Have you ever noticed in reading through any of the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus the way that He made reference to Himself? According to “The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible”, Jesus called Himself “the Son of Man” approximately 80 times throughout the four gospels. Granted, there are many parallel accounts so one quote is often referenced by more than one of the gospel writers, but the point is it seems that Jesus consistently, repeatedly, & unashamedly chose to use the title of “the Son of Man” when speaking about Himself. How curious! Oh, it’s not strange that Jesus didn’t constantly remind people about His deity or boast that He was “the Son of God”. Indeed, that would have been inconsistent with His very nature, for Philippians 2:6-8 explains that Jesus, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Try to imagine being perfect & complete, totally healthy & whole, always right about everything, lacking for nothing, for endless ages – and then setting that all aside to become a finite human being with physical needs & all our limitations! Could it be that such a transformation was a bit shocking, even to God? Perhaps one reason Jesus called Himself “the Son of Man” was to remind Himself of, or sort of coax Himself along in, His assumed identity as a man. That’s just speculation, to be sure, & we know Jesus remained completely God even while living on earth being totally human, “yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). But the fact remains that He frequently referred to Himself as “the Son of Man”.
For example, Matthew (20:28) recorded Jesus’ statement that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many”, thus proclaiming two reasons why He had become human – to model servanthood, which is contrary to our fallen nature, & to pay the price for our release from bondage. The Bible expounds on these & other purposes for the Incarnation. “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15) – that is, to rescue individuals from their sin nature & “the wages of sin” which “is death” (Romans 6:23). In Luke 4:18,19, Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1,2 in explaining why He left His home in glory to walk in the dust of the earth, proclaiming in verse 21 that He was fulfilling that Old Testament Scripture. Then there is the familiar passage of John 3:16, & the next verse: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” The Greek word used for “world” in both verses of John is “kosmos” (English – cosmos), meaning the world systems, the integrated & harmonious ordering of the physical realm. So God’s plan of redemption, accomplished through the life, death, & resurrection of Jesus, does not just pertain to individuals, but to the universe He created as well, as Romans 8:20,21 declares that: “the creation was made subject to futility” (that is, the curse of Genesis 3:14-19), but “itself also shall be delivered from the bondage to decay”.
So the Son of God also became the Son of Man to both eradicate sin, evil, death & destruction (eliminate the negative), and to redeem & restore mankind & creation to the original perfection God had intended (re-introduce the positive). 1 John 3:8 states: “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” And Jesus proclaimed in John 10:10: “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” But this redemption could ONLY be accomplished by the God/Man, Jesus Christ, as humanity’s Kinsman-Redeemer in fulfillment of the law laid out in the 25th chapter of Leviticus, & prophetically pictured in Ruth, chapter 4. “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the law”. (Galatians 4:4,5) Furthermore, as Hebrews 2:17,18 explains: “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”
Jesus took on human flesh so that He could identify with & experience our humanity. No way, no how, NEVER could humanity restore the broken relationship with God brought about by sin. Only God could bridge the gap. The world has it in reverse. Mankind cannot evolve into being gods; God had to become a Man! We can’t fully comprehend the enormous sacrifice involved in that, but Hebrews 5:7-9 explains that “in the days of His flesh”, Jesus, “although He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered; and having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation”.
There is yet one more reason for the Incarnation which is often overlooked, & that is, Jesus became Man to the glory of God. Jesus said: “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:29); and Colossians 1:19,20 explains: “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” – for it was only as Son of Man that Jesus could bleed! – and “He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (v.22). “Therefore God also highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)
It’s interesting to note that the only Old Testament use of the title of “the Son of Man” in reference to Jesus is found in Daniel 7:13,14: “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 was presented before Him. And there was given to 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 is one which shall not be destroyed.” Jesus quoted this Scripture, as recorded in Matthew 26:64, Mark 14:62, & Luke 21:27, & understood it to be a prophecy about Himself. When, as a human being faced with daily temptations to sin, & knowing that He was heading for a violent, ignominious, & excruciating death at the hands of those He created & loved, it must have comforted Jesus to remember this prophetic word that proclaimed His victory & the glory that was to come. In fact, Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Of course, we won’t experience the full application of the work of redemption accomplished by the Son of God when He became the Son of Man until He returns the second time, but nevertheless, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) HALLELUJAH!!! Jesus Himself exhorts us to “look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near”! (Luke 21:28) Our response should be as the apostle John’s: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:21) MARANATHA!!!