The Son of Man

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared,“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”” John 1:47-51 NIV

Fun fact: Jesus claimed to be the Son of man 81 times in the four gospels. The three other usages in the NT are also referring to Jesus in the book of Acts, Hebrews and Revelation. So a total of 84 times it is used in the NT. In the OT, The Hebrew expression “son of man” appears one hundred and seven times in the Hebrew Bible. This is the most common Hebrew construction for this phrase, appearing 93 times in the Book of Ezekiel alone and 14 times elsewhere.

In thirty-two cases, the phrase appears inintermediate plural form “sons of men”. As generally interpreted by Jews, “son of man” denotes mankind generally in contrast to deity or godhead, with special reference to their weakness and frailty.  Interestingly enough, the NT usage of the Son of man, the Greek language is used in a different manner altogether. So I think something else is going on here…

Now, guess how many times Jesus claimed to be the Son of God? Zero! The term“Son of God” was used by the apostles and disciples of Jesus but not by Jesus himself. It was really a term used by the Romans when referring to Caesar. Now I am not saying that Jesus denied being God (or accepting it, Mark 10:18). He just never used the title. Why the Son of Man and not the Son of God for Jesus?

Three approaches in scholarly and theological circles are used for the interpretation of the Son of Man in the NT:

1. An expression of the humanity of Jesus,
2. A messianic title derived from the Book of Daniel (7:13)
3. A general idiom for self-reference.

None of these three definitions are in any way agreed upon.  The meaning of the expression is controversial. Interpretation of the use of “the Son of man” in the New Testament has remained challenging and after 150 years of debate no consensus on the issue has emerged among scholars. So this title is still up for grabs on what it really means. [1]

In the religious tradition I grew up in, I always had the image of Jesus being this well-groomed, blue-eyed Caucasian, surfer bra that had an awesome “blue steel” model pose. Now, I know that my tradition is not the only one guilty of this. 

Throughout the western world, the majority of the images of Jesus have been painted with this image of “white perfection”.  Kind of has an “Aryan” vibe to it, in my opinion. I think we are all in agreement that Jesus is not and was never a Caucasian. This false view of Jesus is what I think the prophets called “idol worship”, maybe?  Don’t get me wrong, I think we all “create God in our image” in one way or another. No one is in the clear of this “blasphemy” if we are honest (just saying).

With that being said, aren’t we all created in God’s image? So, if we create an image of God in our mind or we act that image out, aren’t we just reflecting the image God created us to make? As in, whatever we create it’s going to be in accord with how God made us: in His image. So, is the image of the “white” Jesus from God since we are created in Gods image?

Well, this incorrect version of Jesus could just be part of this “fallen” world. These world is evil due to that “fall”, right? That can’t be a product of Gods image. The fall happened so we, the “image of God” bearers, no longer produce the substance of God. Only the essence of the satan, sin and death, right? Yes, we do create some evil crap and this false image of Jesus could be one of them. But let’s not forget that Jesus came to show us the way back to the Father. He never said “to show the father the way back to us”. God is always with us and for us. I think this is a huge point in how we perceive the reasoning behind Jesus using the title: Son of Man.

In Acts 17:28-30, Paul reminds the pagan Athens that all of us move and have our being in God. Also, in Colossians 1:16-17, it says in Christ all things were created, visible, invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, all thing have been created through him, for him and in him all things hold together.  So, even if we are “blaspheming” God with this false image of Christ as a white boy hippie, are we separated from God?  Paul says in Colo 1:21 maybe in our MINDS (key word) we were enemies of God but Jesus, from the foundation of the world, holds us in his arms

The reason why I am laying down this idea of NO SEPARATION from God is because I think it plays a big part in why Jesus claims to be the Son of Man and not the Son of God.  Yes, all the three interpretations from scholars I mentioned play a big part in how we interpret the Son of Man.  I agree that he is the Messiah, he was a man and he used this title as humble self-reference. But I think we can even dig deeper on this and say that He also claims to be the Son of Man to show us that being human is the way to be fully divine. 

See, Jesus is showing us that being human is not something to be ashamed of.  Jesus was a human and guess what?  He learned obedience from what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8)!  He learned? How can God learn? Well, if we can say that for God, his creation was always part of himself which was always divine, then we can see that learning is the process of being in Christ and Christ being in us (transformation). Humans, I think, are the most unique due to the fact that we were created in His image.

Any doubts, fears, or shame we feel with our “fallen” state is only a false image we display in our MIND – which then creates hell, sin, satan and death.  Once we understand that we are fully IN Jesus and he is in us (the divine connection), we then can experience the peace and clarity of knowing we are unconditionally loved by the Creator of the universe.

Is this world fallen?  The term “fallen” is never used in the Bible.  The better term, I believe, is to say the world is “misguided”-conformed to a inconsistent pattern (Rom 12:2). We are lost… but Gods view of us is always “we are found”. Jesus came to save us from our FALSE perception of ourselves, not from God. We have turned away and BECOME sinners (aka a people missing the mark of love). Jesus the TRUE HUMAN aka the SON OF MAN showed us the way back to our TRUE selves which is in the Image of God and fellow heirs with Himself (Rom 8:17).

In conclusion, I just want to say we were always divine. We just needed Jesus to show us the way back and how to live in that divine reality.  This is what discipleship is all about. When we do trust in this truth, we will experience the love of the Father; running towards us with open arms saying: “My prodigal child has returned”.  

Image: The Son of Man by René Magritte [2]

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