When we ascribe a title to ourselves, we better be sure that we live up to the name. Today, Barry Cooper identifies the significance of the most common designation Jesus applied to Himself.
There’s the name our parents give us. And then there are the names we give ourselves.
Movie star Dwayne Johnson calls himself “the Rock” because he’s 6-foot-5 with very big muscles. Frank Sinatra called himself “Ol’ Blue Eyes” because he had blue eyes and was (at least later in life) old. And then there’s David Howell Evans from the band U2, who calls himself “the Edge,” because of course he does. What kind of rock star is called Dave Evans?
However, if you do give yourself a name, you’d better make sure you live up to it. If you call yourself the Edge, you’d better make sure you’re always doing really “edgy” things. Who’s that over there, filing his tax return? Ohhhh, that’s the Edge—isn’t going to cut it.
Call yourself “the Greatest” like Muhammad Ali or “the King of Pop” like Michael Jackson, and you’d better be sure you can back it up.
I say all this to make a serious point, because Jesus used a name that is very hard to live up to. He used it very deliberately and very often. The name Jesus Christ most commonly applied to Himself was “the Son of Man.”
To give just a few examples, Jesus said:
“We are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death.”
“The Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
“Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
I read a book recently in which a very popular author claimed that when Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, he was basically just saying “everyman” or “human being.” According to this writer, when Jesus used that phrase, it was just a way of reminding everyone of His human nature as opposed to His divine nature.
But that’s not it. While it’s true that “son of man” is sometimes used in Scripture as a synonym for “man,” the reason why our English translations capitalize “Son of Man” when Jesus uses it about Himself is because it is a very specific title that refers back to a very specific person.
In the Old Testament, in chapter 7 of Daniel, the prophet Daniel records a night vision. God Himself, the “Ancient of Days,” sits on His throne. He sits in judgment over the kingdoms of the earth.
But then, coming with the clouds of heaven “came one like a son of man” who is presented before the Ancient of Days. And we’re told that this “son of man”
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.
So when Jesus refers to Himself as “the Son of Man,” He’s doing much more than drawing attention to His nature as a man. He is identifying Himself as the all-powerful figure described by Daniel, this awe-inspiring individual exalted to the right hand of the Ancient of Days, the One whose authority and kingdom is never-ending.
Jesus identifies Himself as this “Son of Man” again and again. To give another instance, in Mark chapter 13, Jesus speaks of His “coming in clouds with great power and glory” to bring all things under his authority—which is just the way the Son of Man’s arrival is described in Daniel chapter 7.
You know, you sometimes hear people saying that Jesus never actually claimed to be more than a man. He was just misunderstood by His disciples and some of those who heard Him.
But there are many reasons that view is unpersuasive, and this is one of them. If you repeatedly take for yourself the name “Son of Man” and describe yourself returning on the clouds of heaven in glory and power, you are definitely claiming to be more than a mere man. You are disclosing yourself to be the One at the very center of that startling night vision. The King whose kingdom will never pass away. The Son of Man.