The Lectionary for Holy Communion today brings together 2 Samuel 7:4-17 and Mark 4:1-20, as we continue to build the picture of Jesus as the Davidic king.
David, now king in Jerusalem, plans to build God a temple, a house to dwell in. But through the prophet Nathan, God informs David of his own plans. God has not asked this of David, but instead will raise up David’s offspring and establish his kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12). He will be the one to build a house for God’s name, and God will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever (2 Samuel 7:13). God will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to God—that is, God ratifies that David’s son will enjoy the same relationship with him that David has known (2 Samuel 7:14).
This promise is fulfilled in David’s son Solomon, who sat on the Davidic throne and built the temple.
Our reading from Mark’s Gospel depicts Jesus sat on the prow of a boat, with a crowd gathered to him along the lake shore, teaching them many things in parables (Mark 4:1, 2). We are invited to see Solomon the Wise, sat on his throne, the people gathered to him as he judges between them and instructs the simple in the way of wisdom through the medium of proverbs.
In his Gospel, Matthew shows that Jesus is descended from David. He does this by recording a genealogy, showing David and Jesus to be twenty-eight generations apart; and by recording that Joseph claims Jesus as his son*. But Mark is not concerned to show that Jesus is a descendant of David. He records neither genealogy nor birth account. Rather, Mark is concerned with symbolic meaning, with presenting Jesus as the Solomonic Son of David.
As the Solomonic Son of David, this Jesus is unrivalled teacher of righteousness; and judge seated on the throne; and royal bridegroom; and the one chosen by God to make a temple or permanent dwelling-place for the divine presence among God’s people, in the sight of all the nations of the earth.
And that is quite a claim to make. Yet it serves as backdrop to the story Mark will tell**. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, parables become proverbs. A boat becomes a throne—as does a cross. The linen cloth with which Joseph of Arimathea wraps Jesus’ body becomes the bridegroom’s wedding robe. A body raised becomes the newly-built temple.
*In the ancient world, if a man claimed you as his son, you were his son, regardless of paternity. And if a man disowned you as his son, you were no longer his son, again regardless of paternity. In a literal sense, Jesus is a tenuous descendant of David, not because Joseph’s paternity is called into question, but because Joseph is a quite distant relative of David.
**Matthew and Luke both depict Jesus claiming to be ‘greater than’ Solomon (Matthew 12:42, Luke 11:31). Mark does not. He is making a somewhat different claim: not that Jesus is greater than Solomon, but that Jesus is the fullness of Solomon.