Son of Man
Harold S. Paisley, Mississauga, Canada
Some names and titles of the Son of God
It is interesting to trace the mention of this wonderful, title of our Lord Jesus Christ. A unique significance attaches to the Lord as Son of man, as He Himself used it more than any other. The designation is found about eighty-eight times in the New Testament. In the four gospels it is always used by the Lord Himself and always with the definite article. In the book of Acts there is one occurrence. Stephen at his stoning said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God’, Acts 7. 56. The omission of the title in the epistles is to be noted. The two mentions in Revelation present Him in judicial glory, Rev. 1. 13; 14. 14. The last mention of this great title, in Revelation 14. 14, is a remarkable contrast to the first mention in the New Testament, ’the Son of man hath not where to lay his head’, Matt. 8. 20. ’Behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle’, Rev. 14. 14.
The title Son of man expresses His relationship to mankind. Such a link with the race did not commence with His incarnation, when He became man, as is often supposed. We must distinguish between His relationship to man from the beginning of creation, and His relationship with man through incarnation. The first is linked with His deity, who and what He has ever been, His Person. The second is linked with His work as the Redeemer and Mediator, coming into relationship with man to unfold God’s love, His Purpose.
The word ‘Son’ reveals dignity rather than relationship. A careful reading of Daniel 7. 13-14 is a key to the understanding of the Godhood and Messiahship of the Son of Man, ’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 peoples, 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’.
The use of the title ’Son of Man’ by the Lord Jesus in four distinct connections is of unique spiritual interest and worthy of careful study.
1. Concerning His Person
– Luke 19. 10; Mark 2. 28.
’The Son of man is come’.
’The Son of man came’.
’The Son of man is Lord of the Sabbath’.
In these, and other words of the Lord, we understand something of His Person as the Son of man. The word ’came’ reveals clearly His pre-existence, His deity and His humanity. He was the last Adam, the head of the new creation. ’As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’, 1 Cor. 15. 22. This is expressed in the title Son of man, not merely man, but the representative man. As Lord of the Sabbath, He stated the Sabbath was made for man, so that the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath. When did He become Lord of the Sabbath? It is evident that it was from the time that the Sabbath began.
2. Concerning His Pathway
– Matt. 8. 20; Mark 10. 45; Luke 19. 10.
’The Son of man hath not where to lay his head’.
’The Son of man is come to minister’.
’The Son of man is come to seek’.
His earthly ministry is indicated by the title Son of man. The first time we read of this is in Matthew 8. 20 where He speaks of Himself at the time of His sojourn in this vale of tears; ’the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head’. It bows the heart in profound wonder to ponder the glory of the Son of man, as a homeless stranger, in contrast to the foxes and the birds in their insignificance, yet provided for by the One who had no resting place, save the side of Olivet. During His ministry which was for others, the Son of man was known as a friend of sinners, Matt. 11. 19. They would remember the tale of love, unfolded in those years.
3. Concerning His Passion
– Luke 18. 31; John 3. 14.
’The Son of man must suffer many things’.
’The Son of man must be lifted up’.
It was as Son of man He came to seek and to save the lost, and as Son of man He was to be lifted up. The Gospel of John, that presents Him as the Son of God, speaks a great deal of His being lifted up as Son of man on the cross. In John 8. 58, the Lord stated, ’Before Abraham was, I am’. He also stated in the same context, ’when ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am’, v. 28. Here we see the glory of His Godhead linked inextricably with the title, the Son of man.
4. Concerning His
– Acts 7. 56; Rev. 14. 14; John 5. 27; 6. 62.
’The Son of man ascending, where He was before’.
’The Son of man standing on the right hand of God’.
’The Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven’.
’The Son of man as judge’.
The Son of man is beyond human understanding.
The Jews said, ’Who is this Son of man?’ The answer can only be understood by faith. ’What then if ye should behold the Son of man ascending where He was before?’ John 6. 62. It is clearly evidenced in His answer that the title Son of man was His where He was before He came down out of heaven, John 3. 13.*
The Son of man is now exalted at God’s right hand and all judgement is in His hand. Stephen addressed Him in the glory in this judicial character saying concerning his murderers, ’Lord, lay not this sin to their charge’. The Son of man is coming in glory. He will be the Saviour of Israel who will own Him as in Nathaniel’s confession, ’Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel’. The Lord said to him ’ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man’, John 1. 51. These great words cast us back to Genesis 28. 12, when Jacob dreamed and, ’behold a ladder set up on earth, the top of it reached to heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending on it’. What he saw was a prophetic vision of the blessed time when the Son of man will remove every disturbing factor between heaven and earth, and open lines of continuous intercommunication and communion. In all this, believers of this age will share the universal dominion of the Son of man.
Other expositors differ in their understanding of John 3. 13 and express it as Westcott in his note on the verse:–
The exact form of expression is very remarkable. It preserves the continuity of the Lord’s personality and yet does not confound His nature, ‘He that came down from heaven, even He who being incarnate, is the Son of Man, without ceasing to be what He was before’. We would say, ‘When the Queen was a child’, without meaning she was a Queen when she was a child.
Son of Man identifies the person spoken of and it suggests that He who alone has the knowledge of heavenly things now wore human nature, was accessible and was there for the purpose of communicating this knowledge.
Expositors Greek New Testament, Wescott, John 3. 13.
FINAL ARTICLE IN THE SERIES