Who is our Savior?

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
November 1, 2020
Psalm 110, Matthew 22:41-46

The video above was recorded on Friday, October 30, 2020 and may be a little different from the text below.

At the Beginning of Worship

We’re going to complete the 22nd Chapter of Matthew’s gospel this morning. Two weeks ago, we began the chapter with Jesus’ parable of the wedding guest. His story didn’t sit well with the religious leaders of the day, which set up the events we dug into last week. 

There we saw Jesus tag-teamed by a group of religious and secular scholars. They kept coming at Jesus with questions and Jesus stunned them with his answers. They were so speechless that Matthew tells us they were “muzzled.” 

Now it’s Jesus’ turn to ask a question. On the surface, it appears to be a simple and not very interesting one. But it’s the most important question.[1] Jesus asks about their understanding of the Messiah. Those who challenge Jesus have trouble understanding who could save them. Do we? In whom do we place our trust? That’s a question for us to ponder this week.  

After the Reading of Scripture

Do you remember the movie Pale Rider? I always liked the movie. It takes me back to a familiar place. The filming took place just outside a church camp I ran in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho in the late 1980s. 

The movie stars Clint Eastwood. He’s a mysterious outsider, who’s only called “Preacher.” He comes into a mining town of LaHood, California. The townsfolk are being run off their claims by bad men hired by Coy LaHood, a mining tycoon longing to control the valley. Even Preacher is abused. He’s encouraged to move on by the corporation’s henchmen. He accepts the abuse, not fighting back, but he encourages the townsfolk to resist. 

We get a sense that this preacher has a past. Thing comes to a head when an innocent man is killed. Fighting breaks out. Eastwood did not defend or take revenge for the wrong done to him. However, when an innocent man is dead, he claims his guns from a safe deposit vault. 

The move ends predictable. Vengeance is metered out and the town saved by this former gunslinging preacher. In the closing scene, with the town secure, the mysterious preacher rides off into the sunset.[2]

The Preacher was the town’s savior. Pale Rider is a classical western, with a twist or two. An outsider comes in and saves the town who are made up of good people incapable of defending themselves. You quickly know, in such movies, who are the good and bad guys. Once the oppressed have been saved, and the bad buried, the outsider moves on. There is no need for a savior anymore. All is right in the world. 

When things are down, wouldn’t it would be nice to have a savior come in and set things right. It could be an answer to our dreams, or our deepest desire. Of course, so would living in a world where the bad guys are always someone else and we’re always innocent. It makes a good movie, but the world is not that simple. 

Into the Text

Yes, we need to be saved. Sometimes from others. Sometimes from ourselves. And that’s what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. We need a savior. We need a Messiah. The problem is, who is our savior? Too often, we want the savior on our own terms. But then, we risk idolatry, worshipping something less than God. Our morning text goes to the heart of this. 

Last week we looked at the three questions the Jewish leadership asked Jesus. Each question was designed to trick or trip him up. They wanted to expose Jesus as a fraud or heretic. In doing so, they could maintain their control over everyone within the faith. Now, after being bombarded by questions, it’s Jesus’ turn. He asks just one question, which he modifies with a couple more clarifying ones. 

Jesus asks his question to the Pharisees, even though there were other leaders present.[3] Remember, the Pharisees are most like Jesus with their belief in a resurrection. Jesus asks what they think about the Messiah. It’s a simple question. Then he pushes the question further, asking whose son he is. The last question is a tricky one. 

The Pharisee respond that the Messiah is the “son of David.” This is not a bad answer. All we have to do is to go to the very first verse of Matthew’s gospel: “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David…” 

The Davidic sonship of Jesus is taken for granted throughout the New Testament. You see it not only in Matthew Gospel, but in the Gospels of Mark and Luke.[4] Paul speaks of Jesus as the Son of David.[5] We even find such a title in the Book of Revelation.[6] While the title Son of David is important, Jesus drives at something deeper. 

Jesus then asks, how can David call the Messiah, Lord? For you see, a “son” implies a hierarchical relationship. A son always shows deference to the father. Such an attitude goes back to the Ten Commandments, “honor thy father and mother.”[7] Jesus backs up his question with a quote from Psalm 110, a Psalm of David, which we heard earlier. 

The Pharisee’s hope is in a Messiah who would be a conquering king like David. They are looking for someone who will be willing to defeat their enemies and to restore the honor of the nation. They’re like the residents of LaHood in the movie Pale Rider

At the very least, the Pharisees want a Messiah who will do those things outlined in the last verses of Psalm 110. They want him to bring vengeance on their enemies. They want to see their persecutors turned into corpses, stacked like cordwood. 

Yes, Jesus desires justice. Yes, some of those things may happen at the final judgment. But there’s more to Jesus. As one commentator wrote: “If Jesus is seen only from David’s side, glorious but only human, he is mis-seen.” Jesus has to be seen from “God’s side—the very Son of God”[8]

Another way of thinking about this is as Son of David, Jesus is a Messiah for the Jewish people. But he’s more than that. In Matthew, the title “Son of David,” is always subordinate to the title “Son of God.”[9]

Twice in Matthew’s Gospel, God claims Jesus as his Son. At his baptism, the skies open and a voice cries out: “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I’m well pleased.”[10] Again, at the Transfiguration, we hear the same voice.[11]

As Psalm 110 reminds us, the Messiah sits at God’s right hand. Jesus as the Son of God is the Messiah for the world. “For God so loved the world,” John’s gospel tells us.[12] Jesus’ mission is to set up the foundation of the church so that it can continue his work in the world until he comes again and calls his people home.  

Applying the Text

So now, we need to ask ourselves the question Jesus asked. What do we think of the Messiah? 

Often, we look for salvation in the wrong places. We think that if we can just have this or that, we’d be satisfied. But the Messiah isn’t an object or a thing. Nor can our true savior be just another person. Sometimes we think, if we just marry the right spouse or if we just had the perfect job, but again those things by themselves can’t fulfill us. 

Perhaps even more dangerous is the belief of a political savior. We’re faced with a choice this week, during the elections. I will never tell you who to vote for. I firmly believe in two foundational principles of the Presbyterian Church. First, God alone is Lord of our conscience. Second, good people see things differently.[13] So, I won’t say who to vote for. 

However, let me state this clearly: If you think you can vote for a Savior, you’re mistaken. If we believe that any of the candidates can fulfill all our needs and desires, and do everything in a godly manner, we are delusional. 

Yes, political leaders can be a force for good, but they are still mere humans. They are still sinful. Scripture is clear. Even David sinned. Certainly, for Uriah, David was no savior.[14] Mortals, whether family members, spouses, friends, bosses, or politicians cannot fulfill our deepest needs. 

This is why the Son of David was a short-sighted answer. Mortals are always limited in what they can do. But as one who came from God, the one who is God, Jesus has the power to save. He is the only Savior we need. Anyone and anything else will eventually disappoint and led us into idolatry.  Amen.  


[1] Frederick Dale Bruner, The Churchbook: Matthew 13-28 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 421,

[2] Pale Rider, 1985. Directed and produced by Clint Eastwood. I simplified the story line here. The name comes from the Revelation 6:8, where death is seen as riding a pale horse. The movie begins when a young girl’s dog is shot by the Coy LaHood’s men. She prays for a miracle. Of course, Eastwood’s character is not “pure.” He has a past as shown by bullet wounds in his back and by his flirting and suggestive “shacking up” with one of the towns eligible women. 

[3] In the previous passage, Herodians and Sadducees joined the Pharisees in questioning Jesus. 

[4] Mark 10:4-48, Luke 3:31. 

[5] Romans 1:3.

[6] Revelation 3:7, 5:5, 22:16.

[7] Exodus 20 :12 and Deuteronomy 5:16.

[8] Bruner, 426. 

[9] Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew: Interpretation, a Commentary for Preaching and Teaching, (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1993), 262-263.

[10] Matthew 3:17.

[11] Matthew 17:5.

[12] John 3:16.

[13] Presbyterian Church (USA), Book of Order

[14] 2 Samuel 11.

14 Replies to “Who is our Savior?”

  1. Yes, no politician should be confused with Messiah and no religion should be mixed with politics. Intetesting thoughts as always!

    1. Thanks. But too often people seem to think politicians (along with politicians themselves) as Messiahs… It’s popular in fascist movements.

  2. Although I’m in Florida now and going to the Pilgrim church, I will continue to listen and watch your enjoyable sermons!

    1. Thanks, Bill. As you were the head of the committee that first called me as a pastor thirty-some years ago, I’m glad you are still willing to listen! Enjoy Florida this winter.

  3. And in a democracy, we are ultimately responsible for saving ourselves. A vote on Election Day should never be a wish that our proxies will take care of everything. Democracy works best when everyone gets and stays involved.

    1. While I agree with you that our government works best with all participating (we the people), I don’t see voting as “saving ourselves.” Instead I see it as a responsibility in which we strive for what’s best for all.

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