Jesus, the Son of Man

Chapter 12: Jesus, The Son of Man

Jesus very often referred to Himself as 'the Son of Man', using this title more than any other during His ministry. At the beginning of His ministry, He used it when addressed by a new disciple called Nathaniel. He said, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man".[1]

He used it for the last time before the Jewish high priest, on the night before His crucifixion. He said to him, "... In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven".[2]

There are many places in which Jesus seems to have used the title Son of Man intentionally. Once when He was talking about the cost of people following Him, He said, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head."[3] What does this title mean? Does it simply tell us about the humanity of Jesus, that Jesus was emphasising His humanity? Was the 'Son of Man' just a human being?

If you continue to study the various uses of the term 'Son of Man' in the New Testament, you will find (as we saw in the previous chapter) that Jesus is highlighting His God-given authority. Many of the learned Jews understood why Jesus was using such a title. For example, when talking about the end of the world, Jesus said, "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory."[4] On hearing a similar statement at Jesus trial, the high priest of the Jews tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy!".[5] He reacted in such a way because according to Jewish teaching only God could do that. See for example Psalm 104:3.

A great prophet

Jewish listeners understood that Jesus was quoting directly from a well-known prophecy in the Old Testament, which had been given to the prophet Daniel in a vision.

"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 (God) and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."[6]

The term 'Son of Man' in these writings is firmly linked with Jesus, who will come with the clouds of heaven. He will have complete authority over all people and nations. Quite obviously, the Son of Man is a glorious person, the embodiment of human perfection and honour.

In the Bible we find the expression 'son of man' also used in a general sense denoting humanity. [7] However when Jesus used this title for Himself, it was in an exclusive sense, meaning that He is the ultimate Son of Man, the one who was seen by the prophet Daniel in his vision.

The purpose

As the Son of Man, Jesus gave His life for humanity, and afterwards was lifted up by God to glory in the heavens, to reign with Him in wondrous majesty over all the sons of men. Jesus spoke about His death on the cross, His burial, and resurrection to His disciples, "The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him".[8] He was referring to Psalm 22, Psalm 69 and Isaiah 53.

On various occasions He brought out the other aspect of the Son of Man; showing Himself to be a humble man serving His fellow men, and finally laying down His life for them. 'The Word'- Kalima or Kalam voluntarily took on the form of a servant, not only to serve God, but even to serve His fellow men. He said "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."[9]

Some of those who are opposed to the message of Christ, think of His crucifixion as an insult, but Jesus spoke of it as a means of being glorified. For example, shortly before His crucifixion He said to His disciples, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds".[10]

The third day after Jesus had died on the cross, God raised Him from the dead, and forty days later, God lifted Him up to glory in the heavens. One day Jesus will return to receive those who belong to Him. [11]

So we see that Jesus, the Son of Man, is unique among men, the One who has been given authority, glory and sovereign power and who will be worshipped by all people everywhere.




  1. John 1:51
  2. Matthew 26:64
  3. Matthew 8:20
  4. Matthew 24:30
  5. Matthew 26: 64, 65
  6. Daniel 7:13-14
  7. Job 25:6; Psalms 8:4; Isaiah 51:12
  8. Matthew 26:24; cf John 12:32-34
  9. Matthew 20:28
  10. John 12:23-24
  11. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17