A brother in Brazil asks, “What was the idea behind the affirmation or presentation of Jesus of Himself as the Son of Man?”
Our Lord Jesus often called Himself by the name, Son of Man. One sometimes receives the impression that Christ preferred this name. This impression is especially gained from the gospel according to Luke, for the Lord’s use of this name for Himself appears most frequently in the third gospel account.
The same name is frequently ascribed to the prophet Ezekiel when the Lord gave him the prophecies he was to speak to the people in captivity. See, for example, verse 2 of chapters 33, 34, 35 and 38. But as a name solely for our Lord Jesus Christ, it appears first in Daniel 7:13-14: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
This vision Daniel received is a vision of the exaltation, or, what we may call, the coronation, of our Lord Jesus Christ. That it appears in the Old Testament is surprising, yet, it appears as prophecy, for the main thesis of Daniel’s prophecy is the development of the Antichrist and what the Antichrist means for the church. It is fitting, therefore, that this vision of Christ’s coronation should appear as a contrast to Antichrist and as a prophecy of Christ’s victory over Antichrist and all the powers of darkness. In this the people of God may find comfort in the terrible days when Antichrist rules.
It is evident from the passage in Daniel that the name Son of Man is, first and foremost, a name that belongs to Christ. Its significance in the New Testament is that our Lord Jesus Christ, fully divine, is also so closely associated with us that He is also a son of man. His genealogy as recorded in Luke goes all the way back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38)—as our genealogy does. He was born of Mary and was truly a part of our human race. He was like us in all things, except for sin.
This “likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3) is also important. Christ’s human nature was not strong, indescribably robust, immune to all weakness and sickness, as was Adam’s nature prior to his fall. Our Lord came in the likeness of our human nature as we now possess it: weak and frail, limited in power and subject to increasing weakness with the passing of the years, subject to every disease and malfunction of any part of it. That is the human nature He took on.
We do not read that the Lord was ill, but whether He was or not, He could have caught influenza or pneumonia. In His weak human nature, He was sometimes very hungry, sometimes very thirsty and sometimes very, very tired—as when He slept soundly in a boat in danger of sinking because of towering waves and powerful winds (Matt 8:23-27).
In the ancient church, a heresy arose that denied Christ’s weakened human nature. This heresy (Apollinarianism) denied that Christ had, as we do, a rational soul. In place of a rational soul, it was claimed, the divine Logos functioned. The church did not want that heresy, because, as the church father, Athanasius, said, “We need to be saved in body and soul and, therefore, our Lord who came to save us had to have a human body and a human soul.”
Many of the Anabaptists at the time of the Reformation also denied that Christ was like us in all things. They claimed that our Lord, though born of the virgin Mary, did not actually possess a human nature that came from her; God created Christ’s human nature in the womb of Mary. The Belgic Confessionrepudiates that idea in Article 18. The section is worth quoting: “Therefore we confess (in opposition to the heresy of the Anabaptists, who deny that Christ assumed human flesh of His mother) that Christ is become a partaker of the flesh and blood of the children; that He is a fruit of the loins of David after the flesh; made of the seed of David according to the flesh; a fruit of the womb of the Virgin Mary; made of a woman; a branch of David; a shoot of the root of Jesse; sprung from the tribe of Judah; descended from the Jews according to the flesh; of the seed of Abraham, since He took on Him the seed of Abraham, and became like unto His brethren in all things, sin excepted; so that in truth He is our Immanuel, that is to say, God with us.”
Our salvation depends on Christ’s likeness to us in all things. The Heidelberg Catechism underscores this truth in Q. & A. 16: “Why must He be very man, and also perfectly righteous? Because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which hath sinned should likewise make satisfaction of sin; and one who is himself a sinner cannot satisfy for others.”
In our day of apostasy, the churches who deny the divinity of Christ are increasing in number; but the fact remains that the doctrine of Christ’s full and complete humanity is also extremely important. Not only did Christ have to be like us in all things, except sin, to save us, but salvation comes to us because we are united to His blessed body by a true and living faith. Today, our wonderful Saviour is exalted in the highest heavens and resplendent in majesty as King of kings and Lord over all things. Now, in a glorious hope, we confess that we shall, some day, in body and soul, be like Him in all His glory (Phil. 3:21), for He became like us so that we might become like Him (II Cor. 8:9).
One more point: Our Lord’s apparent preference for the name Son of Man speaks of His willingness and desire to be identified with us. Can we ever fathom such humility? Such love? How vile we are! Yet our Lord, in boundless love for us, identifies Himself with us and becomes like us! Glorious truth!
- Volume: 14
- Issue: 3
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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