Chapter Eight: Son of God…Son of Man
“Who do people say the Son of Man is?…Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Matthew 16: 13,16
In moving from the written word of God to the incarnate Word of God, let us now examine two titles by which Jesus referred to Himself: the Son of Man and the Son of God. The first name denotes Jesus’ earthly lineage and the second declares His eternal heritage. One name embraces humanity, while the other encapsulates deity. And yet, both are completely accurate in their depiction of Jesus, the Christ. How can this be? How can Jesus be fully flesh and entirely without form, tangible and intangible, anchored to time and space and yet be before and beyond all time and space? How is the Son of Man also the Son of God?
We’re informed of this transformation in the first and fourteenth verses of the Gospel of John. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…and we beheld His glory.” Because Jesus took on flesh that we might behold Him, in His visibility He became the Son of Man. But because flesh could not contain the entirety of who He was, He remained the Son of God. In essence, as one-third of the Trinity, Jesus stepped from before time, to complete in time, that which would be needed beyond time, once and for all time. And because what He came to do required a tangible sacrifice, Jesus became visible as the Son of Man; but because what He came to do required a sinless offering, Jesus never ceased to be the Spotless Son of God.
What a dichotomy in these two names: Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus the Christ. In the first, we behold the Son of Man; in the second, we bow down to the Son of God. But make no mistake, in both we encounter deity; One is clothed in garments while One is clothed in glory. And, while their roles are as inextricably woven together as are their identities, each is presented separately in Scripture that we might, but for a moment, delight in the delusion of “understanding” God. So, just when did Jesus present Himself as the Son of Man? Let us listen in on some conversations in which He identified Himself in such a manner.
To the scribe who said he’d follow Jesus:
In Matthew 8:19-20, a seemingly convicted scribe proclaims that he will follow Jesus wherever He goes, but in response he hears, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
To the paralytic & the skeptics:
In Mark 2:1-12, a paralyzed man is brought to Jesus for healing. When Jesus informs the lame man that his sins are forgiven, the noses of some of the “by the scroll” scribes are disjointed. They wonder how this Man can forgive sins when only God is able to do that. Reading their thoughts, as well as their hearts, Jesus responds, “Which is easier to say…your sins are forgiven…or to say…take up your bed and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins…I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”
To the disciples in Caesarea Philippi:
In Matthew 16:13-17, Jesus asks His disciples a revealing question: “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” The answers that came forward included John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah. Then, Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He was. Peter spoke up and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” to which Jesus said he was blessed for only the Father could have revealed His true identity to Peter.
To the disciples towards the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry:
In Mark 10:35-45, a little dispute occurs among Jesus’ disciples. James and John approach Jesus with a request to sit on His right hand and on His left hand when His kingdom is established. Not surprisingly, the other ten disciples get a bit miffed about the whole matter…perhaps because they didn’t get their bids in first…at any rate, discord ensues and distrust is just around the corner. So what does Jesus, the Master Teacher, do? He calls the class to order and reminds them of who they are…because of who He is. “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
To the high priest while on trial:
Again in Mark, this time in chapter 14:61-62, Jesus identifies Himself while on trial before the Sanhedrin. The high priest asks Him if He is “the Christ, the Son of the Blessed”, to which Jesus replies, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” It was enough to condemn Him before the council. For them, the Son of Man was synonymous with the Son of God.
These are but a handful of examples of when Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man. In all, there are 83 occurrences of this title in the New Testament, and all of them come from the mouth of Jesus. Who better knew His role or His purpose than Jesus, and therefore could more accurately identify Himself as the Son of Man, than Jesus? Within these five dialogues, Jesus discloses that this earth is not His home, that He has power to heal and to forgive, that the Son’s true identity can only be revealed by the Father, that the greatest place of honor is in the seat of service, and that the highest seat in glory will be filled by the Son of Man…which leads us to Jesus’ other namesake: Son of God.
Again, we will look to the Scriptures that reveal Jesus as the Son of God. Notice that while Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of God, those to whom His true identify has been revealed proclaim Him as the Son of God. First on the scene is John the Baptist. He knew Him at a glance.
Through John the Baptist:
In John 1:29-30 and 34, we hear John the Baptist say, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
Upon meeting and hearing from Jesus, Nathanael said, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
To the Jews:
In John 8, Jesus is talking with a group of Jews who do not believe that He is the Messiah, the Son of God. In the course of the conversation, Jesus aligns Himself with the Father, revealing that, though He is the Son of Man, He is also the Son of God. In His conversation, Jesus says the following: “I am with the Father who sent Me (John 8:16); I am from above (John 8:23); I am He (John 8:24); Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:58).
In John 10:27-30, Jesus again makes the connection between Himself and the Father, showing that the Son of Man is also the Son of God. Here, Jesus shares His relationship with, and protection over, those whom the Father has given Him when He says, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me. And I will give eternal life to them that they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand…I and the Father are one.”
While the title, Son of God, is not used as frequently as Son of Man, its implication cannot be denied. The Jews heard it and they wanted to stone Him; the Pharisees heard it and they wanted to silence Him; but His flock heard it and they chose to follow Him. It was a name that extracted Him from the Jewish sect, excluded Him from the religious sect, but exalted Him over the earthly sect. Upon His death, the earth shook, the heavens rumbled, and the cross that connected the two bore both the Son of Man and the Son of God.
A paradox? Yes. A pair of Saviors? No. One God; one purpose; one Savior. Two names; two realms; two victories (over Satan and over death). Jesus, Son of Man, the Word made flesh; Jesus, Son of God, the Sacred made Savior.
It’s a God thing, this Law of Opposites, as evidenced in the Person of Jesus Christ: the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:61); the only begotten Son of God through whom all who believe are saved (John 3:18). Thank You, Son of God, for leaving Heaven to come to earth; thank you Son of Man for leaving earth to return to Heaven…to prepare a place for us.