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“Who is this Son of Man?”


Introduction.  “Who is this Son of Man?” (John 12:27-34). The people ask a question here that is important for us today. They were questioning what Jesus meant when he referred to “the Son of Man.” This morning I would like for us to ask the same question in our study together—“Who is this Son of Man?”

I. Basic Meaning. There is much debate in the scholarly world about the meaning of the phrase “son of man” and how it would have been understood in the time of Jesus. The Bible can help us answer this question. There are times it can mean merely “man” (i.e. a human being).

  1. “God is not a man…nor a son of man” (Numbers 23:19). Heb. ben-‘adam meaning “son of man, son of Adam. ‘adamah means “earth or red earth” (from which Adam’s name is drawn). This use is common even outside of Scripture. Ugaritic texts use the phrase bn-‘adm to mean simply “man” (Mark S. Smith, “The ‘Son of Man’ in Ugaritic,” CBQ 45 (1983):59-60).
  2. “Man, who is a maggot…and the son of man who is a worm” (Job 25:4-6).
  3. “What is man…and the son of man?” (Psalm 8:4; 144:3 [ben-‘anish – a more generic word for man]; Hebrews 2:6 quotes Ps. 8:4). This makes it clear that by NT  times the phrase could still mean just “man” or “human being.”

II.  Specialized Meaning.  There are times God chooses a “son of man.” This “son of man” who is chosen may receive special blessings, revelations, or fulfill a special work for God.

  1. “The son of man whom You made strong” (Psalm 80:17).
  2. The prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:1). 93 times in the book.
  3. The prophet Daniel (Daniel 8:17). Refers to Daniel.
  4. “One like the Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-18). Aramaic here bar-‘anash – “son of man.” This is a different sense. Here one “like the Son of Man” (i.e. He bears the likeness of a man): 1) Comes on clouds, 2) Has an everlasting kingdom

III. Jesus’ Self-Identification as the Son of Man.” In the gospels the phrase “Son of Man” is how Jesus refers to Himself more than any other. In the (Matthew – 30; Mark – 13; Luke – 26; John – 11 = In Gospels – 80 times).

A.   “I, the Son of Man” (Matthew 16:13). This has led some scholars to understand the phrase as an idiom meaning “I” (Maurice Casey, “The Jackals and the Son of Man,” JSNT 23 (1985):3-22). But it is clear that there is more to it in Jesus’ use of the phrase.

B.    “Son of Man” with Divine attributes.

                                         1.         Heavenly origin (John 3:13). John 6:62 “Son of Man ascending to where He was before.”

                                         2.         Power to forgive sins (healing lame man - Matthew 9:6). Only God can forgive sins.

                                         3.         Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8). God is the one who instituted the Sabbath.

                                         4.         Command of angels (Matthew 13:41; 16:27; 25:31; John 1:51).

                                         5.         Judgment (Matt. 16:27; Mark 8:38; John 5:27).

                                         6.         Salvation (Matthew 18:11; John 6:27).

                                         7.         Power over death (Matthew 12:40). Matthew 17:9 “risen from the dead”

C.    Son of Man as King (Matthew 16:27-28; 19:28). This begins to reflect the specialized meaning of Daniel in speaking of “Son of Man” as a king.  But even further…

D.   “Coming on the clouds”—Daniel fulfilled (Matthew 24:29-31; 26:64). Jesus here clearly identifies Himself as the subject of Daniel’s prophecy.

IV. Jesus, After the Cross.

  1. Jesus—“the Son of Man” (Acts 7:56).

B.    Jesus, as the “One like the Son of Man” (Revelation 1:12-18; Revelation 14:13-17 “Son of Man” harvesting the earth.

Conclusion. “Son of man” means a human being, but the Bible pointed to one who would come as a human being and receive an eternal kingdom. Jesus, the Son of God did just this. He came as “the Son of Man” and was exalted (Philippians 2:5-11).

Kyle Pope 2009

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