Thursday, April 23, 2015

What Did Jesus Call Himself?

Jesus and His disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, He asked them, “Who do people say I am?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say You are one of the other prophets.” Then He asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah (Christ).” But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about Him. Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later He would rise from the dead. Mark 8:27-31 (NLT) 

In Mark 8, Jesus and His disciples traveled to Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:27). The region of Caesar Philippi is the northern most area of the Holy Land. Then, Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27). The disciples gave Jesus common opinions of the day as to His identity (Mark 8:28). The disciples told Jesus that some called Him: “John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say You are one of the other prophets” (Mark 8:28, NLT). Up until Mark 8, Jesus had been avoiding His true identity to the people. Then, Jesus asked the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Peter answered Jesus as the self-appointed spokesman, “You are the Messiah (Christ)” (Mark 8:29; see also Matthew 16:16; Luke 9:20).  Messiah is the Hebrew word for the Greek word “Christ.” The term “Christ” means the “Anointed One.” The key term was “Christ.” The name “Jesus Christ” means Jesus the Messiah. Jesus commanded His disciples to tell no one about His true identity as the Messiah. Once again, Jesus invoked the Messianic secret to shield His true identity during His public ministry (Mark 8:30).

Then at Mark 8:31, Jesus began to teach His disciples about the Son of Man and the coming suffering and rejection of the Son of Man (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). After Peter’s true confession of His identity, Jesus does not identify Himself as the “Christ.” Instead, Jesus identified Himself as the “Son of Man.” Jesus has many titles in the Holy Scriptures: Son of God (Mark 1:1; Mark 15:39), Messiah (Christ) (Mark 8:29-30; John 20:31), God (Isaiah 40:3; John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 2:9), Lord (Romans 10:9), Prophet (Matthew 21:11), Rabbi or Teacher (John 3:2); Second Adam or Last Adam (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49) and King of the Jews (Matthew 27:37). Jesus is God incarnate (in the flesh) and the fullness of God dwelt within Jesus (John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13). Moreover, Jesus is not just a Messenger from God but Jesus is God (John 1:1; John 20:28; Romans 9:5). However, “Son of Man” was Jesus’ most common title for Himself during His public ministry on earth (e.g., Mark 2:10; Luke 19:10). The first time that Jesus is referred to Himself as the “Son of Man” occurred at Mark 2:10 with the healing of a paralytic man (Mark 2:3-12).

The title “Son of Man” is used fourteen times in Mark's Gospel, and only from the mouth of Jesus. Twelve of these references are found after Mark 8:29 when Apostle Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ of God (see Mark 2:10, 28; Mark 8:31, 38; Mark 9:9, 12, 31; Mark 10:33, 45; Mark 13:26, 34; Mark 14:21, 41, 61-62). Overall, Jesus used this title Son of Man for Himself approximately eighty-one (81) times in the New Testament Gospels. The title “Son of Man” is used three different ways by Jesus. In three instances, Son of Man occurs in an apocalyptic context, as used in Daniel 7 and 1 Enoch 37-69, where the Son of Man comes in judgement. Also, the Son of Man refers to Jesus’ earthly authority and power to forgive sins (Mark 2:10) and supersede the Sabbath (see Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5). The most predominant usage of the Son of Man concerns Jesus’ pending suffering as God’s final sacrifice for human sin (see Mark 8:31; Mark 9:9, 12, 31; Mark 10:33, 45; Mark 14:21, 41). Thus, Jesus’ title as the Son of Man is not merely indirectness for “the human one.”

The “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite designation of Himself during His public ministry on earth. In the Gospels, no one else called Jesus the “Son of Man” except Jesus Himself. Outside the four Gospels, Apostle Paul never called Jesus the Son of Man and Jesus’ disciple never called Jesus “Son of Man.” However, Stephen in the book of Acts called Jesus the “Son of Man.” As Stephen was dying as a martyr in the book of Acts, Stephen sees a vision of the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56). Obviously, Stephen was referring to Jesus. In Acts 7:56, Stephen beheld the ascended Son of Man standing beside the throne of God to receive him into heaven. Also in book of Revelation, the Apostle John had visions of the Son of Man as Judge of the world (see Revelation 1:13; Revelation 14:14-16).  

Prophet Daniel:  “As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into His presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey Him. His rule is eternal — it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14 (NLT)

From the Old Testament, “Son of Man” is used in the apocalyptic sense as seen in Daniel 7:13-14 where the Prophet Daniel envisioned a “the Son of Man” at the end of days appearing before the throne of God. In the book of Daniel, the Son of Man is like a representative of a purified of Israel or a representative of Israel. In Daniel 7:13-14, the Prophet Daniel envisioned an exalted and heavenly Messianic figure “like a Son of Man” (that is, having human form). His exact identity is not specified, but His role is clear: The Most High God has appointed Him to rule an eternal, universal kingdom that will be over all other nations (Daniel 7:14). Also, this heavenly Figure represented His own people, the holy people of the Most High. These holy people will also share in this Son of Man’s Kingdom over all peoples and nations (Daniel 7:22).

The Old Testament book of Ezekiel also used “son of man” in a similar sense (e.g., Ezekiel 2:1-8). In the book of Ezekiel, the term “son of man” is used ninety-three (93) times emphasizing the Prophet Ezekiel’s humanity as he was addressed by the transcendent God. Son of Man comes from the Aramaic word “Barnasha.” “Barnasha” in Aramaic is a synonym for man as first seen in the book of Ezekiel. Yet, Jesus is the ultimate Son of Man who combines within Himself the human aspect of the title with the exalted heavenly aspect (see Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 1:13-20). By obeying where Adam failed, Jesus became the first member of God’s new community of faith. All other children of Adam find hope in Him.

According to the Old Testament, this Messianic figure “like a Son of Man” comes in the end times with the clouds of heaven and He is given great authority, glory and sovereign power (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus also understood Himself as that One who would return to earth in the clouds of heaven (see Mark 8:38; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:61-62; Revelation 1:7). That He comes “with the clouds of heaven” indicates His heavenly origin (Daniel 7:13; see also Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 19:9; Acts 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

One reason Jesus preferred the title “Son of Mas” was because Son of Man was not an inflammatory title such as “Christ” or “Messiah.” The dominate view of the Christ in the first century was that the Christ would be a military and political conqueror that will return the Jews to power and punish the Jews’ enemies (Daniel 9:25-26). Because popular Jewish ideas associated with the term “Christ” were largely political and national, Jesus seldom used Christ to refer to Himself. In the Gospels, Jesus did not want to identify Himself with the normal Jewish understanding of Christ. The title “Son of Man” was largely free of the political and military meanings associated with the Christ. Yet, Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah predicted by the Old Testament (Matthew 1:17).

Also in the New Testament, Jesus appeared to have taken the Jewish apocalyptic notion of the Son of Man as a Warrior Figure that will appear at the end of age to destroy evil. Generally speaking, in Jewish apocalyptic literature there is a Figure that is sometimes called “Son of Man” and sometimes the Son of Man appears as a Warrior Ram. The Son of Man appears at the end of age to engage the forces of evil in the final battle of history. Generally in Jewish literature, the Son of Man generally preceded the Messiah and at other times the Son of Man is usually identified with the Messiah. Either way, the Messiah then sets up His Kingdom on earth. Thus, Jesus’ Jewish audience hearing Jesus referring to Himself as the Son of Man would probably have associated Jesus’ reference to Himself as the Son of Man with a fiery apocalyptic Warrior or military Figure that engage the forces of evil in the final battle of history.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NLT)

The true authority of the “Son of Man” is revealed in Jesus’ humiliation, suffering, and death. The “Son of Man” includes severe suffering as its primary revelation (e.g. see Mark 10:45). Jesus came into this world as a Suffering Servant and Redeemer who would suffer and die for human redemption (salvation) as the Prophet Isaiah clearly predicted at Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (see also Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus often used “Son of Man” to describe Himself as the Suffering Redeemer envisioned by the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52:13–53:12 see also see e.g., Matthew 12:40; Matthew 16:21-28; Matthew 17:9, 12, 22; Matthew 20:18, 28; Matthew 26:2, 24, 45; Luke 9:21-27; Mark 8:29-31; Mark 9:9, 12, 31; Mark 10:33-34, 45; Mark 14:21, 41). Jesus often combined the common Jewish understanding of the Son of Man with another Jewish tradition found at Isaiah 52:13–53:12 concerning the “Suffering Servant.” At Isaiah 52:13–53:12, the Prophet Isaiah envisioned a Suffering Servant that does not fight back against His enemies and He is slayed like a Lamb (see also John 1:29, 35-36; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5). Thus, Jesus combined the notions of Son of Man and Suffering Servant and identified His true identity of coming to destroy the power of evil (see also Mark 3:23-27). As the Son of Man, Jesus came to deliver people from the power of sin and evil (1 Peter 2:22, 24). Jesus does not destroy evil with another evil. Instead, Jesus willingly absorbed the power and forces of evil into His pure body through His sacrificial death on the Cross that we may die to sin and live for righteousness (see also Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:33-34; Romans 5:6; Romans 6:3-14). When Jesus was ridiculed and dead for humanities’ sin, Jesus did not perform the law of revenge (see Romans 12:17-21). As the Son of Man, Jesus destroyed the powers of evil not by meeting evil with another evil. Instead, Jesus soak up evil in Himself and this is the only way evil dies as one does not return evil. This is what is meant that Jesus died for our sins and died in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). The only way to destroy evil is not returning evil! Jesus disarmed and destroyed evil by not returning evil and this is grand paradox of the Son of Man. Jesus also calls His followers to humility, obedience, and suffering to obtain victory over sin and evil (see Matthew 5:39-42, 44-45; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9). Following Jesus requires self-denial, complete dedication to God, and willing obedience to Him (Luke 9:23; John 14:15-21).

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989). 

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