A Messianic Paradigm Shift

By Mark D. Roberts

March 2, 2021

Scripture – Luke 20:41 (NRSV)

Then [Jesus] said to them, “How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son? For David himself says in the book of Psalms,
+++‘The Lord said to my Lord,
+++“Sit at my right hand,
+++until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’
David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?”


According to Jesus, first-century Jews needed a paradigm shift when it came to their understanding of the Messiah. Perhaps we do as well. If we see Jesus as Savior but fail to acknowledge him as our Lord, then it’s time for a messianic reboot. If we are grateful for salvation beyond this life but miss the abundant life Jesus has for us today, then a paradigm shift is in order.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.


I expect you’ve heard the phrase “paradigm shift.” For a while it was one of the most overused phrases in academia and pop culture. It still shows up often in discussions of business, culture, politics, psychology, and leadership. We’re always in need of a paradigm shift, or so it seems. (“Paradigm shift” actually comes from a book that I read in more of my college courses than any other book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn argued that science advances not through an orderly process of incremental growth of knowledge, but rather through radical shifts in scientific thinking and experimentation.)

If Jesus had read Kuhn’s influential volume, he might have said that the Jewish people needed a paradigm shift when it came to their understanding of the Messiah. Though there was diversity among first-century Jews with regard to their expectations for the identity and mission of God’s Anointed One (the meaning of “messiah”), most people expected the Messiah to be a royal figure, one who would expel the Romans from Judea and establish a political kingdom. They believed that the Messiah would be David’s son in the sense that he descended from David and served as a victorious king in the mode of David. This belief was based on the Hebrew Scriptures, especially 2 Samuel 7:12-13, in which the Lord said to David: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” Thus, the Messiah was believed to be the Son of David.

Jesus did not reject the notion that the Messiah would be the Son of David, but he did challenge the standard paradigm for what that meant. He asked how people could believe that the Messiah was David’s son, given that David himself referred to the future ruler as “my Lord.” (Luke 20:42). Jesus based his question on Psalm 110:1, which is ascribed to David. This verse, in which David says “The LORD says to my lord,” was associated with the Messiah. But it didn’t make sense in that culture to think of a father or an ancestor referring to a son or a descendent as “my lord.” Thus, if one thought of the Messiah simply as David’s descendent and heir to the throne, then the language of lordship in Psalm 110:1 makes no sense.

Notice that Jesus did not deny the Davidic lineage of the Messiah. But he did deny the common paradigm for the Messiah, one that saw him as a military leader and earthly king. The true Messiah, according to Jesus, would be superior even to David. The Messiah would be one whom David himself would call “Lord.”

Many Christians need a paradigm shift when it comes to our assumptions about Jesus’s messiahship. We do not limit the work of the Messiah in the way that was common in the first century, when people saw Jesus as a political ruler. But we are inclined at times to focus so much on some aspects of Jesus’s mission that we ignore other essential ones. For example, we can emphasize the saving work of Jesus the Messiah to such an extent that we neglect his royal authority over our lives and our world. Sometimes we limit the scope of Jesus’s salvation to what happens after death, rather than seeing his salvation as affecting this life as well as the life to come. Or, though we refer to Jesus as Lord, in line with Psalm 110, we can live as if his lordship is restricted to our religious and personal lives, rather than touching all that we are and all that we do.

As we follow Jesus through Lent, we ought to ask him if we need a paradigm shift when it comes to his messiahship. Though rightly acknowledging him as our Savior, do we also acknowledge him as our Lord? Though grateful for the life we will have beyond death, do we also thank him for the abundant life he makes available right now?


Have you ever experienced some kind of paradigm shift in your faith? If so, when? What happened?

If someone were to ask you, “What does it mean for Jesus to be the Messiah?” how would you answer this question?

Have you put your trust in Jesus the Messiah to be your Savior?

Have you given your life to Jesus the Messiah as your Lord?


If there is a facet of your life that you know is not fully submitted to Jesus as Lord, talk with him about this. Explain your hesitations, your fears. Ask the Lord to help you give your whole life to him.


Lord Jesus, yes, I begin this prayer today by calling you “Lord.” I do believe that you are not just my Lord, but also the Lord of heaven and earth. I praise you for your royal authority over all creation.

Yet, I know that sometimes I resist your lordship. There are parts of life over which I’d rather be my own lord. I want to give my life to you while holding back parts for myself. I ask you to forgive me and set me free.

Help me, Lord, yes, LORD, to seek your sovereignty first of all. Help me to follow your teaching and seek your guidance. May you be more and more the Lord of my life, every part of it. To you be all the glory! Amen.

P.S. from Mark

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Jesus Answered the High Priest

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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