STUDY 5: JOHN 3 – WHO IS JESUS?

© Rosemary Bardsley 2009

 

A. THE SON OF MAN

The title ‘the Son of Man’ is Jesus’ favourite self-designation, used over eighty times in John’s Gospel.

He uses it in three contexts:

[1] instead of saying “I”;

[2] as the heavenly Son of Man who will come in glory, and

[3] the Son of Man who suffers for our salvation.

 

A.1 The origin of the term ‘the Son of Man’

Jesus probably adopted the title from Daniel 7:13-14. In Daniel’s vision of ‘one like a son of man’ we find the following characteristics:

      • He comes with the clouds of heaven
      • He is accepted in the presence of ‘the Ancient of Days’
      • He was given authority, glory and sovereign power
      • All nations, peoples and men of every language worshipped him.
      • His dominion is everlasting
      • His kingdom will never be destroyed

In this we find an interesting combination of the human and the divine, of man and God. Apart from his human appearance everything about this person is exalted and powerful.

And here in Daniel 7 we find a further interesting fact: the ‘one like a son of man’, who is led into the presence of the Ancient of Days, possesses the same authority and receives the same worship as ‘the Most High’ [verse 27]. This equality between the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days, who is obviously God, is further indicated by the fact that in Ezekiel 1:25-28 a ‘figure like that of a man’ is described in terms of radiant glory similar to Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:9-10. This glory that characterizes Daniel and Ezekiel’s visions of God is that same glory that characterized Jesus in the presence of three disciples [Matthew 17:2], Saul [Acts 9:3] and John [Revelation 1:12-18]. This same glory is implicit in Isaiah’s vision of Christ [Isaiah 6; John 12:41 ], although no mention is made here of the incarnation.

A.2 Why did Jesus use this title?

We might wonder: why did Jesus seem to prefer to use this mysterious title which seems on the surface to speak of his humanity but is really speaking of his deity? Why did he not refer to himself as the Messiah or as the Son of God? Or, even, as God? Why was he so obtuse, almost secretive?

Leon Morris writes:

“Jesus adopted the term, firstly because it was a rare term and one without nationalistic associations. It would lead to no political complications. The public would ... read into it as much as they apprehended of Jesus already, and no more. Secondly because it had overtones of divinity ... ‘the Son of Man is a title of divinity rather than humanity’ (Hickinbotham). Thirdly, because of its societary implications. The Son of man implies the redeemed people of God. Fourthly, because it had undertones of humanity. He took upon Him our weakness. It was a way of alluding to and yet veiling His messiahship, for His concept of the Messiah differed markedly from that commonly held. In the fourth Gospel ... the term is always associated with Christ’s heavenly glory or with the salvation He came to bring.” [pp172,173].

A.3 What does John’s Gospel reveal about the Son of Man?

As noted above Jesus uses the title ‘the Son of Man’ as a substitute for ‘I’ or ‘me’; he also uses this title in association with his heavenly glory; and he uses this title in the context of his suffering for our salvation.

What is revealed about the Son of Man in the following texts from John’s Gospel?

1:51

3:13

3:14-15

5:27

6:27

6:53

6:62

8:28

12:23

12:34

13:31

 

B. THE SON OF GOD

Throughout his Gospel John presents Jesus as someone who existed before his human birth, who was sent down from heaven, and who came into the world. He understands that Jesus exists in a specific relationship with God, indeed that Jesus is the Son of God, who is so identical to God that to see him is to see the Father, to know him is to know the Father.

In the table below write the exact title or phrase by which Jesus Christ is identified or described [excluding ‘Son of Man’], and explain how this title or phrase indicates that Jesus is the eternal God.

Text

Title or phrase referring to Jesus Christ

How does this indicate that Jesus is the eternal God?

3:13

3:16,18

3:17

3:19

3:28

3:29

3:31

 

3:32

3:34

 

3:35