Do you want to know why Jesus is called the Son of Man? – Let me give you a common understanding and then a more sophisticated historical understanding.
what is the difference between son of God and son of Man?
The common understanding is that the “ Son of God ” implies His deity – which is true – and that the “ Son of Man ” implies His humanity, which it also does.
He was a son of a man, that is, a human being. And he is the Son of God, inasmuch as he has always existed as the Eternally Begotten One, who proceeds from the Father forever.
Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, with all of the divine nature wholly in Him.
He was born of a virgin. Jesus had a human father, but he didn’t have sex with this virgin until Jesus was conceived. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary.
So he is human – fully human. With this term, the Bible wants to emphasize that he is fully human.
So this is a common understanding: he is divine and human – two natures, one person.
Son of Man and the Vision in Daniel 7
The most sophisticated and important historical insight is that the term “Son of Man” does not just align with humanity.
If you study the term in the Synoptic Gospels, you will see that he most often referred to himself not as the Son of God, but rather as the Son of Man.
He said things like, in Mark 10:45, “ The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many .” So he is called Son of Man very often.
…and I saw the son of a man, coming with the clouds of heaven. To him were given authority, glory, and kingdom; all peoples, nations, and men of all languages worshiped him… Daniel 7:13,14
In Daniel 7, we see that the Son of Man is a very exalted figure: not just a human figure, but an exalted figure.
Jesus lived fully in the conditions of a son of a man
This was Jesus’ favorite self-designation. The reason he did this is that apparently, Son of Man is a common phrase for “a human being”.
He was born of a man. But those with ears to hear remembered the prophecy written years ago in Daniel 7, and Christ was claiming a very high role in redemptive history.
Jesus was very subtle as he was always opening up his identity to those who had eyes to see.
He presented himself as the promised Messiah using the expression ‘ son of man ‘, which Daniel had recorded in the holy scriptures.
Christ had to take a very narrow course in disclosing his identity, not just openly saying, “ I am the Messiah, I am the King of the world. Come and acknowledge me as king .” He didn’t say it like that.
Jesus was quiet. He was subtle. And he would make claims explicit in certain situations and implicit in others.
And only when the time was right – especially when he was on trial for his life, and they said, “ Are you the Christ, the Son of the living God? ”
– He said: “ I am, and you will see the Son of Man, coming with great power and glory. ” So he confessed his divinity right at the point where he knew he would be crucified for it.
So the term has the double meaning of being human and, according to Daniel 7 , the exalted heaven. And Jesus means communicating both.
What did Jesus mean by “the Son of man”?
The term Son of Man occurs in Matthew 32 times, in Mark 15 times, in Luke 26 times, and in John 12 times.
In the first three gospels, the title is always recorded as having been used by Christ and never by an angel, man, or devil.
Of the 12 occasions in John, 10 are from the lips of Christ; only twice was the expression used by men, and then only to criticism and disbelief:
“We have heard from the law that the Christ lives forever: and why do you say, The Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?”
These are the only two occasions in all the gospels where the term is found on the lips of anyone but Christ.
Son of man is Christ’s own description of Himself, and it is the term that links Him with humanity and shows His close and positive relationship with the human race.
The Temptation of the Son of Man
To illustrate in particular, I take the story of the temptation, where the Lord is seen standing entirely on the level of humanity.
He was in the wilderness, being tempted as a man, as a representative of the human race; and this is not merely my point of view, it was his own statement.
In response to the first temptation, He said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone.”
That is, in effect, I am in this wilderness on the human level, as the Son of Man taking the place that all other people must take. I obey the law of God that conditions the life of mankind.
In response to the second temptation, He said, “It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and He only shall you serve.”
Thus, He placed himself within the divine limitation of any other human life and declared that he was living according to the law that all other human beings must obey if he is to fulfill his life.
In response to the third of these temptations, He said, “It is written… Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
Thus he declared that the law which governed Him was exactly the same as that which governed other people.
The terms that indicate His relationship to men are those that prove His absolute kinship with the human race, His complete identification with human experience.