Published August 30, 2016

Paul's Epistle
"Son of God, Son of Man"

I'm fascinated by Biblical theology. I really am. But, to be sure, sometimes it gets a bit....esoteric. And I think sometimes — perhaps usually — we tend to over-complicate it.

Case in point: I've often thought about how, in the Bible, the term "Son of God" is used to describe Christ. But Christ chose to refer to Himself by a similar, but different term — the "Son of Man." Why the difference?

Theologians have come up with a lot of different reasons for that. But, to me, the simplest reason is this — that it's merely a matter of perspective. How so?

Well, when we as humans think of Jesus, what's the most amazing aspect of Who and what He is? The most mind-boggling thing we can say about Christ is that He is the Son of God.  Son of God!  He came to earth in human form, sent by His Father, "not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him should be saved" (John 3:17).

We marvel — and rightly so — at the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, God in the flesh. "And the Word [Christ] 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 1:14).

The angel, to Mary, called Him the Son of God (Luke 1:35). The chief priests demanded to know if He was the Son of God (Matt. 26:63). The Apostles referred to Him often as the Son of God, as did Peter: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). The demons in the demoniac recognized Him as Son of God (Matt. 8:29, Mark 3:11). The centurion at the Cross recognized Him: "Truly this Man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39). Even Satan, during His temptation of Christ, snidely referred to Him as the Son of God (Matt. 4:3, 6, Luke 4:3). But that's not a term Jesus commonly used for Himself, although He acknowledged it (Matt. 26:64, Luke 22:70).

Jesus — the Son of God — came and lived and walked among us! The more you think about it, the more boggled your mind will become. So, "Son of God" makes a lot of sense — from our perspective.

But what about Jesus' term for Himself — "Son of Man." Why did He insist on calling Himself that? In fact, He called Himself that, and is referred to in that way, more than a hundred times in the New Testament." Yes, He did say, "I and My Father are One" (John 10:30). But He didn't normally use the "Son of God" expression for Himself. Why?

Not to oversimplify things, but I believe it is merely a matter of perspective.

As humans, our perspective, with appropriate awe, is that Jesus was (is) the Son of God!  But the most amazing thing about the incarnation, from God's perspective, was surely that Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, God Himself in human form, came to earth to dwell among men — to "become flesh," as John wrote. This was unprecedented. This was unimaginable. This was something no one could have expected or predicted. Even the angels were befuddled (1 Peter 1:12). Just to think that God Himself — as Jesus, Creator of everything that is (see John 1:3) and the sustainer of all things (Colossians 1:17) — would be willing to take on flesh, would submit to extreme humiliation and torturous death on the Cross, all to redeem a sinful lost and dying world — a mess that rebellious man had brought upon himself through disobedience... Wow.

Jesus could only do all of that as the "Son of Man." From God's perspective, He could only do that by taking on human form. Because "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin" (Hebrews 9:22). And only Christ as the perfect, sinless "Son of Man" would be able to make such a perfect sacrifice, once for all. As Christ said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

So, what does this fine point of theology mean to us — today?

I believe it's an interesting glimpse, an interesting insight into the unfathomable, unsearchable mind of God. He loved us so much that He would come as the "Son of Man" in order to save "whosoever will" from among all mankind, so that we could live with Him and fellowship with Him and enjoy His company forever and ever. And He knew all of this before He even created man. As John wrote, Christ was "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). It was always part of His redemptive plan for the mankind He had created.

What's more, for our daily lives, Jesus was providing us with a pointed reminder that as a man, He faced the same issues we face. He walked as we walk, talked as we talk, interacted with others around Him as we must do. What an assurance and comfort that is! He could only be tempted as a man. He has dealt personally with human weaknesses. "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).

The Son of God was repeatedly reminding us that He was also the Son of Man. He understands your problems, first-hand. He's there for you. And, furthermore, He longs to enjoy your company throughout all eternity, as you enjoy His. To accomplish that, look what He suffered through as the Son of Man, even to an excruciating physical death on the Cross. That's how much He loves you.

- Paul

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