Covered: Daniel 5-6, 9-10,12; Ezra 1-6
Not Covered: Daniel 7-12, Psalms 137, Haggai 1-2
Scripture Memory: Humility – Philippians 2:3-4, 1 Peter 5:5-6
In the New Testament, and actually in Christianity, the most common title used for Jesus is “Christ,” which means Messiah. However, surprisingly, Jesus seldom uses this title for himself, and he never uses it in public. In the four gospels, we see that Jesus instead prefers another title, “Son of Man.” He calls himself this more than any other title recorded in Scripture. Why did Jesus like this curious phrase? What does it mean? And where did it originate? Most scholars believe Jesus is referring back to Daniel, chapter 7, so let’s take a look at that important chapter.
Daniel is a Hebrew prisoner of war in Babylon, where he is forced to work for the king who destroyed his home. While in Babylon, he has a bizarre dream. He sees a series of four beasts crawling out of a dark sea. The first is like a lion, the second like a bear, the third like a winged leopard, and the fourth is a mutant super-beast. Daniel is told these beasts symbolize arrogant kings and their empires. This fourth super beast has many horns, which are often symbols for kings in the Old Testament, and one specific horn which speaks with great arrogance.
Next, in the dream, Daniel sees into God’s throne room, which is set up as a court. God, called “The Ancient of Days” here, sits down upon one of the thrones. Myriads of heavenly beings are in attendance. The books of judgment are opened, and then God destroys the super beast, condemning it to be burned with fire. Then Daniel sees a figure described as “one like the son of man,” which essentially means, “a human one.” This figure rides the clouds up into God’s presence, where he shares in God’s rule over the nations. All of humanity then worships this “son of man” along with God. So who is this “son of man?” A human, who is exalted up with God to co-rule with Him? Daniel clearly can’t understand, as he asks for an explanation.
Hundreds of years later, Jesus of Nazareth uses this title to describe Himself. Scholar Tim Mackie explains, “He was claiming to be that truly human one on a mission to confront the beast.” The Jews of Jesus’ day, well versed in the Hebrew Scriptures, would understand that in calling Himself “son of man” He was claiming to be the human who God exalts to co-rule the world with Him. Mackie describes three ways that Jesus uses this title. Jesus uses it in His having divine authority to rule (Mark 2:8-12), His suffering and dying to enter glory (Mark 10:35-45), and His vindication after death.
Notice the trial scene in Mark 14. After Jesus is arrested, he is brought before the high priest Caiaphas, who asks Him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus replies, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Caiaphas knew right away that Jesus was claiming to be the fulfillment of this human exalted to co-rule with God in Daniel chapter 7, as well as the Messiah seated at God’s right hand in Psalm 110. But why would Jesus say He was about to be exalted? Because the cross on which He was about to give His life was His exaltation. Through His death on that cross and His subsequent resurrection, this Son of Man, wholly human and wholly God, defeated death and sin, rescuing all of humanity who chooses to believe in Him. As Mackie states, “Now Jesus is summoning a new humanity into existence, one that can overcome the beast in the same paradoxical way (to rule the beast by dying). And then by discovering that Jesus’ life and power can be our life and power. So we can rule the world as God’s partners, but in Jesus-style, in the power of service, humility, and self-giving love.”
Check out The Bible Project’s excellent video on our Video page.
Written by: Jennifer Harris
Art Credit: Hans Holbein the Younger
Sources: The Bible Project, thebibleproject.com