Why does Jesus call himself this?

19 June 2013

Last Sunday we covered the profound account of Jesus healing a paralysed man whose friends tear open the ceiling of the house just to lower him down to Jesus (Mark 2.1-17).

Before he heals him though, Jesus says that ‘the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’. It’s the first time he’s used the term ‘Son of Man’, but certainly not the last. What does he mean by it? If he had said, ‘the Son of God has authority on earth to forgive sins’ it would seem a bit clearer. But, Son of of Man? It seems a bit cryptic.

And cryptic is a large part of the explanation. Jesus is coming in ‘hiddenness’; only those with ‘ears to hear and eyes to see’ will recognise what is going on in the life and mission of Jesus. ‘Hidden’ doesn’t mean ‘unknowable’, it just means ‘veiled’. Everything is clear if you look at it intently. But if not, it will slide right past you. For instance, a desert preacher preaching repentance as preparation for God, or the miracles of restoration alongside Jesus’ announcement of God’s Kingdom out in the Judean countryside with a handful of obscure men following him. If we’re careless we’ll just dismiss it as ‘a bit random’.

And now, Jesus makes a subtle (but definite) footnote to an Old Testament prophecy about a ‘Son of Man’, to whom God gives all of his authority, and who establishes God’s Kingdom (Daniel 7.13-14). Jesus is making his claim boldly – but not loudly. Those with ears to hear will hear.

But there’s more: his choice of ‘Son of Man’ continues the whole theme of the gospel: that Jesus has come to identify with sinners. Jesus acts as the Son of God who is the Son of Man. God becomes one of us in order to die for us. Do you see it?

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.