Exploring God's Word : The identity of the Christ

The Root of David

When John experiences his revelation in the book of the same name, he has a vision of God the Father sitting upon a throne and holding in his right hand ‘a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals’ (Revelation 5:1). John is distraught to discover that ‘no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.’ (Revelation 5:3) – it is as if John understands that without the opening of the scroll all is lost. However, the apostle is finally comforted by one of the elders seated before the throne with the words, ‘“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”’ (Revelation 5:5). The reference, of course, is to Jesus the Christ who is declared to be ἡ Ῥίζα Δαυίδ (he Rhiza Dauid), the Root of David. Moreover, in the last few verses of the final chapter of the book, Jesus refers to himself as ‘the root and the offspring of David’ (Revelation 5:16)  – in fact, verse sixteen probably records the very last words of Jesus in the scriptures as the words of verse seventeen are probably those of the narrator, John.

With the many messianic titles of Jesus, and the prophecies concerning his coming, we are used to the idea that each of these point forward, but in this case, the title of the ‘Root of David’ seems different and forces us to look back and ask the question, “if Jesus was the kingly descendent of David, how can he also be the Root of David?” Perhaps Jesus was hinting at the same enigma when he questioned a group of Pharisees concerning the lineage of the Messiah; ‘While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”’ (Matthew 22:41-42), to which they reply, ‘“The son of David”.’ Jesus, not satisfied with their answer, asks them in the next verse to consider the words of Psalm 110; ‘“How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’?” - Jesus’ final question silences his listeners; ‘“If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”’ (Matthew 22:45).

Jesus was, of course, actually a son of David and of line of Judah - Judah himself was the great grandson of Abraham, the man chosen by God to be the head of the family through whom blessing would come to the nations. And yet, the roots of the story of God’s people, and indeed all people, goes back further to the very story of the progenitors of the human race, Adam and Eve. Moreover, although Eve is described as the ‘mother of all living’ and the one from whom the Messiah would come (the righteous seed of Genesis 3:15), she herself is taken from Adam - both are described as being made in the image of God. Put simply, the root of David, must be the one and the same person from whom Adam came, that is the source of all human life, God; ‘Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.’ (Genesis 2:7). The answer to the conundrum is also made plain in Luke’s gospel, which includes a chronology that begins with the declaration that Jesus was ‘the son, so it was thought, of Joseph’ (Luke 3:23) and ends with the startling conclusion that he was ‘the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.’ (Luke 3:38). And so, it would seem that Jesus’ claim to be the ‘Root of David’, can be none other than a claim that he was both in the garden at the beginning and the very one who breathed the life into the first man – in short, Jesus is claiming to be both God the creator and the true source of human life..