“You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” – Luke 12:40
When Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man, what does He mean? You might be familiar with this saying, but have you ever given it much thought?
This title is used by Jesus multiple times within the New Testament. In Matthew 9:6, Jesus says the Son of Man, “Has authority on earth to forgive sins.” In Mark 8:31, He says the Son of Man, “Must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” And in Luke 22:69, He says the Son of Man, “Will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”
Do you notice a theme? Jesus uses the title, Son of Man, when revealing His divinity to those around Him. The forgiveness of sins, rising from the dead, and sitting at the right hand of God are all divine in nature. Yet, for the majority listening, the name Son of Man implies His humanity. He was a son of man, that is, a human being.
The title, Son of God, implies His deity. Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, being fully divine in human form. I would argue that if He would have used the self-title Son of God as often as He used Son of Man, it would have stirred up the crowds even more. So why didn’t He say that? Let us look in the Old Testament at the words of Daniel for an answer!
“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
In his vision, the Prophet Daniel reveals that there will come one “like” a son of man. The figure Daniel describes is more than a man. This figure is exalted by God and given power, glory, and dominion over everything for all eternity. Jesus knew this truth and understood its implications!
At times during Jesus’ ministry, He was selective in how He revealed His divine nature to those around Him. “So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.” – John 7:3-6
Jesus didn’t scream from the rooftops, “I am God in flesh, come and worship me!” He was usually subtle in His claims. Yet, when the moment was right and he stood on trial, we read, “But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” – Mark 14:61-62
The title Son of Man carries two meanings. Jesus was fully human and by His admission, He is the exalted one described by Daniel in the Old Testament. The Bible reveals to us that Jesus is both human and divine. Jesus is fully man and fully God. He is the God-Man so let us be ready for His return!