Opinion

Quick Compelling Bible Study Vol. 53: Why Jesus Called Himself ‘Son of Man’

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Posted: Mar 21, 2021 12:01 AM
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Quick Compelling Bible Study Vol. 53: Why Jesus Called Himself ‘Son of Man’

Source: (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Casey Crafford)

Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all previous volumes of this series here.

Thanks for joining today’s Bible Study. As we inch closer to Resurrection Sunday – the holiest and most joyful day for believers in Lord Jesus – we need to reflect on His identity. Crucial to understanding who Jesus is was embedded in his favorite name for himself – Son of Man.

In the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), the name is found in three books – Psalms, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Hence, “Son of Man” would have been familiar to the Jews (both the people and their leaders) who heard Jesus’s teachings, and that fact can’t be emphasized enough. Here is a quick review of Son of Man as referenced in the Hebrew Bible.

Two Psalms stand out. First is Psalm 8  – magnificent poetry that praises God, beginning: “LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.” Then verses 4-6 read like a Messianic prophecy:  

What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?  For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet (Psalm 8: 4-6).

In my NIV Study Bible, the footnote references that these Psalm verses are re-quoted in the New Testament book of Hebrews 2: 6-8. And, Hebrews: “applies these verses to Jesus who as the incarnate [human] Son of God is both the representative man and the one in whom man’s appointed destiny will be fully realized.” 

Moreover, before the Psalm passages appear in Hebrews, the subhead reads: “Jesus Made Like His Brothers” to reinforce Jesus’s identity as Son of Man who is fully human.

The second Psalm 80:14-19, where verse 17 reads: Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself – speaks of a king anointed by God.

Next is the book of Ezekiel, where God calls the prophet Ezekiel “son of man” 93 times but always as a human being who is a prophet. (Hold that thought for more clues about who Jesus is.) 

Concluding the Old Testament son of man references, we turn to the book of Daniel. In Daniel’s dream is when “Son of Man” is first equated to the coming Messiah: 

"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” (Daniel 7:13-14).

After reading that passage, you can understand why Jewish rulers were unnerved to hear Jesus calling himself the Son of Man.

Let’s review. The Old Testament passages refer to the Son of Man as a human, a prophet, an anointed king (but no ordinary king) – “to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom… His kingdom one Which shall not be destroyed.”

In the New Testament passages shown below, Jesus self-identifies as Son of Man while incorporating an extraordinary power reserved only for God – authority to forgive sins – well known to the Jewish people and their rulers. The occasion is when Jesus heals a paralyzed man, and his words are of such significance they are written word for word in the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Such repetition is unusual, but for space considerations, only one is shown:

But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home” (Matthew 9:6). 

Jesus’s power as the Son of Man with authority to forgive sins is central to understanding His identity as both the Messiah and the son born of Mary. 

As if Jesus performing miracles and claiming authority to forgive sins wasn’t enough to infuriate the Jewish rulers – Jesus prophesizes his fate and Resurrection in Mark and Luke with identical verses. Luke is cited below:   

And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22).

But Jesus was not done prophesizing to the rulers as the Son of Man. At his trial, He speaks of His Second Coming, and those nearly identical verses appear in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The passage from Mark is as follows:

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:61-62).

Jesus rightly calls himself the Son of Man because of his humanity. He is also a prophet who understands the inherent weakness of man’s sinful nature and the sufferings endured by humankind. His mission is first revealed in Daniel, “That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.”  

Then in the New Testament, Jesus, fully human and fully God, uses the name Son of Man to convey to his followers and rulers the complexities of his dual identity.  

He is The Son of Man who must suffer, die, is resurrected, and will come again, as he told the high priests before being sentenced to death: “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Next Sunday, as we prepare to celebrate Jesus entering Jerusalem, pray about renewing your belief in the Son of Man because “to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom.. one which shall not be destroyed.” And, Jesus “has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

AMEN!

Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. She is also Executive Director of www.SignFromGod.org, a ministry dedicated to educating people about the Shroud of Turin. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com or Twitter @MyraKAdams.