For the sake of ease, these eighty-four self-references can be clustered into three main groups of texts:
This is concerned with the work and activities of our Lord as the Son of Man on earth. These texts reinforce the idea that our Lord was not only part of the human race, i.e., He exercised the normal functions of a human being, but above and beyond that He shows Himself to have an authority that is supramundane. In other words, it is only God who can forgive sin, and ultimately save those who are spiritually lost.
These texts clearly suggest that when Jesus used this title within this cluster, the synoptic writers understood Him to mean Himself.
This is concerned with the sufferings and resurrection of the Son of Man. These texts highlight the fact that the Son of Man had to suffer and die to fulfil Old Testament prophecy, and that His subsequent resurrection confirms that He is eternal.
There are other texts that could be included here, Mark 9. 12; 10. 33. These texts suggest that not only did Jesus use this title about Himself, but others recognized His claim.
This is concerned with the future glorification of the Son of Man. These texts act as the glue to cement all the other claims that He was truly the Son of Man.
There are other texts that could be included here, Mark 13. 26; 14. 62.
These texts suggest that the statements being made, especially Matthew chapter 26 verse 64, confirm our Lord’s claim to be the eternal world ruler predicted in Daniel chapter 7 verses 13 and 14 - ‘The Son of man’.
When we turn to the Gospel of John, we find that it reveals significant agreement with the synoptic sayings concerning the title ‘Son of man’. For lack of space we have only included a small number of texts in the table below. What John’s narrative also reveals to us is a filling out of the title of ‘Son of man’. Never think that the Gospel writers simply straight-jacketed themselves. For example, most people suggest that John’s main purpose is to emphasize the title ‘Son of God’, but actually he emphasizes both titles.
There are a number of other texts that could be included.1
These texts suggest that the statements being made not only confirm the synoptic sayings, but also expand upon the title ‘Son of man’ as to His preexistence, the source of His authority and His ultimate destiny. This is all within the ambit of John’s theological perspective.
Drawing the threads together, when our Lord Jesus used the title ‘Son of man’ it was because He thought of Himself in terms of the heavenly Messiah formulated from the imagery of Daniel chapter 7 verses 13 and 14. That, in our view, is the only way in which you can properly understand this title. It is not simply to emphasize His perfect humanity, but to make us conscious of the fact that the ‘Son of man’ is a heavenly person who will one day rule this world in equity and righteousness. In the words of Isaac WATTS:
‘Great God, whose universal sway
The known and unknown worlds obey,
Now give the kingdom to Thy Son,
Extend His power, exalt His throne’.
|Mark 2. 9, 10.||Matt. 9. 6; Luke 5. 24.||
Authority to forgive sins
Dispute with the religious leaders who must have recognized that Jesus was claiming this title for Himself.
|Mark 2. 26-28.||Matt. 12. 8; Luke 6. 5.||
Authority to be Lord of the Sabbath
Dispute again with the religious leaders who must have recognized that Jesus was claiming this title for Himself.
|Matt. 11. 18, 19.||Luke 7. 33-35.||
Our Lord speaks to the crowd about the identity of John the Baptist. John lived ascetically and was falsely accused. Our Lord is accused of eating with publicans and sinners, rather than strict separation from sinners.
|Matt. 8. 19, 20.||Luke 9. 57, 58.||
No settled dwelling place
Our Lord explains to a scribe the true cost of discipleship. His self-disclosure as Son of Man reveals
the heavenly nature of His calling.
|Matt. 12. 31, 32.||Mark 3. 28, 29; Luke 12. 10.||
Authority to forgive sin
Another dispute with the religious leaders who, again, must have recognized that Jesus was claiming this title for Himself.
|Matt. 13. 36, 37.||None||
Identification of the sower with the Son of Man
Our Lord both plants the seed and directs the harvest. These activities are exclusive to God in the Old Testament so the inference from the title is that He is God/God’s Messiah.
|Luke 19. 9, 10.||None||
The earthly mission of the Son of Man
This statement about salvation reflects God’s self-description in Ezekiel chapter 34 verse 16.
|Mark 8. 31.||Luke 9. 22.||
The Lord’s death predicted
The fact that Peter rebukes the Lord for His statement shows that he understood that Jesus was the Son of Man.
|Mark 9. 9, 10.||Matt. 17. 9.||
The resurrection predicted
The majesty of the transfiguration was a glorious foretaste of the kingdom of the Son of Man.
|Mark 9. 31.||Matt. 17. 22, 23; Luke 9. 44.||
A second prediction of the Lord’s death
Our Lord clearly identifies Himself with the title Son of Man.
|Mark 8. 38.||Matt. 16. 27; Luke 9. 26.||
Follows immediately after the prediction of the Lord’s death
A clear statement of identification by the Lord that He is the Son of Man. Slight echoes of Daniel, chapter 7 verses 13 and 14.
|Matt. 26. 62-64.||Mark 14. 60-62; Luke 22. 69.||
The statement before the council
The High Priest and the council would have been in no doubt that our Lord was identifying Himself as the Son of Man in Daniel chapter 7 verses 13 and 14. This is why they then accuse Him of blasphemy, and, in their view, He deserves death.
|John 3. 14.||None||
Part of the discussion with Nicodemus
This refers to how Christ would die, confirming the synoptic emphasis on the sufferings of the Son of Man.
|John 5. 27.||None||
Dispute over healing on the Sabbath
Dispute again with the Jewish authorities over the healing of the paralysed man on the Sabbath day. Although the narrative has more to say on the title ‘Son of God’, it is significant that the reference to the title ‘Son of man’ resonates with Daniel chapter 7 verse 14.
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