give rise to misunderstanding and hurt even though this was far from his intention. There can be no doubt that Newman was aware that the one who passed sentence on Jesus was Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, compelled by the Jewish leaders, but he writes that the Jewish people rejected Christ. In doing so he chose to use the collective “we” to express the solidarity that exists both in good and in evil.
He expressed these thoughts in the following words:
It was the glory of the Jews that the promised Saviour, the Christ, the Sacrifice and Propitiation of the whole human race, the Almighty Liberator, was to be of their race and country—yet, dreadful to say, when He came, they rejected Him, they put Him to death. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John i. 11). And as they rejected Him, He rejected them.
For many years until the twentieth century the Jews had no homeland of their own, yet they remain God’s chosen people, for whom Newman invites us to pray:
O seed of Abraham, O Son of David, O Adonai and leader of the house of Israel, who didst appear to Moses in the burning bush, and didst on Mount Sinai deliver to him Thy Law; O Key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel, who openest and no one shutteth, who shuttest and no one openeth; visit not, O dear Lord, the sins of the fathers upon the children, continue not Thy wrath for ever (…) O remember not those old Priests and Scribes, the Pharisees and Sadducees, remember not Annas and Caiphas, Judas, and the insane multitude who cried out “Crucify Him.” In wrath remember mercy.
Newman concludes his prayer with a touching reference to Jesus’ parents, to the patriarchs and to King David, all of whom were Jewish. The Jewish people are our fathers in the faith. We share with them in the patriarchs, the promises and the prophets.
Although Newman does not explain in detail why Jesus is called the Son of David he invites us to see how the Scriptures prepared the people for the Messiah who would descend from David. And that Messiah is Jesus, the Son of David, whom we ask to bless the Jewish people and Christians as we seek to know and serve God each day with greater faithfulness and love.