"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Man

Remember the popular phrase, "You da' man?" We used it whenever someone surpassed our expectations in some way. From a friend or partner it was a badge of camaraderie, the gold medal of brotherhood, so to speak. I suppose it was a rather sexist way of saying, "well done." A hundred years earlier there might have been in its place a rousing chorus of "He's a jolly good fellow..."

Of all the things that Jesus is called in the gospels, the one I find the most intriguing is "the Son of Man." Jesus used it to refer to himself more than any other, possibly because it was not a title already used in the culture, therefore unsullied by pre-existing ideas. This title just means, "The Man" and Jesus gave it a whole new significance as he used it in 3 distinct ways.

First, he used it generally to refer to himself, often in place of the pronoun "I." For example, when he warned a would be disciple of the cost of following him he said "the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head" (Luke 9:58). It was his way of saying that those who follow him must be willing to share his homeless existence if called upon to do so.

Second, Jesus used it when he referred to his need to fulfill prophecies, specifically those which foretold his suffering. This usage is seen in "the Son of Man must suffer" (Mark 8:31), in reminding them it was "written concerning the Son of Man, that he must suffer many things and be treated with contempt" (Mark 9:12). He referred to his being taken captive and his crucifixion at the Last Supper declaring "The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him" (Mark 14:21), and when he submitted to his captors he said "The Scriptures must be fulfilled."

Ultimately, Jesus referred to himself as "Son of Man"--the one who had and exercised exceptional authority. This authority, he was clear, was given to him by God the Father. When he said "The Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins" (Mark 2:10), he was declaring this authority. This special use of Son of Man got him into some trouble with those who just wanted a rabbi, not a Lord: "The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28). The Son of Man spoke and acted in these cases as the ultimate prototype human being. In Genesis, God had given people dominion over all the works of His hands and, the Son of Man was in a position to exercise that dominion in very literal ways.

Looking into the future, Jesus promised (and warned his opponents) that the Son of Man will be seen "coming in the clouds with great power an glory" (Mark 13:26), and "sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:62). The illusion, at the time, was that he was the victim of their illegal proceedings and political intrigues but, a reversal of fortune was coming when He comes with the authority of God Himself.

Stephen, the first martyr of the early church, was the only other person on record as calling Jesus the Son of Man. While he was being stoned he declared he saw "the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56). In this vision, Jesus stood as his witness in fulfillment of his promise "Whoever confesses me before men, him the Son of Man will confess before the angels of God" (Luke 12:8).

In the title "Son of Man" we see Jesus humility, poverty, past and future fulfillment of prophecy, the ultimate example of humanity, and Lord of the Sabbath.  In every sense of the word, he was and is--The Man.


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