Son of God, or Son of Man?
In 1984, I listened as a missionary described a conversation he had with a cab driver from a country that views Christianity with great skepticism. The missionary hoped to learn what it is about the Christian faith that the man found so difficult to believe. He asked about belief in a supreme being. He asked about miracles. He asked about scripture, and more. Finally, the missionary asked outright, “What is it about Christianity that is so difficult for you to accept?” Without hesitation the cab driver replied, “Gods do not become humans.”
The Son of Man
The most prominent way Jesus referred to himself, was as the Son of Man, doing so eighty-one times in the gospel accounts. This seems to be a reference back to something the prophet Daniel said long before the birth of Jesus:
“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.” — Daniel 7:13–14, ESV
Following the resurrection, John saw Jesus once again, and he described him standing among the lampstands as “one like a son of man.” (Revelation 1:13)
Jesus is undeniably the Son of God, but he seems to want us to know him as the Son of Man. It is as though he knew that it would be easier for us to accept him as Immanuel, God with us, but that it would be difficult for us to accept him as fully human, just like us. It is tempting to look at Jesus and see him as a man with an inside edge, a deity card up his sleeve that he could pull out any time he needed it. The writer of Hebrews, recognizing this difficulty, addressed it in this way:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. — Hebrews 4:15–16, ESV
And again, in this way:
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same… — Hebrews 1:13a, NASB
“Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” — Hebrews 1:17–18, NASB
Jesus experienced pain, hunger, thirst, fatigue, sorrow, anger, temptation. He knows what it means to experience extreme stress. When he ascended to heaven, he did so in a human body. And to this day, he retains his identity with us, as the Son, being forever subjected to the Father who put all things under his feet.
The apostle Paul states very clearly to the church in Philippi that God took on flesh, being made in the likeness of men, and allowed himself to be put to death on a cross, thus confirming what is said in John’s gospel that the creator God became flesh and dwelt (literally “pitched his tent”) among us. Thus, Jesus is God, and Jesus is man.
What difference does any of this make one way or the other? It must make some difference or have some level of importance if Jesus used that phrase so many times to refer to himself. For example:
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’” — Matthew 8:20, ESV
We first see this phrase in Psalm 8:4 where David asks, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?” Seemingly, David has in mind all descendants of Adam, but the writer of Hebrews specifically applies this passage to Jesus (Hebrews 2:6), saying that this had to be the case in order for him to taste death for every man and woman. Only then, as the perfect, sinless man, could Jesus be our representative before God.
Consider this — many times we have record of Satan or his demons recognizing and acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God. Not once do they ever refer to him as the Son of Man. Now, that has to capture our attention! Carry that forward to today. No other faith on the planet, including occult, pantheistic religions, even “New Age” philosophy will confess that Jesus is the Son of Man, God incarnate. They simply cannot go there.
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” — 1 John 4:2–3a
The Son of God and Son of Man he is. And we shall one day see him as such in all his glory in eternity — as one like unto a Son of Man. (Revelation 1:13, 14:14).
Victoriously in Christ!