The Bible frequently refers to Jesus as the “Son of Man” (even more than it calls Him the Son of God) Why was He called the “Son of Man”, and what can mean to us?
God had tried to show Jesus to the leaders in Israel… but the Jesus of the Bible wasn’t the Jesus they were looking for.
The Gentiles approached Philip and said; Sir, we would see Jesus!”
But I don’t think those Gentiles knew WHAT they were asking for. I don’t think those Gentiles knew WHO Jesus really was. And – as a result – the Gospel writer never tells us any more about THEM. As soon as Philip and Andrew report their request to Jesus, Jesus launches into a sermon that basically says: The Jesus you see may not be the Jesus you want.
There are people who regard Jesus VERY highly because they think he was
- a great teacher
- or a great prophet
- or a highly moral individual
- or the founder of one of the world’s great religions
They want to see Jesus… but they aren’t looking for the Jesus that the Bible shows us.
On July 6, 2000, Hugh Downs hosted a round table discussion on TV about the question “Who is Jesus?” Among his guests was Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Dean of the Oxford Líchaim Society.
During the discussion, the Rabbi said, “Jesus was a great teacher, a very ethical, moral, human being — perhaps in our opinion, not a prophet — but certainly a phenomenal teacher and Christianity is a great world religion . . .and while I agree he is a great light, once we say he is the only light, THIS is what leads to all kinds of spiritual racism and a division between Jews and Christians.”
So, you see, there are people who struggle with the question: Who is Jesus? And often times – the Jesus they come to see isn’t the same one we find in the Bible.
Chapter 4: Jesus the Son of Man
Incarnation comes from two words that mean in flesh. God came to the world in flesh. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God incarnate –– deity clothed in humanity.
By what act or miracle did the Son of God become the Son of Man? For Jesus to be born as a descendant of Adam, He had to have a human mother. But He had no human father. God was His Father. By the miracle of the virgin birth that Isaiah had prophesied, God came to live among men and be one of them.
Luke the physician investigated the facts and wrote this about Jesus birth:
Luke 1:26-38. God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee named Nazareth. He had a message for a girl promised in marriage to a man named Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. The girl’s name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, Peace be with you! The Lord is with you, and has greatly blessed you!
Mary was deeply troubled by the angel’s message, and she wondered what his words meant. The angel said to her: Don’t be afraid, Mary, for God has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end!
Mary said to the angel, I am a virgin, How, then, can this be? The angel answered: The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God’s power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God . . . I am the Lord’s servant, said Mary: may it happen to me as you have said. And the angel left her.
Matthew, one of Jesus disciples, tells us what happened when Mary’s fiance learned that she was pregnant.
Matthew 1:19-25. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a man who always did what was right; but he did not want to disgrace Mary publicly, so he made plans to break the engagement secretly. While he was thinking about all this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said: Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus –– for he will save his people from their sins.
Now all this happened in order to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and he will be called Emmanuel (which means, “God is with us”).
So when Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do and married Mary. But he had no sexual relations with her before she gave birth to her son. And Joseph named him Jesus.
Saying that Jesus became a man does not mean that God was turned into a man, or that He ceased to be God when He became man. God the Son was still God. As the Son of Man He took on a new nature, human nature, uniting this to the divine nature in one being and person –– Jesus Christ, true God and true man. We call this the incarnation.
To become a real man and our representative, Jesus limited Himself to: A human body and human nature; Conditions of life among men; and, Spiritual resources available to all.
Human body and nature. Jesus laid aside His immortality and took a human body with its weakness. He became subject to sickness, suffering, and death.
He was often hungry, thirsty, and weary. He knew sorrow, disappointments, frustrations, and heart-break. He experienced human joys and fears.
Conditions of life among men. The Creator of the universe stripped Himself of His power and became a helpless infant. The Source of all wisdom and knowledge went to school and learned to read, write and study God’s Word. He worked as a carpenter. He left His throne in glory where the angels all worshipped Him, and took the place of a servant –– scoffed at, ridiculed, persecuted –– giving His life in service and sacrifice for others.
Spiritual resources available to all. Jesus showed us God’s pattern for us by limiting Himself to the spiritual power and methods available to us all. He prayed and God answered His prayers. He depended on God for strength and power. He went to God’s house and studied His Word. When Satan tempted Him to sin, Jesus quoted the Bible and applied it to the situation. He told everyone that His miracles were done by God’s Spirit working through Him, and His teaching was simply what God told Him to say.
Paul, writing to the Philippians, describes how Jesus voluntarily humbled Himself to become our Savior and how God has honored Him and will honor Him for it. Let’s read the Amplified Version, which adds (in parentheses) certain words to make the meaning clearer.
Philippians 2:6-11. Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God (possessing the fulness of the attributes which make God God), did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained; but stripped Himself (of all privileges and rightful dignity) so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.
And after He had appeared in human form He abased and humbled Himself (still further) and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!
Therefore (because He stooped so low), God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, that in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue (frankly and openly) confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus lived a perfect life. There was no fault or weakness in Him. His enemies could find no fault in Him. When Jesus was growing up, He faced all the temptations that other boys and young men faced, but He remained pure, honest, sincere –– full of love to God and to His fellow men.
Jesus hated sin and spoke against it, but He loved the sinner. He was known as a friend of sinners. Yet He never sinned. He changed sinners. They did not change Him.
Jesus’ perfect life was part of His mission as the Son of Man. As Representative of the human race, He kept every law of God. He earned the right to all the blessings promised to those who keep God’s laws –– eternal life and happiness in God’s home. He qualified as our perfect Substitute, to:
- take our guilt and die for our sins, and
- give us His righteousness (right standing with God) and all the blessings promised to those who keep God’s laws.
Satan tried to make Jesus sin and turn Him aside from His mission. But Jesus rejected all temptation and carried out His mission to save us. Jesus goodness was not just negative (the absence of evil). It was a positive commitment to God’s will. He not only refused to do wrong –– He was dedicated to doing right. He was love incarnate and He expressed His love in action.
Jesus began His public ministry at 30 years of age. He taught people about God and how they could have a part in His kingdom. He was the greatest Prophet and Teacher that the world has ever known. With only a touch or a command He healed hundreds of sick people. Sinners came to Him and received pardon, peace, cleansing from sin, and a wonderful new life filled with His love.
Acts 10:38. You know about Jesus of Nazareth, how God poured out on him the Holy Spirit and power. He went everywhere, doing good and healing all who were under the power of the Devil, for God was with him.
But the religious leaders of Jesus day were jealous of Him and refused to accept Him as the Messiah. They accused Him falsely and had Him crucified (just as Isaiah had prophesied). He was nailed to a cross like a common criminal, between two criminals. And the people He had come to save mocked him while He died. In spite of this, Jesus loved them still and prayed:
Luke 23:34. Forgive them, Father! They don’t know that they are doing.
Jesus perfect life did not end in the grave. God the Father raised Him up on the third day. After forty days more on earth. He went back to heaven, where He is now our Representative. And from there He will come back to earth some day to rule the world in perfect justice and lasting peace.
Purpose of Incarnation
Why did God become man? Why did He take a human body and add a human nature to His divine nature? Why was the incarnation necessary? We can sum up the answer in four words:
Jesus lived as a man in order to show us what God is like. We can see the character of God demonstrated in Him. By knowing Jesus we can know God. You will study more about this.
The Son of God became a man to show us what perfect manhood can be. We see in Jesus perfect life and character the pattern for mankind, the potential, God’s plan for us. He is our example. He is the standard by which our words, thoughts, and actions are measured. He shows us the kind of life that we can have when He lives in us and makes us sons of God.
Ephesians 4:13. And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature men, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature.
Jesus life demonstrated also His qualifications for His mission. His sinlessness showed that He was worthy to be our Substitute. His power, wisdom, and love prove that He is qualified to be our King.
Jesus life as a man was necessary preparation for His mission. His experience gave Him an understanding of human nature that prepared Him to be our Representative and our Judge.
Jesus had to become a man in order to be our Priest. He has shared our weakness. He understands our problems. He learned the cost of obedience through His own suffering. Jesus prayed for His followers while He was on earth. And now –– with a deep understanding of our need –– He prays for us in heaven.
Hebrews 2:17,18. He had to become like his brothers in every way, in order to be their faithful and merciful high priest in his service to God, so that the people’s sins would be forgiven. And now he can help those who are tempted, because he himself was tempted and suffered.
Hebrews 4:14-16. We have a great high priest who has gone into the very presence of God –– Jesus, the Son of God. Our high priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy with our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a high priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. Let us be brave, then and come forward to God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it.
Jesus’ experience as a man prepared Him to rule over men. The Son of Man –– the perfect Representative of Adam’s race –– will be its Ruler. He will be a perfect King because He knows just what we need. He understands us. And because He died for us He has the right to govern our lives. Now He is King in the lives of those who accept Him. Some day He will rule the world for which He died.
Daniel 7:13,14. I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Jesus was born so that He could die. The whole human race had sinned and was condemned to die eternally. Every one of us. The only way to save us was for God Himself to take our punishment. But as God, He could not die. So He became a man to die in our place and save us from our sins.
Jesus did more than take our place on the cross. He rose from the dead and offers to all who accept Him a place in His eternal kingdom. He unites us with Himself so we can share all His rights as the Son of God.
Hebrews 2:9-11, 13-15. But we do see Jesus! For a little while He was made lower than the angels, so that through God’s grace He should die for all men… in order to bring many sons to share His glory. For Jesus is the One who leads them to salvation. He makes men pure from their sins, and both He and those who are made pure all have the same Father.
He also says. “Here I am with children that God has given me.” Since the children, as he calls them, are people of flesh and blood. Jesus himself became like them and shared their human nature. He did so that through his death he might destroy the Devil, who has the power over death, and so set free those who were slaves all their lives because of their fear of death.
Jesus became a man in order to bring God and man together. Sin had opened an impassable chasm between a holy God and corrupt, rebellious man. But God’s love found a way to bridge the gulf and bring man back to Himself. Jesus came to be the Mediator of a new covenant or agreement between God and man.
1 Timothy 2:5,6. For there is one God, and there is One who brings God and man together, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself to redeem all men.
In New Testament times a mediator was appointed by the court to represent a bankrupt person and take charge of all his affairs. The mediator was responsible to see that all the creditors were paid in full. If what the bankrupt person owned was not enough to pay his debts, the mediator himself paid them.
What a beautiful picture of Jesus! He is our Mediator before God. His death covers all our debt of sin, and in Him we are free from the sin and built that separated us from God. His cross bridges the chasm. He gives us a new nature –– His nature –– and makes us sons of God. By taking our human nature. Jesus reaches us and lifts us to a better world. The Son of God became the Son of Man, so that we could become the sons of God.
Galatians 4:4,5. God sent His own Son. He came as the son of a human mother, and lived under the Jewish Law, to set free those who were under the Law, so that we might become God’s sons.
1 Peter 3:18. For Christ himself died for you; once and for all he died for sins, a good man for bad men, in order to lead you to God.
All through the New Testament we find passages that tell us about God’s purpose for us and help us understand why Jesus became the Son of Man. Jesus sums it all up;
Luke 19:10. The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Test your understanding of what you have learned by answering a few questions.
1. What does the title Son of Man tell us about Jesus?
a) He is a “Son of Adam,” a real man, representative of the human race.
b) He had a human father.
c) Adam was His father.
2. How did Jesus become a man? (Choose two.)
a) He was born of the virgin Mary, and God was His Father.
b) He had a human father and a human mother.
c) He stopped being God and became a man.
d) He added a human nature to His divine nature.
3. Jesus limited Himself to which of the following? Choose all that are true.
a) Human body and nature
b) Conditions of life among men
c) Spiritual resources available to all.
4. Based on Philippians 2:6-11, which of the following are true about Jesus? Choose all that are true.
a) was one with God.
b) was born a human being.
c) was an angel before he came to earth.
d) assumed the guise of a servant.
5. How did Jesus face temptation?
a) He isolated Himself from people so He wouldn’t be tempted.
b) He rejected temptation and kept busy doing good.
c) He yielded to temptation.
6. What words sum up the purpose of the incarnation? Choose three.
7. Which of the following do we see revealed or demonstrated in Jesus’ life? Choose all that are true.
a) Perfect manhood
b) The nature of God
c) A short temper
d) God’s pattern for us
8. What phrases from Hebrews 2 describe the incarnation and its purpose? Choose all that are true.
a) For a little while he was made a little lower than the angels
b)Through God’s grace He would die for all men
c) He would bring many sons to share His glory
d) He died so that He would defeat the Devil.
9. What word refers to the fact that God became man?
10. What word refers to the fact that God died in our place?
11. What word refers to the fact that Jesus brings us to God?