The term, the “Son of man” appears more than eighty times in the Gospels. The Lord Jesus Christ used this distinctive title of Himself to indicate the mystery of His incarnation and His Messianic mission which involves suffering, humiliation, death and final exaltation.
What lessons can we learn from our Lord in the way He addressed Himself as the “Son of man”?
The title “Son of man” calls our attention to Christ’s immaculate conception when He took on human flesh: “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Lk. 1: 34-35).
Our Lord had to take on sinful flesh that He might redeem us from sin. Under the Law, we fail, and stand condemned before the holy God, but Christ paid the penalty of our sin: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8: 3). The apostle Paul reiterated this truth in II Corinthians 5: 21: “For he (God) hath made him (Christ Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”.
As a man, Jesus partook fully of human nature. He had frailties common to every man. Jesus’ physical body was subjected to the infirmities of the flesh like tiredness, thirst and hunger.
o Bodily infirmities
The following incidents in Jesus’ life show clearly these bodily infirmities:
When journeying into Samaria in the heat of the day, Jesus, “wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well”. To quench His thirst, He requested a drink from the Samaritan woman (Jn. 4: 5-7).
Shortly before Jesus began His earthly ministry, He was “led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matt. 4: 1). After fasting “for forty days and forty nights”, Jesus “was afterward an hungred” (Matt. 4: 2). Despite His weak and vulnerable state, our Saviour overcame each temptation of the devil – with the Word of God (Matt. 4: 3-11).
Our Saviour has a tender heart. He shared in the grief of the two sisters, Mary and Martha when Lazarus their brother died. We are told that “Jesus wept” (Jn. 11: 35).
Jesus also wept over the city of Jerusalem and the dreadful judgment facing her because they had wilfully rejected Him and His offer of salvation: “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Lk. 19: 41-44).
When faced with the prospect of the cruel cross, Jesus struggled with deep anguish of the soul in the Garden of Gethsemane. Three times, He prayed that “this cup” be removed from Him: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matt. 26: 39). His agony was so intense that “His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Lk. 22: 44). “This agony shows that Christ struggled hard and was in great distress: for Christ struggled hard not only with the fears of death as other men do (for in this regard many martyrs might seem more constant then Christ), but also with the fearful judgment of his angry Father, which is the most fearful thing in the world: and this was because he took the burden of all our sins upon himself” (Geneva Bible Notes).
As the Son of man, our Saviour participated in the fullness of our trials. He is kind and compassionate. He understands our frailties. He empathises with us in our afflictions and supports us in our struggles: “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4: 14-15). With these blessed thoughts of our Saviour, let us draw nigh to “the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4: 16). (… to be concluded)