Two thousand years ago in Bethlehem in the land of Israel, a baby was born and placed in an animal feeding trough. By the standards of the day, his parents were undistinguished — a carpenter and a homemaker.
Yet the Manger Baby grew to be the most influential man of history. Who was He? A look at the titles He earned will shed light on the Manger Baby‘s identity.
Throughout the ages, leaders of nations have claimed many august titles. Military officers have earned numerous honors. Politicians have boasted strings of official titles. Scholars have accumulated multiple degrees.
But there is one man of history whose titles far surpass all others, both in quantity and quality. The titles ascribed to the Manger Baby include Prince of Peace, Second Adam, Lion of Judah, Son of God, Everlasting Father, Wonderful Counselor, Savior, Mighty God, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
This man is also rightly titled Creator and Sustainer: He undergirds all of science and nature, “for by Him all things were created, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16,17). The universe and all it contains would disintegrate apart from the moment-by-moment sustaining power of this man.
There is no mistaking the holder of so many titles. Jesus of Nazareth is the most titled man in history! There are over 300 Names and Titles of Jesus in the Bible. Merely to read aloud all the titles of worth, dignity, and honor ascribed to Him in Scripture takes a full five minutes.
The most common title for Jesus in the New Testament is Christ (529 times), meaning Anointed One. It’s the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew title Messiah.
This title identifies One appointed by God Almighty to rescue humanity from sin. It was the most critical and most difficult task of history–a job nobody else could do.
The task was to pay the penalty for sin by dying as a sinless man in man’s stead. Had it not been accomplished, all would be destined for hell. The Resurrection was proof that Jesus successfully completed this mission (Acts 17:31).
A close second for the most common title is Lord, a title once reserved primarily for God the Father. This title recognizes Jesus’ authority over all creation. He will judge everyone at the end of time based on obedience to His Word (John 5:22,27; 12:48).
Jesus rarely used “Christ” or “Lord”. He referred to both when He asked the Pharisees how the Christ could be David’s son if David called Him Lord. This is the question that once and for all extinguished the Pharisees’ attempts to trap Him verbally, for “no one dared from that day on to ask Him another question.” (Matthew 22:41-46)
THE SON OF MAN
A distant third in frequency is the title The Son of Man. Yet from another perspective this title ranks #1, because The Son of Man is Jesus’ favorite designation for Himself.
“Son of Man” occurs 87 times in the Gospels. All were by Jesus except once when listeners equated “Son of Man” with “Christ” and asked who the Son of Man was (John 12:34).
The Son of Man is a perplexing title. What did Jesus intend to communicate by its use?
Yahweh called Ezekiel “son of man” 93 times to emphasize Ezekiel’s humanity. Certainly Jesus’ use includes reference to His own genuine humanness (John 1:14). But it was also a claim to something far more.
The title Son of Man comes from the prophet Daniel who saw a vision: “With the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. To Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)
Daniel’s vision was of the court of heaven preparing to judge the world. The Son of Man was the Judge to whom all dominion, authority, and glory was given with an everlasting kingdom. When Jesus identified Himself as The Son of Man, He was claiming to be this divine person Daniel saw.
His hearers understood this, for His use of the title sometimes enraged them. If Jesus meant simply “I am human” by calling Himself The Son of Man, no one would have disputed such a claim or become angry over it, much less been driven to murderous rage.
Jesus always used the definite article with Son of Man, thereby indicating a specific person. He was The Son of Man from Daniel, not a son of man like Ezekiel.
As The Son of Man He claimed
– authority to forgive sins (Luke 5:24),
– to be mankind’s Savior (Mark 10:45),
– power to rise from the dead (Mark 10:33-34),
– authority over angels (Matthew 13:41),
– authority to return to judge the world (Matthew 16:27; John 5:27), and
– ultimate Kingship (Matthew 16:28).
These prerogatives which He claimed as The Son of Man are prerogatives of Deity.
As The Son of Man Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5). His hearers knew the Sabbath was instituted by the Almighty at Creation. They would have understood the Lord of the Sabbath was the One who created the Sabbath, namely Almighty God.
Six times in the Gospels Jesus specifically referenced Daniel’s Son of Man prophecy. In His trial before the Sanhedrin when the High Priest asked whether He was “the Christ, the Son of God,” Jesus replied from Daniel 7: “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see The Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64)
The reaction — tearing robes, “He blasphemes,” “He deserves death”, spitting in His face, beating and slapping Him — shows the High Priest and Sanhedrin understood His The Son of Man claim was a claim to Godship. That’s why they charged Him with blasphemy and condemned Him to death. (Matthew 26:65-67)
Jesus’ many uses of “The Son of Man” reveal the full, multi-orbed understanding Jesus had of Himself, giving insight about how He understood His own identity and mission.
Why did Jesus refer to Himself almost exclusively as The Son of Man?
I think there are three main reasons. First, it reflected His awareness of being the Messiah when discussing His death and resurrection.
Second, Jesus came to redeem man as the representative of the human race, the Second Adam. He called Himself The Son of Man to convey profound identification with mankind.
Third, the title “The Son of Man” half-concealed as well as half-revealed who He was. Just as Jesus used parables to conceal truths from casual listeners but reveal them to true seekers (Matthew 13:10-17), so also He was circumspect about revealing His full identity.
The Son of Man, Creator of heaven and earth, the Lord Christ our Redeemer — this is the Manger Baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. He alone is worthy of devotion, obedience, and worship.
2-minute YouTube video from Living Waters
Christmas selections from a majestic Scriptural concert (Handel’s Messiah).
Questions to Ponder
- What is your favorite title for Jesus? Why?
- Jesus is the reason for the season. How do you plan to honor The Son of Man?
Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.
Click Christmas Articles to read my other blog posts on Christmas topics.
Soli Deo Gloria.
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday December 24, 2014 A.D.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:4-11)