Jesus is the 'Son of Man'

by: Bill Bratt


Jesus’ favorite way of referring to Himself was by using the title "Son of Man."

Of all the titles commonly used of Jesus in the New Testament, `Son of man' was the one most used by Jesus himself. It is used 84 times in the Gospels and is used almost solely by Jesus Himself. It only occurs 4 times outside the Gospels (Acts 7:56; Heb. 2:6, Rev 1:13; 14:14).

The phrase ‘Son of Man’ points to Daniel 7 verse 13 where it says, "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. {14} And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."

This phrase ‘Son of Man’ in this passage is referring to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who returns to the earth and sets up the millennial ‘Kingdom of God’ and rules as King of kings and Lord of lords.

When Jesus uses this phrase ‘Son of Man’ it is a direct reference back to this prophecy in Daniel 7.

The "Son of Man" is tied to End Time Events

The largest number of times that the "Son of Man" title is used is in regards to end time events when Jesus will descend to the earth to gather the elect and to judge.

Let’s look in the book of Matthew who records Jesus’ title: "Son of Man" in 32 places in his Gospel.

"Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30). Jesus said: "you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64).

The picture of the Son of Man in this passage is strongly reminiscent of Daniel’s account: "I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him" (Daniel 7:13).

The Son of Man will come in glory with His angels and will take His throne and rule: "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory" (Matthew 25:31).

When Jesus returns, His coming will be sudden and unexpected: "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:27).

Life will be going on as it normally does and then the end time events will happen quickly: "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, {39} "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:38-39). "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (Matthew 24:44).

Jesus is the "Son of Man"

By Jesus using this unusual title for himself, He made people think carefully about who he was and what his mission involved (John 12:34; 13:31-32).

Each of the four writers of the Gospels gave his testimony from his own point of view. Matthew wrote from the point of view that "Jesus is King", Mark’s emphasis was that "Jesus was a servant", John’s emphasis was that "Jesus is God" and Luke’s point of view was on "Jesus as man."

Luke records Jesus’ title: "Son of Man" in 25 places in his Gospel.

Luke portrays Jesus as a man. He emphasizes the physical side of Jesus especially His birth. Luke gives us a very detailed account beginning with the birth of John the Baptist, the angel Gabriel announcing the birth of Jesus to Mary, Mary then visits Elizabeth. Luke continues in chapter 2 recording the birth of Jesus, the shepherds in the field, and Jesus being circumcised and presented in the Temple. The family then returned to Nazareth. The chapter concludes with Jesus being twelve years old and amazing the scholars.

Chapter 3 begins with John the Baptist preaching and baptizing. In verse 21 Jesus is baptized by John. The chapter concludes with the genealogy of Jesus through his mother Mary which is recorded in Luke 3:23-38. (For more information about Jesus and His mother Mary, request our free article: "Mary, the mother of Jesus!")

Luke, in chapter 4, records the story of Jesus being led into the wilderness by the Spirit and being tempted for forty days by the devil.

Luke in chapter 5:24 records: "But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"; He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."

Jesus as the "Son of Man" has the power to forgive sins. Jesus was a member of the God family and therefore by being God He has the power to forgive sins: "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mark 2:7).

The title "Son of Man" indicates Jesus’ true humanity and the following verse indicates this: "The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton and a wine bibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'" (Luke 7:34).

The Gospels record several instances of Jesus eating with the Pharisees (Luke 7:36;11:37;14:1). He attended a great feast that Levi made for Him (Luke 5:29) and He also attended a marriage where He did His first miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:2). He probably dined with His good friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus on more than one occasion (John 12:2).

The "Son of Man" as Redeemer

Luke 19:10 portrays Jesus as our redeemer: "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Jesus is a true member of the ‘human race.’ He fulfills the role of a kinsman-redeemer for all of humanity. "Now if a sojourner or stranger close to you becomes rich, and one of your brethren who dwells by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner close to you, or to a member of the stranger's family, {48} 'after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him; {49} 'or his uncle or his uncle's son may redeem him; or anyone who is near of kin to him in his family may redeem him; or if he is able he may redeem himself" (Lev 25:47-49).

Jesus was the "Word" that Became Flesh

The apostle John also relates that Jesus was a true member of the "human race." John begins his Gospel by declaring that Jesus is a member of the God family: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. {2} He was in the beginning with God. {3} All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:1-3). In verse 14 John tells us that Jesus was human by using the word "flesh:" "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

John also carried this theme of Jesus being "flesh" in one of the general epistles bearing his name: "By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, {3} and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world" (1 John 4:2-3).

Did you catch the seriousness of what John is saying? John is saying that if you don’t believe that Jesus came in the flesh, then you have the spirit of the "Antichrist."

The "Son of Man" will Judge

John records Jesus’ title: "Son of Man" in 12 places in his Gospel. The following passage is revealing that God the Father is giving His Son, Jesus, the authority to judge: "For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, {27} "and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man" (John 5:26-27).

Why would God let Jesus judge mankind? Because Jesus was human and He suffered for us in the flesh (1 Peter 4:1). The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus, in the days of His flesh, " learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:7-8). We could have no better judge than Jesus who suffered as a human being. by having been human, He can relate to how a man really lives his life through trials, tests, sufferings, sickness, betrayal, temptations and weaknesses. Jesus experienced these human problems but He did not sin: "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus is the "last Adam"

The apostle Paul refers to Jesus’ being human, by calling Him the "last Adam" in distinction to the "first man Adam." "And so it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:45).

It is interesting that in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus’ genealogy is traced back to Adam, and it says that Adam is the "son of God" (Luke 3:38).

(For more information about Jesus and Adam, request our free article: "As In Adam, So In Christ").

Who is the "Son of Man?"

One of the reasons that Jesus used the title "Son of Man" is that it caught His hearers by surprise. It jolted them into attention and forced them to ask, "Who is this Son of man?"

The apostle John recorded such an occurrence: "The people answered Him (Jesus), "We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?" (John 12:34).

The "Son of Man" is Lord of the Sabbath

Luke even ties the phrase "Son of Man" in with the day that we should worship God on in Luke 6:5: "And Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath."

In Conclusion:

Jesus used the title "Son of Man" in connection with His earthly mission and also used it when describing His final triumph as Redeemer and Judge.

Jesus as "The Son of Man" appeared to speak and act as the perfect man. He was the Word, a member of the God family, and He also was a member of humanity. He was God made flesh and He dwelt among us. It was necessary for Him to suffer and die for man’s salvation.

Jesus rarely spoke of himself as the Messiah. The word ‘Messiah’ is only used twice in the New Testament, John 1:41, 4:25. By using the title 'Son of Man', Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah without actually using the title 'Messiah'. He knew the title 'Son of man' could be puzzling, but he wanted people to think about it. He wanted them to ponder the evidence of his life and work, and discover for themselves the true identity of this one who called himself the ‘Son of man’ (Matthew 16:13-16; John 9:35-36; 12:34).

Jesus’ favorite way of referring to Himself was by using the title "Son of Man."