Jesus- Son of Man

"Jesus- Son of Man"
Written By: Pastor Larry Elliot

One of my instructors, mentor, and friend told this story in class 40+ years ago and it stuck in my mind.  

The story is told of the liberal theologians, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Brunner, Bultman and Tillich who met Jesus in heaven (stop me if you know this one) Jesus posed the same question to them that he had asked his disciples hundreds of years earlier, “Who do men say that I am?”

And Barth, Bonhoeffer, Brunner, Bultman and Tillich gave similar replies to those the disciples had given so long ago, “Some say you are John the Baptist raised from the dead, some say you are Elijah or Jeremiah, a great prophet and teacher, some even go so far as to say you are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

And Jesus continued the questioning as he had done with his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”

And Barth, Bonhoeffer, Brunner, Bultman and Tillich chorused back their learned reply, they said, “Thou are the ground of being, Thou art the leap of faith into the impenetrable unknown, Thou art the existential, unphrasable, unverbalized, confrontation with the infinite of inherent subjective experience!”  

Jesus looked at them and said, “Huh?”

There has been such confusion about who this Jesus really was and is! What if we start by listening to what he said about himself?

Jesus often called himself the “son of man” – the phrase is used 78 times in the gospels, 2 times in Revelation. What exactly does that mean? What is its significance? What was Jesus saying when he applied this “title” to himself?

The title “son of man” is used with some regularity in the OT, sometimes as a reference to the kingly line of Israel, sometimes as a more general term referring simply to men and broadly to the human race. Certainly, Jesus would have applied this moniker to himself as an expression of his connection with all men in identity, sympathy, and understanding of man’s plight. But there is likely a more profoundly significant reason for this choice. The most definitive and theological use of the term is tucked away in an apocalyptic section of Daniel chapter 7:13,14 (and following)  

“I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
    there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
    and was presented before him.
And 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 one
    that shall not be destroyed.

This passage gives a glimpse of a future time when the “son of man” will:
  • come on the “clouds of heaven.” Remember what Jesus said to Caiaphas? “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  As long as we are remembering – remember the angel’s statement in Acts 1? “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” 
  • be given dominion and glory and a kingdom. This kingdom is said to be an everlasting dominion, shall not pass away, shall not be destroyed
  • be served by all peoples, nations, and languages – the whole earth is pictured as subservient to the “son of man”

These visions of multiple beasts “greatly alarmed” Daniel even though the visions were interpreted for him. This certainty of the coming judgement sovereignly prepared by the Ancient of Days overwhelmed him.

So, we must ask, who is worthy to be given such dominion and glory? Jesus intentionally identified himself as the “son of man” to prompt the people of his day (and subsequently all of us) to go back to the OT and understand his true identity.

There is much to consider in God’s prophetic plan. But as we embark on a few weeks of prophecy from Revelation let’s take with us the certain understanding of who Jesus claimed to be! And it is clearly not “the confrontation with the infinite of inherent subjective experience!”

The Bible Project has done an excellent job (they always do 😊) of explaining this. I would encourage you to take a look:

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