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Advent - Son of Man

December 05 2017
December 05 2017

Different people know us by different names. Official documents call us by our full legal name. Friends may call us by a nickname. A child might call us “Mom,” or “Dad.” A spouse might have a special pet name for us. Which name’s the right one? Well, all of them. Each name is true because each name says something about us. Each name tells us something different. I’m Thomas A. Breeden, but I’m also just Tom.

Jesus is no different. The Bible is full of different names for him. As we celebrate Advent together, we want to reflect on some of these different names and what they tell us about Jesus. This week we consider one of Jesus’ most common titles: Son of Man.

Few biblical authors call Jesus Son of Man, but Jesus uses this name for himself more than any other. Some people think that Jesus used this title in contrast to Son of God. As God in the flesh, Jesus was both the Son of God and the Son of Man. One name emphasizes divinity, the other humanity. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus means. Instead, we should look to the Old Testament for our answer.

In the Old Testament, son of man could just mean a human being. For example, take a look at Numbers 23:19 or Psalm 8:4. Son of man could just be an average person – like you or me. There wasn’t anything special about this usage.

But the Son of Man could be so much more. Daniel 7:13-14 describes something far above average!

I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven

there came one like a son of man,

and he came to the Ancient of Days

and was presented before him.

And to him was given dominion

and glory and a kingdom.

that all peoples, nations, and languages

should serve him;

his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

which shall not pass away,

and his kingdom one

that shall not be destroyed.

That doesn’t sound like your next door neighbor, does it? Early Jewish readers picked up on that too and believed that Daniel was describing the Messiah. The Son of Man was God’s promised king, who would come and establish the Kingdom of God.

So when Jesus calls himself the Son of Man, he’s picking up on these two meanings. For some people, Jesus was just an average guy, a person like any other. But others saw in him the promised Messiah, the hope of Israel.

Who do you say that Jesus is? Christmas is a wonderful time to ask ourselves this question. Who was born in Nazareth over two thousands years ago? Was it just another baby or was it the hope of nations? Was Jesus just another son of man or was he the Son of Man?


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