He Sealed His Fate with a Song

The Most Famous Psalm in Scripture

The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1)

He almost sealed his fate that Sunday. Riding in on the humble steed (Matthew 21:7; Zechariah 9:9), he had stirred up the whole city with messianic hopes (Matthew 21:10–11). Then Monday he cleansed the temple, and refused to rebuke the children’s hosannas (Matthew 21:15–16). Now there was no turning back, and he confirmed it with his words on Tuesday.

With each passing hour, Jesus drew nearer to the lion’s jaws. In just three days, he would be shamed and humiliated, tortured and executed — each step toward Calvary met with increasing friction. Yet, on the inside, he was singing.

As he walked that harrowing road, he was rehearsing the Psalms and living out the ancient Script with every act of faith. On Tuesday, he drew the Psalm from its blessed scabbard, stumping the brightest minds of his day and silencing the loudest mouths. Now, their only recourse would be to kill him.

David Called Him ‘Lord’

When John the Baptist came from the wilderness, Psalm 110 was among the greatest riddles in Scripture, and yet it became the single most quoted Old Testament chapter in the New. It all began here on the Tuesday before Jesus died, when Jesus himself planted his foot on ground so holy and high that no one else dared trod there.

That Tuesday was intense. He captured their attention with a donkey and a whip, and then fed them a full day of teaching, showing the Jerusalem elites what the Galileans had seen: one who spoke with authority (Matthew 7:29; Mark 1:22). He didn’t sidestep the inevitable conflict with the powers, but strode back into their den and held his ground. When they questioned his authority, he answered with three parables (Matthew 21:28–22:14). Baffled as they were, he made it plain enough he directed his riddles against them. Having endured their challenges with patience, he then turned the tables with Psalm 110.

At last, he asked, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” As expected, they answered, “The son of David” (Matthew 22:42). Then Psalm 110 and the zinger: “If then David calls [the Christ] Lord, how is he his son?” (Matthew 22:45). How could the younger be greater than the older? Unless . . . but the dialogue was done. “No one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions” (Matthew 22:46).

At God’s Right Hand

Jesus would not leave Psalm 110 behind on Tuesday. He would unsheathe its revelation again as he stood trial late Thursday night before the high priest. He remained silent at the parade of false witnesses (Matthew 26:59–63). Finally, the high priest erupted, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus then willingly sealed his fate, combining Psalm 110 with the prophecy of Daniel 7:13:

“You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.” (Matthew 26:64–65)

Off he went to be condemned, scourged, and crucified, with Psalm 110 fresh in his mind. On the other side of the grave, his apostles would follow their pioneer and unleash David’s greatest oracle. Peter preached Psalm 110 at Pentecost (Acts 2:33–36), and before the high priest (Acts 5:31). Stephen’s last words echoed Psalm 110 (Acts 7:55–56). Paul stepped onto that same holy ground (Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1). And what do we say of Hebrews, which has Psalm 110 at its very heart, and referenced eight times?

The great riddle of David’s prophecy gave way to one of the new covenant’s great revelations. We might even summarize the message of the New Testament like this: Psalm 110 has come true. Jesus is not only of David’s line but also his Lord, now seated at the Father’s right hand. But before the great oracle fed the faith of the church, these words nourished the faith of Jesus himself.

Nine Great Promises

What did Christ hear as he rehearsed Psalm 110 during the week of his passion? How did David’s great oracle give hope to David’s greater son?

Jesus would have tasted at least nine promises of his Father’s provision in these seven short verses. The first is implicit: “until I make your enemies your footstool” (Psalm 110:1). God will do it; he will see to the victory. Then eight explicit promises follow, seen in the eight repetitions of will (in our English). How would these faith-feeding pledges have landed on Jesus as he stared down death and listened again and again to the Psalm?

  • Verse 1: I will both defeat your enemies and put them under your feet, for your everlasting joy.
  • Verse 3: I will work in your people’s hearts to follow you gladly, not begrudgingly.
  • Verse 3: I will refresh you continually, not leave you languishing.
  • Verse 4: I am God and will not change my mind.
  • Verse 5: I will defeat leaders who oppose you.
  • Verse 6: I will repay unbelievers who threaten you.
  • Verse 6: I will destroy those who mean harm against you.
  • Verse 7: I will give you all you need to endure.
  • Verse 7: I will preserve you in what is coming upon you.

His Father’s Right Hand

As Jesus sings verse 1, he remembers who he is to his Father: his right-hand man. How emboldening to walk into that holy week knowing himself more than “son of David,” and even more than “lord of David.” He pursues Calvary’s arduous path knowing something greater still: he is the Son of his Father, who will welcome him to his right hand.

What is the deepest meaning of Jesus being at his Father’s right hand? This: the very power of God Almighty is for him. With unassailable sovereign muscle, the Father will execute perfect justice, in his perfect timing, for every uncovered detractor of his Son — all the way to the top, to “shatter kings” and “shatter chiefs” (Psalm 110:5–6). Weak and vulnerable as this Lamb may look before his shearers, he has been sent by his Father, with a mighty scepter in his hand, to rule, even from the cross, in the midst of his enemies (Psalm 110:2).

Here, during the greatest week in the history of the world, the Son knows himself not only destined for his Father’s right hand, but he acts, by faith, as his Father’s right hand. He serves as the ultimate human instrument through which God channels his power to remake the world.