Jesus: Son of God or Son of Man?

Today is Good Friday and despite it being common knowledge that today is probably not the actual day of Christ’s death, today is the day that many people around the world (including myself) think about that special day. So, happy Easter because I wish everyone at all times joy so why stop now?

I have been thinking about God in a completely different way recently and that has a lot to do with the book I am currently reading – The Shack. It is mind-blowing! I won’t talk about it further because I’ll probably put a post up about it as soon as I finish reading it.

What I will share about the book is that it beautifully illustrates the trinity (although difficult to grasp at times). I’ve found it difficult over the years to understand the trinity. I accepted it but I didn’t understand or should I say, I didn’t want to really understand…

It seemed easier to understand an all-powerful God that sits on the throne of judgment demanding a righteous life from his followers than understanding this all-about-love Jesus guy! I now know I didn’t truly regard Jesus as God himself so my mind was all over the place…#readtheshack

I want to share an article I wrote back in 2008 while I was studying at the London School of Economics. I had the task of tackling a highly disputed question about Jesus Christ and I had to delve deep into the bible to come up with an answer. It’s great writing about a topic you are confused about. If you successfully write coherently, you’re unlikely to become less confused than you were before. That’s what happened in my case.

You can view the article on the relijournal site here.

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Prepared for the usual flood of unwanted mail courtesy of LSE’s associates, I opened my mailbox a few days ago not expecting to find anything in particular other than “junk” mail. In all honesty, I only opened an email from the Christian Union out of guilt from all the unread mail I had received from them that was present in my inbox. To my surprise, I read a message that was far from junk and one that left me eager to read ALL of my messages from the CU! There was going to be a talk held by Robert Hutton from Bloomberg on journalism and writing for student media, in particular about faith-related issues. Unfortunately it clashed with one of my classes. However, after responding to the message and explaining that although I was unable to attend, I wanted to be involved in future writing on faith issues, I was given three days to produce an answer to; “Jesus: Son of God or Son of Man”?

I took a good half an hour just looking at the question and thinking about it. This was going to be harder than I had initially thought. What struck me about the question was the use of the word “or”. The question seemed to imply that Jesus was one or the other and my job would be to state which one He was. However, as the bible states on many occasions, Jesus was both the Son of God and the Son of Man — I will elaborate further in the rest of this article.

Jesus is not God’s Son in the sense of how we think of a father and a son; God and a female did not conceive him. Jesus is God’s Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in human form. John 1:1 declares, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The chapter goes on to say in John 1:14 that, “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” Jesus is this word, which was God himself. How so you may ask, well imagine if you were able to separate yourself from your words in a sort of cloning manner. If you then put your words in a baby growing in a womb, that baby would grow to be a clone of you — made up of you, from you and thus; you. As John 4:24 states, “God is spirit.” so in order for God to dwell among us He needed a body to inhabit because I don’t know about you, but I would be pretty freaked out if I heard words coming from what I could not see! Hence, the word came in human form. Jesus was the Son of God because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, (Luke 1:35) and came from God.

As I researched scripture in the Bible to help me answer the question at hand, I was amazed to notice that Jesus was declared the Son of God on numerous occasions not just by his followers and Himself, but also by people possessed by evil spirits and even the Devil himself. In the story where Jesus drives demons out of two demon-possessed men into a herd of pigs the demons shout, “What do you want with us, Son of God?…Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Matthew 8:29) When Jesus is tempted by the Devil in the desert, the Devil asks him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3). Both the evil spirits and the Devil acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God. The evil spirits feared what Jesus would do to them because of their knowledge that Jesus was the Son of God. The Devil tempted Jesus because he knew he was the Son of God and foolishly believed he could play mind-games (gosh, how totally childish) and make Jesus sin in the process of proving he was the Son of God.

Having said this, Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” eighty-eight times in the New Testament of the Bible. So what does this mean? Is the Bible contradicting itself? If the Bible says that Jesus is the Son of God, how can He also be the Son of Man? The phrase “Son of Man” is ambiguous and both meanings apply to Jesus. The first meaning of the phrase is as a reference to the prophesy from the prophet Daniel in the Old Testament. Daniel 7:13-14 reads, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven…And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” The description “Son of Man” was a Messianic title, so when Jesus used this phrase in relation to himself, he was assigning the “Son of Man” prophesy to himself. Though this language isn’t common to us today, the Jews in Jesus’ era would have been intimately familiar with the phrase and to whom it referred. The Jews would have understood that Jesus was proclaiming himself as the Messiah.

The second meaning of the phrase, “Son of Man” is that Jesus truly was a human being. In the book of Ezekiel in the Old Testament, God calls the prophet Ezekiel “Son of Man” ninety-three times. God was simply using this title for Ezekiel because he was a son of man — a human being. As discussed, Jesus was fully God (John 1:1), but he was also a human being (John 1:14). 1 John 4:2 tells us, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” So, Jesus was the Son of God — He was in His essence God. Yes, Jesus was also the Son of Man — He was in His essence a human being as well. Thus the Phrase “Son of Man” indicates that Jesus is both the Messiah — the Son of God and that He is truly a human being.

On that note I will end with a verse spoken by a Jewish centurion present at Jesus’ crucifixion that saw Jesus’ death and in my opinion, fully answers the question;

“Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).

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