There are many ways that Jesus is addressed in the gospels but one in particular has been intriguing me this last while and it is the title “Son of David”. This phrase appears 17 times in the gospels with 10 of those occurrences being in Matthew. In reading those instances in Matthew there appears to be a very real connection between those who are blind and this title, “Son of David”. Each time a blind person addresses Jesus they call Him “Son of David”. (One time the crowd, seeing and blind person healed asks, “Could this be the Son of David?”)
It is very interesting that David himself has a history with the blind and I can’t help but think that there is an intentional connection being made here by Jesus, the Holy Spirit and apparently Matthew the writer of the gospel of Matthew.
For a look at David’s history with the blind we go to 2 Samuel 5:1-9. This is the taking of three city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites. This event is very significant in there history of Israel and there life of David. It is at this time that David becomes King over all Israel and when Israel has finally taken this promised city.
During the course of David’s coming against the Jebusites they taunt him with these words: “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”. David responded with equal sarcasm by saying, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul.”
These are harsh words from someone we usually associate with his tenderness towards God and a knack for writing songs to the Lord, and yet here we have it; David is a hater, so it would seem.
So we looked at the context of the title “Son of David” briefly in the gospel of Matthew and what seems like a tie to those who are blind. Given what David had said about the blind you might think it strange that we find them calling out after Jesus using this title like it might somehow garner favour. I haven’t yet mentioned a very unusual line that ends our passage in 2 Samuel 5. It is this from verse 8, Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.”.
This statement, which seems stronger than a simple saying and leans more toward a vow, would really seem to put a wedge between the blind and David. So why are the blind so insistent on calling Jesus the “Son of David”? The answer, I believe, is that this saying stands out in the greater context of 2 Samuel and forms what I believe is a sub-narrative of 2 Samuel.
2 Samuel is primarily the history of David’s reign as king over Israel. Scattered throughout the chapters of this book we find a recurring character who you would think is hardly a real part of the story, and yet again and again there he is. His name is Mephibosheth. This man is the son of Jonathan, the beloved friend of David, and the grandson of king Saul. Jonathan so valued David as a friend and leader that Jonathan refused opportunities right before him to secure his own position as future king. Jonathan was placed in such an impossible position and yet he maintained honour for his father, love for David and submission to God’s will. To maintain this all Jonathan had to do was hold steady until his integrity killed him. I cannot imagine what this dilemma must have felt like for Jonathan.
After Saul and Jonathan died battling with the Philistines the remaining household of Saul believed their days were numbered. They understood that David would soon be king and that kings were not in the habit of leaving past heirs to the throne alive. Mephibosheth’s nurse, in a rush to escape death with this young child, dropped him and his feet were crushed leaving him lame. (Samuel 4).
So chapter 4 tells us the story of a young child becoming lame and chapter 5 tells us a story about David refusing the lame or the blind to enter the house. Looks like Mephibosheth’s life will be a miserable one. He is the grandson of the man who spent years trying to kill David and is now lame, a class of citizen specifically ostracized by King David.
This is where history takes an unexpected turn – for the good. In 2 Samuel 9 David says this: “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”. Mephibosheth, “…a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.”is the answer to that question. The answer could have simply been, “Yes, his name is Mephibosheth.” Clearly David had not yet implemented training for his staff on using appropriate language to create a healthy work environment. To define someone by their weakness is so unkind, and yet t is there, in 2 Samuel 9:3.
Mephibosheth is said to be staying in the home of one of the most prominent families of Israel. David could have thought, “Good, Jonathan’s son is well cared for and I will let him live and live well, that will be my way of remembering Jonathan’s kindness to me.”. Instead David responds in a way that should shock us. David takes Mephibosheth from the home he is in and says, not only will you enter my house, but you will sit at my table FOREVER! Verse 11 gives us the full implications of this by saying, “So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons.” Verse 13, so as to drive the point home reiterates this arrangement. It says, “So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem, for he ate continually at the king’s table.” But verse 13 does not end there. So as to highlight that there is a greater story here Samuel writes, “And he was lame in both his feet.”
David and Jonathan had made a covenant that, due to the death of Saul’s household, could only be maintained through Mephibosheth.