Son of God or Son of Man?

by Roger Barrier

Dear Roger,

Why did Jesus call himself “Son of Man” and then call God his father? What did he mean when he called himself the “Son of Man”?

Sincerely, Jonathan

Dear Jonathan,

Jesus utilized many terms to describe Himself. He was the Good Shepherd, the Light of the World, the Door of the Sheep Pen, and the Bread of Life. But the term He used most often to refer to Himself (88 recorded times) was, “Son of Man”. The term refer to a mixing of both His deity and humanity. “Son of Man” had significance far beyond the literal words and needs to be understood that light. When Jesus used the term it spoke volumes to those who heard Him.


For example, “Son of Man” was a Messianic title. Calling Himself the “Son of Man” was His declaration to be the Messiah. The Pharisees knew this and hated Him for it. The reference comes from Daniel 7:13-14: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”


Jesus was saying by using the term, “Son of Man”, that He is the “Ancient of Days” (a further reference to God Himself) who would one day receive dominion, glory, and a kingdom that would span all eternity. Identifying Himself as the “Son of Man’ was not to deny His deity. Using the term was in fact a statement of His deity.


Jesus clearly claimed to be God on many occasions (Matthew 16:16-17; John 8:58 and 10:30. The Bible declares that only God can forgive sins (Isaiah 43:25 and Mark 2:7); but, as the “Son of Man”, Jesus had power to forgive sins (Mark 2:10). When Caiaphas, the high priest, asked Jesus whether or not He was the “Son of God”, Jesus responded in the affirmative by declaring that He was the “Son of Man” who would come in great power and authority (Matthew 26:63-64), thus identifying the term “Son of God” with His deity.


A second meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” refers to Jesus’ full humanity. When God called the prophet Ezekiel “son of man” 93 times, He was simply calling Ezekiel a human being. Jesus used this term to identify Himself with all mankind because He was, in fact, fully human. For example, Jesus’ humanity shines through in His encounter with the woman at the well (John 4). We find Him at noon, sitting on a well, hot, tired, hungry, thirsty, and asking her for a drink. The Book of Hebrews teaches emphatically that the reason for His humanity was to allow Him to experience all of our human temptations and sufferings. As a result, He could be the Great High Priest who entered the eternal-Heavenly temple once for all in order to offer His own blood as a sacrifice for all the sin of the world for all time.


“Hypostatic Union” is the theological term used to refer to the intertwining of Jesus as fully God (John 1:1) and fully human (John 1:14). We see both natures joined in Philippians 2:6-8.This doctrine is said to be inscrutable. In other words, it is beyond the reach of human understanding.


As to calling God, “His Father” there is no contradiction with His deity. This was a statement of His submission to the assignment He undertook to put on a body in order both to unveil the true character of God as well as to die on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. Philippians 2 tells us that He emptied Himself of His “glory” in order to put on a body. In the upper room He prayed earnestly for his mission to be accomplished successfully in order to get His glory back.


Well, Jonathan, thanks for asking the question. I hope my answer helps. Ask me another.


Love, Roger

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