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The Son of Man

April 28th, 2012 by Oleg Kostyuk

Why did Jesus refer to himself as the Son of Man instead of plainly stating that He was the Son of God? I would like to suggest that we take a closer look at the meaning of this title and try to solve this riddle together.

First of all Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” 82 times in the Gospels and each time it is Jesus who is using the phrase. For instance, in Matthew 12:8 Jesus says, “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Why didn’t he say, “For the Son of God is Lord even of the Sabbath”? In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) Jesus did not refer to himself as the Son of God. Demons acknowledged that He was the Son of God (Mat. 8:29), his disciples stated that he was the Son of God (Mat. 14:33), Mark even starts His Gospel saying that he was the Son of God (Mark 1:1). But Jesus preferred to use the term the Son of Man. That is very peculiar.

In ancient history, kings and emperors such as Alexander the Great and others referred to themselves as Sons of God. In fact, in the time of Jesus the title “the son of the divine one” (divi filius) was associated with Roman emperors. Kings and rulers being humans were trying to prove that they have some sort of relationship with gods. But Jesus is not trying to prove a fact. He is the Son of God. Instead, he alludes to the vision of Daniel in Daniel 7:13-14:

“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” 

In Daniel 7 we read about 4 kingdoms that are represented by the beasts, then we read about ten horns and a little horn. All those kingdoms are temporary, but the Kingdom of the Son of Man is everlasting, it “shall not pass away” and it “shall not be destroyed.” Jesus is the King and that is why he was preaching about his kingdom. If you are his friend, you will enjoy his kingdom!

There is another, I think, very important point that should not be overlooked. Without a doubt Jesus is the Son of God. Even the central text of the Gospels tells about it, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). But Jesus is so concerned about human beings that he even wants to identify with them. Despite the fact that he is the true Son of God, he says that he is just like me, he is the son of human being. It is an amazing example of humility from the King who wants to be equal with me, so that he can save me.

I would like to conclude with a true story from John Dickson’s book Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership

Three young men hopped on a bus in Detroit in the 1930s and tried to pick a fight with a lone man sitting at the back of the vehicle. They insulted him. He didn’t respond. They turned up the heat of the insults. He said nothing. Eventually, the stranger stood up.

He was bigger than they had estimated from his seated position — much bigger. He reached into his pocket, handed them his business card and walked off the bus and then on his way. As the bus drove on the young men gathered around the card to read the words: Joe Louis. Boxer. They had just tried to pick a fight with the man who would be Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World from 1937 to 1949, the number one boxer of all time, according to the International Boxing Research Organization (second on the list is Muhammad Ali).

Here is a man of immense power and skill, capable of defending his honour with a single, devastating blow. Yet, he chooses to forgo his status and hold his power for others — in this case, for some very fortunate young men…

The Son of God who is God was full of humility and a servant-like spirit. He took on human nature, He made Himself of no reputation, He referred to Himself as the Son of Man, He was not ashamed of bearing that title. He humbled Himself to the point of death. That is truly Amazing!

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