What does Jesus mean when He refers to this term?
Jesus is referred to as the ‘Son of Man’ over eighty times in the New Testament. Jesus refers to Himself many times as the Son of Man. What does this term mean? Jesus uses this term in three ways, so we need to be aware of the context. First, in the Hebrew, the term is used often as an alternative to the term “man”. (See Psalms 8: 40, 80: 14 and Isaiah 51: 12) So, in this context, Jesus is referring to His earthly mission. Remember Jesus is fully man and fully God. For example, Jesus said, “The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (Mark 14: 21) Jesus also said, “I tell you, whoever acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.” (Luke 12: 8)
A second way in which Jesus uses this term when talking of Himself, is when He speaks of His pending suffering and dying and resurrection. In the Old Testament, Ezekiel is referred to many times as the Son of Man. This was to help him stay grounded and humble before Yahweh. Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death.” (Matthew 20: 18) “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20: 28) So, Jesus used the term to show humbleness before the Father. Not surprisingly, Paul can say it much better than I. “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2: 8)
The third way Jesus uses the term Son of Man, is when He is referring to His coming return in the glory of God. We can find this meaning in the Book of Daniel, “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…” (Daniel 7: 13-14) When Jesus was arrested, He had to come before Caiaphas, the high priest. They had this exchange: “The high priest said to Him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ ‘Yes, it is as you say’, Jesus replied, ‘But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” (Matthew 26: 63-64)
About The Author
Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Dan is a graduate of Otterbein College (now University). He graduated with a degree in education. From time to time Dan still substitute teaches. His interest in history led him to investigate the historical accuracy of the Bible. This, in turn, led to a full investigation of Apologetics.