A Look at Messianic Prophecy and The Son of Man Saying in the Ministry of Jesus

by Eric Chabot

Introduction

“Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself throughout His ministry. There is some debate on how to translate Son of Man. In an online article on Bible Gateway Blog, they discuss how the Common English Bible is dealing with this issue. They have translated the Son of Man saying as ”Human One.”  They say the following:

People who have grown accustomed to hearing Jesus refer to himself in the Gospels as “the Son of Man” may find this jarring. Why “Human One”? Jesus’ primary language would have been Aramaic, so he would have used the Aramaic phrase bar enosha. This phrase has the sense of “a human” or “a human such as I.” To read more on this see here:

Anyway, the Son of Man saying is employed to Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37); Second, the Son of Man was to suffer and die and rise from the dead (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33). Third, the Son of Man would serve an eschatological function (Mk. 8:38;13:26;14:62; Matt.10:23;13:41;19:28:24:39;25:31). One passage that stands out in the Gospel of Matthew is the following:

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.–Matthew 12: 1-8.

Given the Sabbath was and still is the most important observance in Judaism, for the Gospel authors to make any figure as having authority over the Sabbath would only create another huge stumbling block for Jewish people.

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As Ben Witherington III says,

Now in Jewish theology, God of course was the Creator of the universe who set up the sabbatical pattern in the first place, and rested on the seventh day (see Gen. 1). Since God had created the Sabbath, only God was the Lord thereof. Yet here, Jesus’ claims, as Son of Man, to be Lord over the Sabbath, and claims that He can reinterpret the Sabbath to mean, this is the perfect day to give sick people “rest” from their illnesses, even though this activity constitutes work by any Old Testament definition. In other words, as Son of man, Jesus felt He could rewrite the Sabbath rules. Why? Because He was Lord over the Sabbath and its proper observance now that God’s divine saving activity was breaking into human history through Him.[1]

 

The Son of Man and Blasphemy

One of the most pertinent issues is Jesus’ use of Son of Man in the trial scene in Mark 14.

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.-Mark 14: 60-65

By Jesus asserting He is the Son of Man, he was exercising the authority of God. It is for this reason that we don’t want to minimize why Jesus earned the charge of blasphemy here. According to Jewish law, the claim to be the Messiah was not a criminal or capital offense. If this is true, why was Jesus accused of blasphemy? Jesus affirmed the chief priest’s question that He was not only the Messiah but also the Son of God, and the Coming Son of Man who would judge the world. This was considered a claim for deity since the eschatological authority of judgment was for God alone. Hence, Jesus provoked the indignation of his opponents…

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