In Mark 12:35-37, Jesus points out to the scribes that they have a deficient view of the Messiah. They correctly understood that the Messiah was going to be a descendant of David. But the Lord shows them, from Psalm 110, that they didn’t realize the Messiah was going to be more than simply a son of David.
The Psalm says that David calls the Messiah “my Lord.” In the Jewish mind, a descendant of someone could never be the Lord of that person. Since the scribes agreed that Psalm 110 was talking about the Messiah, how could David call his son his Lord?
Clearly, Jesus is telling the scribes that the Messiah would be greater than they thought. The Messiah would be greater than a human leader who would defeat the Romans.
What is interesting about this passage is that not even the disciples understood the things that Psalm 110 says about the Christ. The disciples basically thought the same things about the Messiah as the scribes did. With one important difference: the disciples believed that Jesus was the Christ, while the scribes did not.
Many people want to look at these verses and say that Jesus is arguing for the Trinity. I don’t think so. We look at it through the eyes of people with 2000 years of Church history and the complete NT. But when Jesus said these things, the disciples did not have that luxury. In addition, the word “Lord” in “my Lord” is a word that can be used for anyone greater than someone else. It doesn’t have to mean that person is God. (In the Hebrew of Psalm 110, the word “Lord” in “my Lord” is different from the word “Lord” when David refers to God the Father– “The Lord.”)
Very simply, Jesus is stretching the thinking of the scribes and His disciples and saying that the Messiah will be greater than a descendant of David. They need to reconsider things.
But I think there is something else going on here. It seems to me that Jesus has a particular person in mind when He wants His listeners to be stretched in their thinking about the Christ. In the verses immediately before these, Jesus has a conversation with a particular scribe. When Jesus tells him that the greatest commandment is to love God with your whole being and to love your neighbor as yourself, that particular scribe tells the Lord that He has spoken the truth and has answered well (v. 32). Jesus tells him he is not far from the kingdom of God (v. 34).
This scribe is open to what Jesus is saying. He is open to changing his mind.
While still in the temple, Jesus gives all who are listening, including this man, information to change their minds. If we focus on that particular scribe, we would say that what Jesus explains about Psalm 110 is definitely able to do that.
I think at least part of what is going on here is that the Lord is reaching out to this man. God rewards those who seek Him (Heb 11:6), and this man is seeking the truth. We don’t know what this man did with the information the Lord gave him. But now he knows that Jesus speaks the truth, He is wise, and that the Christ is greater than he thought. He had called Jesus a “teacher” (v. 32). Perhaps later he came to realize that Jesus was more than a just a teacher. Perhaps later he even came to believe that He was the Christ!
This is a great truth to realize, isn’t it? If anybody seeks the Lord, He will give him more information. For the seeking unbeliever, He will reach out to move him closer to faith in Him. For the believer who wants to know more about the Lord, the Lord will reward the believing seeker. We have a gracious Lord who doesn’t want anybody to remain in the dark but will give more and more light.