As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.
I recently read a wonderful novel by acclaimed novelist Geraldine Brooks entitled The Secret Chord, an imaginative retelling of the biblical story of King David. It follows the biblical narrative quite closely, but with some obvious enhancements. After all, if you are going to write a novel, you have to have plenty of dialogue, which is exactly what the biblical narrative is short of. The narrator in Brooks’s novel is the prophet Nathan, to whom David assigns the task of telling the story of his life by interviewing those who were his most important influences.
Brooks’s David, like the biblical figure, is a man of great charisma, enormous gifts, incredible courage, and deep flaws. His capacity for empathy and humility is equal to his capacity for self-delusion and pride. His ability to lead men is equal to his failure to lead his own family. His intense love for God is equal to his willingness to ignore God’s laws in favor of his own desires.
All this made me think of the fact that Jesus Christ is so often referred to as “the Son of David.” Why is the sinless Jesus so closely associated with this great—but conflicted and deeply sinful—king?
One reason, of course, is that it fulfills the prophecy Nathan made to David that his son would sit on his throne forever (2 Sam. 7: 4-17). Jesus is a “son of David” in that he is genealogically descended from David, and his heavenly throne is eternal. But there is more to it than that. It has to do not just with his genealogy but his humanity.
David was chosen as king after the failure of Saul. He is called a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). What does that mean? I think it means that David, flawed as he was, displayed the characteristics that God had intended his human creatures to have. David’s compassion and courage, his passion and intelligence, his cunning and wisdom—these are the very things that God delights at in his human creatures. David is, as the Yiddish would say, a mensch.
In other words, David represents the very best that we fallen, sinful humans can be. He embodies humanity in our huge capacity for both good and evil.
Keeping this in mind helps us grasp the full meaning of Jesus as the “son of David.” In Jesus Christ, God himself enters the tragedy of human life and gives it a new identity. Carrying in his very DNA all the great virtues of King David, he also bears his sins. Dying on the cross and rising from the dead, he offers us a new humanity. David’s flawed humanity is united with Jesus Christ’s righteous humanity. Humanity is transfigured; it now shines with a glory that David only hints at.
Through faith and baptism we share in this new humanity. We become glorious sons and daughters of David in the true son of David, Jesus Christ.