“The trueness of God gets lost in the fallibility of mankind.” “Jesus as the Son of Man holds for us some incredible realities and favour” “..everything God does has intent..”
The Son of Man
by: Delnita McDavid
What is in a name? Why out of all of the words that God has used to describe Himself, did He choose to be referred to as the Son of Man? For us, the word “son” can denote the submission to an authority. “Man,” on the other hand, expresses being a part of the human race, or rather, being a member of mankind. So why did God take on a title so human to describe Himself?
The Purpose of Names
Firstly, in order to understand why Jesus is called the Son of Man let us explore the purpose of a name. A name is not merely a tool by which we can differentiate ourselves but, from a biblical perspective, a name represents the character of an individual and their relationship with God.
If you journey through the Bible looking up the names of individuals, you will see that there is a deeper meaning behind these names. Some people were aptly named while others were misrepresented by (see Dan 1:7) or misrepresented the names they were given.
For God, a name has a purpose. It can express a message such as in Hosea 1:6 and 1:9 when God instructed the prophet to name his children (to express the results of Israel’s spiritual adultery) Lo’Ruchamah and Lo’Ammi. These names translates from Hebrew to “no mercy” (or not pitied) and “not my people” respectively.
It can also reflect a change in character and in heart or the shift a person makes from one path to another—from evil to righteousness or vice versa. The name change that God gave to Jacob in Genesis 32:27 and 3:28 demonstrates the importance of a name to God. He changed Jacob’s name from one meaning “supplanter” or “usurper” to Israel, “Prince with God”. “Jacob” represented who he was as a man while “Israel” represented who he became.
The same can be seen in Job 1:6 and verse 7. Satan, from the Hebrew word meaning “adversary”, began as the Hebrew Heylel (or Lucifer in Latin) meaning “shining one” or “morning star”. Of course, after his rebellion his original name was no longer fitting, therefore, God changed it to “adversary” to denote his changed character and relationship with God and mankind.
Now that we have established a bit of background behind biblical names we can delve into our subject.
In 1 Timothy 3:16 we read that, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory.”
Firstly, we must recognize that there are certain things about God that we are just not going to grasp by our limited mortal understanding. He is the ultimate mystery. Even in eternity we will never cease learning about Him or the plan of salvation that He laid out. The infinite will always bring about greater questions with each answer given.
Secondly and to the point, everything God does has intent; there is always a purpose behind His actions even if we do not see or understand it.
Jesus, the Son of Man
It is difficult for human beings to grasp the character of God when all we see around us is sin. Oftentimes when we see suffering we find ourselves questioning God . Particularly when we see suffering at the hands of other professed Christians or those who claim to be believers. The trueness of God gets lost in the fallibility of humankind.
Of course God came to earth because no other human being, angel, or creation could be the sacrifice for sin and pay the penalty for sin (1) which is death (see Ez 18:20 and Rom 6:23), but there was another reason He came. To reveal His true character to present and future generations. When Christ was born, the nation of Israel had lost sight of God–a result of their rebellion and sin, relying wholly on self, and an oppression that led them to look for an earthly king and reject their heavenly one.
Additionally, after Christ’s resurrection, over time as the pure white Church began to lose sight of their first love and began to compromise truth (see Rev 2; 6:1-8), the concept of a tyrannical and uncaring Creator was further able to develop as Bible truths were hidden and suppressed and a lack of true understanding of scriptures arose. God came to earth to debunk the idea of a tyrannical God who rules in the heavens and finds pleasure in watching human beings strive together, refusing to intervene to help and shine light in the darkness. This false notion has its origins in pagan myths and other human fables.
God came in human form was so we could learn who he is face to face and not be deceived by the lies of the enemy. We couldn’t see God face to face in our human state and His fully divine one and live (see Ex 33:20). Thus He came in the person of Jesus to humbly live and to humbly die.
Jesus is called the Son of Man because that is who He was on earth. He was born and belonged to the family of man. This fact also leads us to understand with certainty the prophecies surrounding his birth and what was foretold in Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The meaning of Immanuel is God with us.
Names are important. Immanuel not only clearly states who Jesus Christ is but where He is and where He has always desired to be. This is echoed in the words “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Ex 25:8). Jesus as the Son of Man reminds us that God is still the same God who desires a relationship with us as He did in Eden. This is echoed in Jeremiah 32:38 when He said that we will be His people, and He our God.
Contrary to the belief that God does not care what happens to us and is the cause of pain and cruelty, the very presence of God amongst us in a human body says very differently. The Bible states that “in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Everything we are is wrapped up in God the Creator (as told in Genesis 1 and 2), the life and sacrifice of God (as told in the Gospels), and in having God’s presence continually in our lives, without which we would cease to be.
Jesus as the Son of Man holds for us some incredible realities and favour; this name and title allows us to perceive in words that we belong to Him and He belongs to us. It connects divinity to humanity in a manner that was lost when Adam and Eve sinned and had to leave the Garden of Eden (see Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:22, 45; 2 Cor 5:14-21).
The title is also a reminder that God understands what it is to be human—to fight our fights, to be tempted and to feel alone; to be, according to Isaiah 53:3, “despised and rejected by men; a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief:” After all, how much easier is it for you in your human relationships to connect with someone who understands what you have been through or are going through at the moment. Hebrews 4:15 further expounds on both these concepts: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
We are able to persevere and attain the reward that God has for us by learning to run God’s race, by laying aside every weight and sin (see Heb 12:1), and remembering Christ’s example on earth. Jesus demonstrated that it is possible for human beings to keep the laws of God—that obedience was possible and the battle against the flesh could be won. We now understand more fully that when we rely wholly upon Him (and remember the words He used while in the form of man), in response to the the attacks of the enemy, a simple thus saith the Lord will enable us to meet every temptation with victory(2). Christ’s condescension and the knowledge of how, in life Christ himself daily endured difficult steps should enable us to run a race with patience, assurance, and confidence.
Due to His humility and sacrifice (most particularly as He walked towards Golgotha bruised, bleeding, heavy laden, and tired), we can firmly rely upon the truth that God is not an absent and unfeeling or tyrannical God but one of unconditional and unchanging love (see 1 Jn 4:8; Rom 8:38-39) who is interested in every facet of our lives. He desires to dwell in our midst as He did in Israel and fulfill to us the promise expressed in His name, God with us.
Although Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” such is not the case in the Bible and in God’s eyes. The name God gives you (extra emphasis on God gives you) and employs reflects the person you are, the person you will become, and your relationship with Him. The sweet smell, or odor, of our character will be reflected in our God given names. God changes our name to reflect who we have become to Him—an outer symbol of an inner transformation. A rose could no longer be identified as a rose when given a new name, just like a morning star could no longer shine while being an adversary and a supplanter could not exist while being a testimony for the prevailing power of God.The humanity of Christ and the names He has used such as Immanuel or Son of Man reveal to us that His enduring promises, power, love and presence in our lives are never far away but are always in our midst, existing as beacons of light in gross darkness and waiting to guide us if we choose to follow.
(1) “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:” (Heb 10:4, 5).
“…Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom 3:24-26).
(2) “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:13).
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:13).