Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Son of Man

One of the titles the Lord Jesus used to refer to Himself was "the Son of Man." In fact it was the title He most often used when referring to Himself. When you understand what that term means, regarding His humiliation and His exaltation, you will have a deeper appreciation for His use of it, and His teachings related to it. 

The Humiliation of Christ
First of all, the expression "Son of Man" simply means a human being. This expression is used 107 times in the Old Testament, usually to simply mean a man. Most of those occurrences are found in the book of Ezekiel, in which the Lord referred to the prophet as "son of man" 93 times.

As I said in my previous article, The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ, He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary. Although He existed throughout eternity past with the Father as the Word of God, and the Word was God (Joh 1:1), when He was born as a baby, He took on humanity.  He was fully God. Yet while He never ceased to be fully God, He also became fully human when he was conceived in the virgin's womb. So lowly was He at His birth that He was even born in a stable and laid in a manger as a helpless baby.

From His birth to His death, He experienced humiliation. "He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him." (Jn 1:10-11, NIV). He was rejected by the synagogue in His own home town (Lk 4:28-30). He was shamefully accused by the religious leaders of being demon possessed, because He did miracles like casting demons out of men (Mk 3:22). His own brothers did not believe in Him (Jn 7:5), and His family even said at one point that He had gone mad (Mk 3:21). He experienced hunger and thirst, and He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet He was without sin (Heb 4:15). He washed His disciples feet (Jn 13:1-17), was betrayed by one of them, and was rejected by His people in favor of Barabbas, a well-known murderer (Mt 27:21). He was spat upon, insulted, beaten, and crucified naked on a cross.

As Isaiah the prophet wrote:

"He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." (Is 53:3).

The apostle Paul said:

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 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." (Php 2:5-8)

We learn from this passage that the Lord existed in the form of God before He came  from heaven to earth. He had glory together with the Heavenly Father before the world was made (Joh 17:5). And yet He did not consider equality with God as something He needed to grasp. In other words, He didn't need to seize, retain, or hold onto His equality with God.

On the contrary, He emptied Himself. As I wrote in The Light and the Glory, this is called the "kenosis" (self-emptying) of Christ, in which He completely emptied Himself of His glory and the form of God, as well as His own will. In doing so, He became completely surrendered to the Father's will.

The apostle Paul said that Christ "took upon Himself the form of a bond-servant" (Phil 2:7). The word for "bond-servant" is "doulos", meaning a servant or slave.  This describes the character and purpose of His life. Christ came as a servant.  He did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

We also learn from the Philippians passage that the Lord was "made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man" (Phil 2:7b,8). This speaks of His becoming fully human.  Therefore, by calling Himself "the Son of Man", Jesus was very humbly referring to Himself as a human.

He not only humbled Himself by becoming a man, but also "by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8). It was the Father's will that He should be God's Lamb, the perfect sacrifice for sinful mankind, and that is what He did for us through His atoning death on the cross. No greater love has any man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends! From His birth to His death, He was the most humble person the world has ever known.

The Exaltation of Christ
While most Old Testament references to the expression "son of man" simply mean a human, there are a few verses, in which it refers to one unique Man, who is unequaled. These verses are like rare gems hidden among all of those other common references, and they emphasize the Lord's precious role as the one and only Messiah. The key Scriptures are Ps 8:4; 80:17; 144:3; Heb 2:6; Dan 7:13-14.

David spoke of the Messiah when he said, "What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?" (Psa 8:4; cf., 144:3). We know this is a messianic passage, because the apostle Paul tells us so in Hebrews, when he states:

“But one has testified somewhere, saying, ‘What is man, that you remember him? Or the Son of Man, that you are concerned about Him? You have made Him for a little while lower than the angels; You have crowned Him with glory and honor, and have appointed Him over the works of your hands; you have put all things in subjection under His feet.’ For in subjecting all things to Him, He left nothing that is not subject to Him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to Him. But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Heb 2:6-9)

"Thou art worthy" by C.V. Lacroix
This passage speaks of the Son of Man being made lower than the angels for a little while, and later being crowned with glory and honor, being appointed Lord over all creation with everything in subjection under His feet.

The next key verse is in one of the psalms of Asaph, who said, "Let Your hand be upon the Man of Your right hand, Upon the Son of Man whom You made strong for Yourself." (Psa 80:17).  Who is this man at God's right hand? Who is worthy of such an exalted place of honor?  The psalmist tell us that He is the Son of Man, whom God has made strong for Himself.

The final and most important key verses about the Son of Man in the Old Testament are in the prophet Daniel. In order to fully appreciate these verses, you should read the entire seventh chapter of Daniel. But let's look at the key verses.

"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." (Dan 7:13-14)

In a night vision, the prophet Daniel saw One like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven.  This is what Jesus alluded to when He said, "...You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Mar 14:62b, NIV).  He said this during his mock trial before the Sanhedrin, in response to the high priest who was questioning Him, asking if He was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One. He answered, "I AM" (Mar 14:62a).  And He described Himself sitting at the right hand of God, coming back again with the clouds of heaven. All those who knew their Bibles recognized this clearly as a reference to the Messiah, based on Daniel's prophecy.

In Matthew's gospel, we discover that during Jesus' trial, when He was asked this question, the high priest not only charged Him before the living God to say whether He was the Christ, but also to say if He was the Son of God.

"And the high priest said to Him, 'I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.' Jesus said to him, 'You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.'"  (Mat 26:63b-64)

So the Lord not only testified that He was the Christ, which is the Messiah, but He admitted to being the Son of God, when He said, "You have said it yourself."

Jesus also alluded to Daniel's prophecy of the Son of Man, when He spoke to His disciples about the signs of His coming before He returns. He said, "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.”  (Mat 24:30; cf., Mk 13:26; Lk 21:27)

So this Daniel passage was the most important Old Testament prophecy that identifies the Son of Man as the Messiah. In his vision, in addition to seeing the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven, Daniel watched as "He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him." This describes the Lord approaching the Ancient of Days and being presented before Him.

Daniel saw the exaltation of the Son of Man by the Ancient of Days. He said, "He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." (Dan 7:14). Just as He endured the greatest humiliation any man has ever known, He experienced the highest exaltation that anyone has ever been given. And it was not merely exaltation by men, but by God Himself.

The Ancient of Days is God the Father, as Daniel described Him later in the seventh chapter with these words:

"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."  (Dan 7:9-10).

Daniel described the Father by saying, "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." And according to the apostle Paul, the Son is the radiance of God's glory, the exact representation of His nature (Heb 1:3). So it's no wonder that in Revelation, the apostle John described the Son of Man in terms very similar to those used by Daniel to describe the Ancient of Days. John wrote:

"Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands I saw One like a Son of Man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength." (Rev 1:12-16)

This passage is one of the 88 times in the New Testament in which the term "the Son of Man" is used, most of which are in the gospels, since it was the Lord's favorite title for Himself. This passage in Revelation is very similar to Daniel's prophecy of the Son of Man. One thing it shows us is that the exalted Lord Jesus is still One like a Son of Man. As amazing as it is to realize that Jesus never ceased to be God at any point in His humiliation, the fact that He still retains His humanity in glory is even more amazing. Although He is so highly exalted, He will never cease to be a man. He is the one and only God-Man and shall be so forever in eternity. The glorious scene that Daniel witnessed prophetically in his night vision has now become a permanent reality.

At that moment, in the sight of the holy multitude, the Son of Man was exalted above the dignity of all heavenly creatures, as Christ in His deity and humanity went up to take His rightful place. There He surpasses the ranks of angels and archangels, and none of the heavenly beings is His equal. The glorious God-Man sits with the eternal Father, where His humanity that was joined to Him as the Son of Man is now inseparably connected with Him on the throne of His glory forever.

Paul said the Father has "raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms" (Eph 1:20, NIV).  After He rose from the dead, victorious over sin and death, He passed through the heavens and "sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:2; c.f., Heb 8:1; 10:12; Rom 8:34; Rev 3:21). One day every person will have the opportunity to see Him there, because Jesus said, "you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power" (Mt 26:64). Every person who has ever been born will one day stand before Him in judgment, and we will all give an account for the deeds done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10).

As Handel wrote in his famous Messiah chorus:

And He shall reign forever and ever

King of kings forever and ever.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
And Lord of lords forever and ever
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

And He shall reign forever and ever

Forever and ever and ever and ever
(King of kings and Lord of lords)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

Putting it All Together
Therefore, we learn from these key verses in the Bible that the expression Son of Man was both a very humble term that spoke of the humanity of Jesus, and a very majestic title that identified Him as the Christ or Messiah. It speaks of His humiliation to the lowest place, and His exaltation to the very highest place of honor, glory, and power at the right hand of God. As Paul said in his epistle to the Philippians:

"For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Php 2:9-11)

Have you called upon the name above all names, the name of Jesus? Have you bowed on your knees before Him and repented of your sin, asking Him to forgive you? He desires a relationship with you, but you must invite Him into your heart to be your Lord and Savior.

He is the most humble man that ever walked the earth, and yet the most awesome, most majestic, most highly exalted Man the universe has ever known. Angels bow before Him. Heaven and earth adore Him. Demons shudder at the mention of His name and obey His every word.  He is Lord of all, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted. "Thou are worthy" illustration by my seventeen-year old daughter C.V. Lacroix. You can find more of her lovely artwork at A Brush with Life.

Author's note: Also see The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ, The Light and the Glory, Miraculous Birth of Jesus, Is Jesus God?, The Judgment Seat of Christ, and The Secret Kingdom, as well as the other articles on the Home Page of this blog. You can also find my complete collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

2 comments:

  1. It never occurred to me that the Lord was demonstrating humily by frequently referring to Himself as "Son of man" when He actually knows who He really is. This is contrary to the popular belief by Christians of this generation that since we are Children of the Kingdom, we therefore should live, feast, dress and make professions as royalties. Im not taking away the fact that we have been chosen as a royal priesthood and a peculiar people to the Lord, I'm just saying we should imitate Christ in the humity He displayed during His ministry on earth; letting others perceive who we are and confessing it with their own mouths.

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    1. Ayodeji, thanks for reading and commenting. I agree with your observations. It goes to show that when we rightly divide the Word of truth, even on subjects that we think are of minor significance, it can have a major impact on our practice. Shalom!

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