Rev. Fred Gilley
“’… foxes have holes, and…birds…have nests, but the Son of man’” has no place to lay his head. (Matthew 8:20), King James Version) A volunteer’s promise to follow Jesus wherever received a similar response in Luke 9:57, but Matthew identifies presumably the same man as a scribe.
Ordinary man or scribe, Jesus cautioned the would-be volunteer to consider his promise. Jesus was emphasizing the lack of job security, salary, insurance, and tangible benefits.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (later knighted) offered only “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” during his first cabinet address May 10, 1940. King George VI (father of Queen Elizabeth II) had invited Churchill to form a government in the seventh month of what became World War II. Poland’s sudden attack by Germany, September 1, 1939, gave Great Britain and France few options due to prior defense alignment agreements.
Son of man points to Jesus almost 90 times in the Synoptics—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Without duplications, the title is used almost 50 times in the three gospels. The title “was Jesus’ chosen self-designation,” observes Edwin A. McDowell Jr., in Jesus and His Cross, a 1944 Broadman paperback. “He consistently referred to himself by this title,” the Southeastern Baptist Seminary’s New Testament interpretation professor insisted.
McDowell observed further that “The title in the Synoptics is never used by others in referring to Jesus (except in Luke 24:7).” That passage records “two men” in the empty tomb reminding three identified women of predictions in Galilee that the Son of Man must suffer, die, and be resurrected. The terrified women remembered. Instead of using burial spices they had brought, they went to tell the disciples and others.
Five use classifications for Son of Man—eschatological, resurrection, death of Jesus, earthly ministry, and kingdom extension—are identified by Professor McDowell. Scripture references fit more than one use category.
The earliest “son of man” appearance is in the Code of Hammurabi, sixth king of Babylonia around 1750 (BCE—Before the Christian era). Ezekiel, prophet of the Babylonian exile (587-538 BCE), is addressed as son of man 80-odd times in the book that bears his name, but the meaning is clearly man, a human being. Daniel’s vision (1:1f) features someone “like the Son of man” (7:13), but the Messianic meaning is debatable.
The Simulitudes (or Parables) of Enoch, a widely known non-canonical book among Jews in the time of Jesus, has something to say about the Son of man. Instead of Son of Man, the Apostle Paul uses “heavenly man” or “Second Adam.”
Entering the mind of another is difficult, especially the mind of Jesus or other biblical characters from so long ago. Evidence seems sufficient for this commenter to conclude that Jesus considered Son of Man to be more dignified than the first person “I.” Son of Man permitted him to claim Messiaship without saying the words. Following events such as Transfiguration, Jesus cautioned the disciples with the equivalent of “tell no man.”
In John 2:21, Jewish officials wanted to know by what authority Jesus had cleansed the temple. (Temple cleansing comes earlier in the fourth gospel; Synoptics wait until the final week.) I can destroy this temple and rebuild it in three days. They were thinking of 46 years of construction, but Jesus was referring to the temple of his body. The reported statement becomes blasphemy during his trial.
Every Appearance of the Son of Man does not refer to the Messiah. Neither should an individual be assumed. Daniel’s “one like” may refer to the “faithful remnant” as the Elect, the Anointed, or the Righteous One. Jesus accepted the mantle individually and personally. In Jesus, Isaiah’s Suffering Servant was combined with the Son of Man.