Son of Man
Jesus referred to Himself as "Son of Man" more than any other term or title. He would often use the term in place of "I," speaking of Himself in third person:
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." instead of "For I came to seek and to save the lost." (Luke 19:10 NIV)
Son of Man is an interesting phrase with dual meanings in the Scriptures. In Hebrew, the term is ben (son of) Adam (the man). Son of the man. It can simply mean human or mortal. This is the sense of the term in Ezekiel, when God addresses the prophet as "Son of man":
"He (God) said to me, 'Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.' ” (Ezekiel 2:1 NIV)
When Jesus calls Himself Son of Man in this sense, He emphasizes His real humanity. Jesus was more than the appearance of God looking like a human. He was a real, flesh-and-blood human being, born physically from Mary. He laid aside the glory of His eternal existence and took on the limitations of human flesh. He sweat. He got hungry. He grew tired. He laughed and He wept.
When Jesus died on the Cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, He died in a physical body. The Son of Man laid down His life. It was painful. It was horrific. And it was the one perfect sacrifice that could pay the price for all our sins.
But Son of Man has a second meaning, and it is important not to miss it. In Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel receives a vision of a glorious Son of Man:
"“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 nations and peoples 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."
This vision is a vision of the coming Messiah - the Anointed One of God. This Son of Man is given authority, glory and sovereign power. This Son of Man will reign forever in a Kingdom that will not pass away. In this sense, Son of Man refers to the Messiah. This is not a son of man, this is the Son of Man.
When Jesus refers to Himself as Son of Man in this sense, it is a subtle claiming of His divinity. Jesus was a flesh-and-blood human being. But He was also God-in-the-flesh. He was God incarnate. He was the embodiment of the glorious, living God. C. S. Lewis called this the central miracle of the Bible, greater even than the Jesus' resurrection from the dead. In a sense, Lewis reasons, since Jesus was God-in-the-flesh, the resurrection was a foregone conclusion. What else could happen after the death of God's own Son?
In this more subtle sense, Son of Man actually comes close to meaning Son of God. Jesus was both. And that is the other reason His death on the Cross was effective for covering the sins of humanity. The One dying on the cross was not merely a man. He was God enfleshed. And so His sacrifice was a perfect one that had real power to cancel sin's punishment and effects. Glory to God!
I am so glad the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus ben Adam did not come to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:17) And Jesus ben Adam is able to understand and sympathize with all our frailties because He took on the limitations of our human humanness. Again, Glory to God!
Jesus, Son of Man, is worthy of all praise and thanksgiving and glory and honor. And He is worthy of my love and commitment and worship. I will follow Him as long as I live in this life, and into eternity. How about you?