The title “the Son of Man”, refers to Jesus and highlights the fact that He was a human being. This was vital in order that He could be a sacrifice in our place.
The term “Son of Man” in the gospels
Jesus uses the term “the son of Man” in reference to Himself 80 times in the gospels: 32 times in Matthew, 14 times in Mark, 26 times in Luke and 10 times in John.
Each gospel highlights different aspects of who Jesus is.
- Matthew present Jesus as the Messiah
- Mark as the suffering servant
- Luke as the Son of Man
- John as the Son of God
So, in answering this question of “why is Jesus called the Son of Man”, the gospel of Luke is a good place to start.
Reason for Jesus coming into the world
Jesus is indeed the Messiah that the Jewish nation had been waiting for ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, and then God’s promise to Abraham. The Messiah is the Son of God, equal with God, and God sent Him into the world in order to open up the way of Salvation for mankind. Jesus was 100% God, but in order for Him to be able to die as a sacrifice so that human beings could be saved, He also needed to be 100% human.
In his gospel, Luke spends a lot of time showing that Jesus is indeed human and brings these things to the attention of his readers.
- Introduction of John: Luke starts his gospel with the account of the coming of John the Baptist. The announcement of his birth through Gabriel, and the prophecy of his life’s work as the forerunner of the Messiah.
- Introduction of Jesus: Next, he tells his readers of Gabriel’s announcement to the young virgin Mary, engaged to be married to Joseph. Before she married, the Holy spirit came upon her and she conceived a son, who would be called the Son of God.
- Birth of Jesus: Jesus was born as all humans are, but Jesus fulfilled many prophecies in the course of His life, such as the ones in Isaiah that refer to from His conception to the place of His birth. The Jewish laws were kept with regard to circumcision and the presentation at the temple as with any other Jewish boy.
- Ancestry of Jesus: In chapter 3, Luke gives the list of Jesus’ ancestors going right back to “son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38) highlighting for his readers that, yes, Jesus is the son of Man, (Adam) but also the Son of God.
- The humanity of Jesus: In many places in Luke’s gospel he brings out different themes that reveal Jesus’ humanity. In Luke 4, after His baptism, He goes out into the wilderness and fasts for 40 days, and Luke says “He was hungry”. The devil tried to use this feeling, this human need, to tempt Jesus. Jesus overcame this temptation and the other two with God’s word. As the Son of Man, He was an example to us of one who was tempted, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). In the book of Luke, we are told about other very human feelings of Jesus – tiredness, anger, compassion, sadness, joy and empathy.
Mention of “the Son of Man” in the Old Testament
The “Son of Man” is mentioned 107 times in the Old Testament, 93 of those mentions are in Ezekiel. Probably the most significant of these mentions is in the book of Daniel chapter 7. This is a prophecy of the end of time when God is seated on His throne. Verses 13 – 14 is a mention of the “Son of Man”, Jesus, taking His rightful place and His kingdom is established for ever. “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
Jesus is the Son of Man
Jesus most frequently refers to Himself as the Son of Man, but if challenged He acknowledges that He is also the Son of God. So, both of these two titles can rightly be used of Jesus, and both reveal to us different aspects of who Jesus is. In calling Himself the Son of Man, though, Jesus identifies with us, in our humanity and is our representative before God. Hebrews 4:15 says: “For we do not have a high priest (representative) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin.” And because of this, the next verse says we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)