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Son of Man

Christian, tell me why did Jesus refer to himself as the "Son of Man"? Was he claiming to be simply a man?

Because…”Son of Man” is a divine title from prophecy. By using it, Jesus was claiming to be MORE than a man.

Skeptics sometimes say that Jesus did not explicitly claim to be God. They decide that such a claim was invented later by His followers, and was never His own intention. One piece of evidence they point to is Jesus’ referring to Himself as the “son of man”. At first, that does seem like a claim to be human rather than divine. But it’s actually the opposite.

Human “Son of Man”

I searched my Bible for the phrase “son of man”. I was a bit surprised at how often it occurs: 105 times in the Old Testament. All of them are referring to normal humans, sometimes even emphasizing human weakness in comparison to God (Numbers 23:19, Psalm 8:4, Psalm 144:3, Isaiah 51:12). Over 90 of those references are in the book of Ezekiel alone: It is how God addressed Ezekiel when giving him visions or prophecies to pass along to the people.

Divine “Son of Man”

So the skeptics may seem to have a point… until we read the prophet Daniel. Jews in the first century, Jesus’ original audience, were very familiar with Daniel’s vision of the end times. First, the scene is set:

I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat;
His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool.
His throne was ablaze with flames, its wheels were a burning fire.
A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him;
Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;
The court sat, and the books were opened.

Daniel 7:9-10

Then, once God had convened His court at the end of history, ready to pronounce judgment on the world, here is what happened next:

I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14 (emphasis added)

That is the Son of Man that Jesus was claiming to be!

Which “Son of Man” was Jesus?

How do we know which “son of man” Jesus was claiming? By the attributes that He was appropriating:

These are not attributes of Ezekiel, the son of man to whom God spoke. Rather, they are attributes of the everlasting-king Son of Man who was given dominion over all the earth forever. His original listeners knew what He meant. They tried to stone Him to death, and when He asked why, their answer was “because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:33).

The scriptures above are just some of the ones where Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son of Man” in the same sentence as claiming divine attributes. There are plenty of others where He either called Himself the Son of Man, or claimed divine power and authority, just not both in the same sentence. The Gospels are full of Jesus behaving as God, not behaving as simply a teacher or a prophet.

Why Should We Care?

What does that mean to us today? It means that this Jesus, who was undeniably a human man living at a specific place and time in history, was also more than just a man. He said so, often and emphatically. Then He supported that claim with miracles that showed His power over nature (Matthew 8:23-27), over the supernatural (Luke 8:26-36), over life (Matthew 8:5-13), and even over death (John 11:38-44). Finally, when His enemies killed Him for making that claim 1, it led to the strongest confirmation of all that He really is God: He defeated death, rose from His grave (Matthew 28:1-7, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-7, John 20:1-9), and continued to teach His disciples (Luke 24:13-28, John 20:19, Acts 1:3). He is still alive, and still has authority over all His creation.

Because Jesus is the Son of Man, He is the only one with the power to make those who believe in Him into children of God. That is the Gospel, the good news, that is the heart and soul of Christianity!

Footnotes and Scripture References

  1. as well as for interfering with their political status quo and its power

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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