Part 3 - What does it mean that Jesus is the “Son of Man”?

This Article is part of a multi-part Study Series called The Identity of Jesus.

Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” eighty-eight times in the New Testament. Here in the Old Testament, Daniel mentions the “Son of Man” prophetically, clearly referring to the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ to destroy His enemies and set up His “everlasting dominion” on earth.

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)

The description “Son of Man” was a Messianic title. Jesus is the One who was given dominion, glory and the Kingdom. When Jesus used this phrase, He was assigning the “Son of Man” prophecy to Himself. The Jews of that era would have been intimately familiar with the phrase and to whom it referred. Jesus was thereby proclaiming Himself as the Messiah.

A second meaning of the phrase Son of Man” is that Jesus was truly a human being in every sense. Note that when the Devil tempted Jesus for 40 days in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11), he referred to Jesus of Nazareth as “the Son of God,” but Jesus in reply to him carefully referred to Himself as Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matt. 4:4), This was to indicate that He was facing Satan as a man who was trusting the words of God the Father. Being a man, it could be written that “… (He, Jesus) was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15b)

It is so consoling for me to know that Jesus, by His sufferings as a human, understands the infirmities of my human life. He suffered the rejection of His people (the Nation Israel), His family members (His brother James), and His followers (e.g., Peter), as well as the excruciating physical pain that He felt in the physical body of His humiliation.

We also see His humanity exhibited in that when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion, He prayed the same prayer three times, asking the Father to take the anticipated cup of suffering from Him and then He arrived at “not my will, but thine, be done.” Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) This was Jesus humanly grappling with the prescribed will of the Father before ultimately yielding, even though He had explicitly come to do the will of the Father (cf. John 5:30).

Every son of a man is a man. Jesus was fully God (John 1:1), but He was also fully human being (John 1:14). The Bible says Jesus of Nazareth was conceieved of the Holy Spirit… in the womb of a 14-year old Jewish girl, Mary. His life source at His core was “the Spirit” of His Father God… but His “body of flesh” was given to Him of his human virgin mother, Mary.

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made (ginomai, coming) of (Gk. ek, out from) a woman, made under the law” (Galatians 4:4)

“…  Every spirit (person) that confesseth that Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is come in the ‘flesh’ is of God:” (1 John 4:2)

So, we can say;

  • Yes, Jesus of Nazareth was “the Son of God” … He was and is in His essence “God.”
  • Yes, Jesus of Nazareth was also “the Son of Man” … He was in and still is in human, because His humanity was raised to heaven by His resurrection from the dead. (cf. Rom. 1:3-4)

In summary, the phrase “Son of Man” indicates that Jesus is the Messiah and that He also is truly a human being.

Jesus had to come in human flesh and blood or else the divine plan of God for the redemption of sinful mankind could not be fulfilled. We know that at the cross both blood and water flowed from the side of Jesus. “… one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” (John 19:34)

This is very significant since the words of the writer to the Hebrews confirm that “… without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (of sins)” (Heb. 9:22). Jesus’s blood was shed for our redemption, the expiation (removal), and the forgiveness of our sins. The blood of the Old Testament animal sacrifices could only cover sins until the Messiah would come to take away the sins of the whole world.

There was also “water” that flowed from Jesus’ pierced side as seen in John 19:34. The “water” that flowed from Jesus’ side represents ‘the water of His resurrection life’… that flows to us from the cross. This “water” refers to His “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2). This is Jesus Christ’s very own eternal resurrection life. His Spirit becomes “one spirit” with our spirit (1Cor 6:17) the moment we first believe. His Spirit, as “the water of life,” is a “well of water” in us “springing up into everlasting life” in the believer.  

“whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14  

“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly (innermost being) shall flow rivers of living water.”  (But this spake he of The Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive…” (John 7:37-39a)