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Foundational Questions & Answers
Who is the Biblical 'Son of Man'
By Craig von Buseck
Question: What was the primary title that Jesus used to describe himself during his earthly ministry?
Answer: Son of Man
Though it sounds contradictory, the term ‘Son of Man’ is a very appropriate title – and it is the moniker that Jesus chose to use of himself more than any other title in the New Testament.
The title ‘Son of Man’ points to Jesus’ humanity, but it does not deny His divinity. Jesus was both fully God and fully man. Though He left behind the full power and glory of His divinity when He came to earth, He did not cease being the Son of God. But He chose to identify himself with the humanity that He came to save when He referred to Himself as the ‘Son of Man.’
“Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’" (Matt. 8:20 NASB).
"’But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’--then He said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, pick up your bed and go home’" (Matt. 9:6 NASB).
“And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31 NASB).
"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26 NASB).
“And Jesus answered them, saying, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’” (John 12:23 NASB).
Another reason that Jesus may have used the title ‘Son of Man’ is that it was not as politically or emotionally charged as other terms, such as ‘Son of God,’ ‘Christ,’ or ‘Messiah.’
For the majority of His ministry, Jesus claimed to be God only when He was with His disciples – and in these times he mostly referred to himself as the ‘Son of Man.’
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’" (Matthew 16:13-15 NASB).
Peter was unashamed in his bold response to His Lord.
“Jesus asked His disciples who people said that He was. Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (verse 16).
Jesus does not correct or reprimand Peter for his response – in fact, He blesses him.
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’”
Jesus often reserved these self-revelations primarily for his disciples. But this was not always the case. In confrontations with the Jewish rulers in the temple, He made it quite clear who He was – and the consequences were immediately clear.
“’My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.’"
“The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?’ The Jews answered Him, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.’" (John 10:29-33).
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." So the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’
“Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:56-59).
While Jesus was fully divine, the Bible makes it clear that He was also fully human. The apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians declares:
“…who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8 NASB).
Jesus had two natures, both divine and human, combined in one person.
The book of Hebrews tells us that this is why Jesus has become our great High Priest – as both Son of God and Son of Man, He identifies with both man and God. He is the mediator between mankind and God – constantly making intercession on our behalf before the Father.
It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (Romans 8:34b)’
Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).
Praise the Lord that Jesus has revealed Himself to mankind as both Son of God and Son of Man!
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