#46: Son of Man

Mark 8:31–33

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

Son of God

They are all titles, names, labels for the most impossible to label man who ever lived. Jesus was a bit like a diamond, many sided, each title is focussed on one of its faces or sides. Jesus’ own favourite way of naming or describing himself however was the title ‘Son of Man’.

Names that we choose for ourselves, as opposed to the ones chosen by our parents, have a particular significance because they describe how we feel about ourselves. So when Jesus keeps referring to himself as Son of Man he is giving us a big clue into his own self-identity.

Theologians have picked out masses of possible meanings for the ‘Son of Man’ name. Basically there are two big Old Testament ideas behind it. The first one comes from Daniel 7: 13 where the ‘Son of Man’ comes ‘riding on the clouds’ as a sort of cosmic, messianic saviour. His Kingdom will be established as a thing of glory that will last for ever. This is a spectacular vision of a glorious, one and only one, super-hero.

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

The second ‘big idea’ is the exact opposite and comes from Psalm 8:4:

‘What are human being that you are mindful of them,
The Son of Man that you care for them.

Here ‘Son of Man’ refers to the whole of humanity, ordinary ‘Joe Public’, ‘Mr Average’.
So when Jesus calls himself ‘Son of Man’ he seems to be saying:

  • I am the long awaited saviour,
  • I am one of you, just another human, fleshy, homo sapiens.

The two ideas seem to contradict each other. How can he be utterly unique and at the same time completely typical? How can he be riding on the clouds of Heaven whilst walking on the dust of the earth?

Somehow Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Man combined the glory of divinity with the body odour of humanity. The one who came to save us was at the same time ‘one of us’. The people’s saviour.

Today’s cinema goers are very familiar with the idea of cosmic superheroes. We love Superman with his superhero powers and Batman with his superhero technology. Jesus the Son of Man was more of a super-sacrifice than a superhero. He was an ordinary man, his only power or gadgetry was in his self-offering; his great love for the poor and needy; his super be-friending of the rejected and his super awareness of the needs of children and women.
How can one person be both ‘superman’ and ‘ordinary man’ all at the same time? The answer is Jesus.

Son of Man
Ordinary man
God’s man
Spirit man
Sacrifice man
Just like you and me man
Behold the Man

‘The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’

Luke 19: 10

Son of Man
May you see me
And understand me
In your humanity
And also see me
And understand
What I can be
In your love for me.