June 19, 2024

The Son of Man

R.C. Sproul
The Son of Man

Why did Jesus regularly call Himself the “Son of Man?” It wasn’t a humble expression of His humanity. Today, R.C. Sproul explores what this exalted title reveals about the identity of Christ.


When we look at that title “Son of Man,” what we often do mistakenly is say, “Oh, wait a minute. We know our Christology— that we believe as Christians that Jesus was vere homo, vere Deus, that He was truly man and truly God. He had a human nature and a divine nature. So when He calls Himself the Son of Man, this must be primarily a reference to His human nature. This is an expression of Jesus’ humility, where He doesn’t boast about His divinity. He doesn’t boast about being the Son of God. He says, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’”

When we do that, we make a serious error. Because when Jesus uses the title “Son of Man,” He uses it obviously in light of its connection to Old Testament literature—particularly the book of Daniel, in which the Son of Man is a heavenly being who descends from the presence of the Ancient of Days, from the very presence of God Himself, for a season, to carry on His ministry to which He will later ascend to be restored to the glory that He had with the Father from the beginning.

If you look every time that Jesus uses the term “Son of Man” in the New Testament, you will see it’s not an exercise in humility when He will say, for example, that “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8). He’s not saying that human beings are the Lord of the Sabbath, because the Sabbath is established and instituted by God. When He says, “That you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He’s associating with that title a divine prerogative (Matt. 9:6; Mark 2:10).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that the Son of Man refers exclusively to His deity, but I would say that the title refers chiefly and primarily to His deity—that this is God who has taken upon Himself a human nature. Jesus reveals a lot about the proper answer of this question by the way He asks it when He says, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

Well, they give Him the Gallup Poll on it, and they say, “Well, there’s different views out there. Some say you’re John the Baptist. Others say Elijah. Others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets”—the same kinds of questions that were raised about the identity of John the Baptist when he created such a stir coming out of the wilderness and the desert calling Jewish people to baptism and so on. People wanted to know if he was the prophet promised in the Old Testament. Was he the coming back of Elijah, and so on? Now, they’re wondering if Jesus—because a lot of these people up there in the north, they stopped hearing about John the Baptist. He passed from the scene, and they’re thinking, “Maybe this is John of Baptist, and he’s making a comeback, like an Elvis sighting somewhere up there in the north.” But that’s part of the scuttlebutt that’s going on here in the discussion, and Jesus says, “Fine. Thank you very much. But now let’s get down to business.”

He asks His disciples perhaps the most important question that Jesus could ever ask them, certainly the most important question He could ever ask you or He could ever ask me: “Who do you say that I am?”

Let me just pause for a moment here and ask you in Christ’s name that question. Who do you say that He is? What’s your view of Christ? I believe your answer to that question, what you honestly believe in response to that question, will determine your eternal destiny, and there is no greater question that you will ever face than that.