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God’s Word for You

Luke 17:22 Son of man

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, November 16, 2018

22 He said to the disciples, “A time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man but you will not see it.”

This was spoken to his disciples, not to the Pharisees. The disciples of Jesus would know many days of persecution, pain, and death. They would long for the days when Jesus was with them, but especially for the end, when the Lord Jesus Christ will come in his glory and end their afflictions and begin his eternal reign in heaven. Lenski’s phrase is worth repeating: “Just one (day), as a breathing spell in your afflictions.” It was so much more than the days of his ministry they would long for. It would be the Last Day.

In this Gospel, Jesus calls himself the “Son of man” twenty-five times. Perhaps this isn’t the time or place for a full analysis of this title, for a great deal has been written about it. But we should say something. “Son of man” (ben-adam) occurs 100 times in the Old Testament, and as tou hiou tou anthropou (τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) 86 times in the New Testament. 93 of these occur in the Prophet Ezekiel as a title God gave to the prophet (Ezekiel 2:1, etc.), and it only fails to appear in seven chapters of that book (Ezekiel 9, 10, 19, 41, 42, 45, 46). Except for four passages (Numbers 23:19; Job 25:6; Psalm 80:17 and Daniel 8:17), every other occurrence of “Son of man” is a reference to Jesus Christ. As a title for Jesus, we can say these things:

  • It was coined by Jesus, probably based on its use in Daniel 7:13 and Psalms 8:4 and 144:3.
  • Jesus always uses it in the third person (never “I,” but always “he”).
  • Both “Son” and “man” are singular, and both have a definite article. It is never “a son of a man” = a human being. It is always The Son of man.
  • Jesus always uses this title as a subject or object in a sentence, never as the predicate.

“There is a mystery in the title, which is still felt today as we read the record of its use by Jesus in the Gospels” (Lenski). In Hebrews 2:6, the cryptic aside by David, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4) is applied directly to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. He is the second Adam, the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), the new beginning for all mankind. He was not born like other men, but he is the Word of God made flesh, “eternally begotten of the Father.” One of my professors, discussing this title in a dogmatics class, remarked: “The Pharisees didn’t like it when he called himself the ‘Son of God,’ so he said, ‘Fine, I’ll call myself the Son of man.’ But they still understood that he meant the same thing. Both titles mean that he is the Messiah, the one and only Son of God.” Jesus drew this title from Daniel 7:13-14, perhaps because the Jews had never done so. Completely misunderstanding what the Messiah would be, the Jews were looking for a rule of God on earth that centered on the land of Israel, the physical location of Jerusalem, as many Jews still do today. But Jesus proclaimed a reign of God in the heart in a spiritual, unseen, invisible Christian Church.

Jesus bears his human nature in a way that is unlike anyone else. We, the sons and daughters of men, are not the sons and daughters of God (by faith) in the same way Jesus is the Son of God, nor are we sons and daughters of men in the same way Jesus is the Son of man, which is by conception made in a spiritual way through a woman without a man. He is the Word made flesh (John 1:14) and not descended from a sinful father. His purpose in coming was to submit to the Law of Moses in order to make the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. He could not do that unless he was a man himself, and it would not have value enough for all mankind unless he was also truly God. And so the Son of God became God incarnate as the Son of man. He is our salvation. He is the one sacrifice that atoned for all of our sins. Through the Son of man, we have forgiveness and everlasting life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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