Christ - The Son of Man

The integrity of our Saviour’s
manhood is marked by one title which the Lord claimed for Himself with
special emphasis, and which prophecy also had in a most distinct way
applied to Him,—“the Son of man.” Here “man,” in the Hebrew texts, is “Adam,” man generically; and it really settles conclusively the question (if any entertain it) as to His being personally Man.
A son of man is just a man in the broadest sense, one by descent and
inheritance a man. In Ps. 49 a “the low” in our version are just
literally “the sons of Adam”—the commonalty, having nothing to distinguish them from others,—and are so contrasted with the “sons of ish,”
(“the high”) the men of mark in any way whatever. By the use of this
term the Lord comes down, therefore, in the simplest manner, as far as the truth of His humanity is concerned, to the common level. He is not simply “man,” One whom you could call that, though differing far from the race of Adam: He is “Son of man;” deriving His humanity from humanity, with nothing to separate it in kind from
humanity in general,—“made in all things like unto His brethren,” as
the apostle declares. The Christ of Apollinaris, or of some of the
modern Kenotics, would not be a “Son of man.” He would be a divine man,
perhaps; but absolutely separated from humanity in the sons of men:
“brethren” among these He could not have. The force of the term is seen
in the use of it as applied to the prophet Ezekiel, and once in Daniel.
Both lived when things were broken up in Israel; and Ezekiel as the
priest is chosen of God to be the judge, according to the law of
Leviticus in its spiritual application, of the leprous condition of the
people. He is taken to witness their wilful and inveterate apostasy
from Jehovah. After which, as commanded in Leviticus, the demonstration
being complete, the leper is put outside the camp. The glory of the
Lord is seen, though lingeringly, as all unwilling, to depart from the
city (chap. 11:22, 23.)

Now the priest is one “taken from among men,” and thus qualified to be “ordained for men
in things pertaining to God.” (Heb. 5:1.) His humanity makes him to
know men, and to have heart interest in them. And thus we see the
meaning of the priest prophet being addressed, as he is so constantly,
as “son of man.” As we try men before juries of their peers, so man, as
such, is here called to pronounce on men. As man and as a
priest for men, he is one who will use compassion, and therefore his
judgment will be more complete and final, impossible to be objected
against. His judgment is appealed to here, therefore, as “son of man.”
(chapter 20:4; 22:2.)

But Ezekiel is only in this the mouth
piece and representative of God Himself. The judgment is, of course,
God’s judgment. How striking is it, therefore, to find, when we lift up
our eyes, with the prophet, to that awful throne above the firmament,
to find there too (chap. 1:26) “the likeness of the appearance of a
Man”! the first time in Scripture that we find even the “appearance” there.

The tenderness that is implied in all
this, though it cannot avert the present judgment, comes out, how
fully, before the close of these prophecies, when, the people being at
last cleansed by divine grace from all their iniquities, Ezekiel is
taken to be a witness now of their restoration and blessing. City and
temple are seen built up anew, and the glory of God returns to its old
place among them. Holiness and love are thus both at last satisfied,
and the law of the leper is illustrated in both its parts, the judgment
and the grace.

Daniel is only once addressed as “son
of man,” (chap. 8:17) but the prophecy of the Son of man—or strictly,
of “One like unto a Son of man” (7:13, 14)—to whom, coming in the
clouds of heaven, is given a universal and everlasting dominion, is
given us by him: a prophecy which is echoed and enlarged upon in the
New Testament. In the eighth psalm, though more enigmatically
expressed, we have by the mouth of David what anticipates and is the
foundation of this. And here we have, strikingly expressed, the thought
conveyed to us by this title; Christ being the full utterance and
justification of God’s delight in man.

What is man, if you look at him under the light of the glory of the heavens? what is he, this creature of earth, enosh, “frail man” or the “son of
man,” ordained to come into his inheritance by a way so characterized
by weakness, and which so perfectly marks God’s estimate of him? Ah,
you must take in Christ to find the answer. He too is Man,—yea, the Son
of man: come down to manhood in this significant weakness which in Him
united to Deity itself is the manifestation of the moral glory of God,
so that it is set above the heavens, those created heavens
whose glory had just now made man look so poor and contemptible! What
are they now to Man in Jesus? to the Son of man?

Here then is He of whom a later psalm
speaks as “the Son of man whom Thou hast made strong for Thyself”
(80:17); and His exaltation and kingdom are the necessary result. Gone
down to the lower parts of the earth for the suffering of death, He is
“ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.”
(Eph. 4:10.) In Him, as the angels at His birth declared, God has shown
His “good pleasure in men.” (Luke 2:14, Greek.) It is manhood
as God made it at the beginning, which God has thus taken up in the
Person of Christ, or the psalmist’s challenge goes after all unanswered.

True, it may be, and it will be, in very different condition. As,
for instance, the “spiritual body” of the resurrection is very
different from the “natural,” or “psychical body,” as we have seen. Yet
even here the identity of the body itself is assured us. That which is
sown a natural is raised a spiritual body: identity as to the person is
maintained under even such a change of condition as this implies; “we shall
be changed,” but it will still be “we.” And it is man and the son of
man that the psalmist sees, at first so poor and weak, and now so
unutterably glorified in Christ our Lord. Otherwise, I say again, the
psalmist’s question remains unanswered, and must ever remain

This being so, the Lord’s constant use
of this term becomes intelligible throughout. He uses it as the
simplest and most intelligible one, which no one, so to speak, would
deny, and yet which upon His lips conveys so much: Whom do men say that
I the Son of man am?” (Matt. 16:12.) Son of man, just by its common
application to men at large, He must be, of course; and yet in His
application of it to Himself it becomes distinctive by its very
universality: for who would dream of speaking of himself as “the Son of
man,” except as implying that He was more than this meant as to other
men? The Lord might address the prophet in this way, as reminding him
of what he was, but no man, speaking among the sons of men, could
distinguish himself by what was not distinctive. If it were distinctive of Him, then He was the Son of man in some sense that others were not; not less truly so, but more: and so He was—the One son
of man upon whom the shadow of the fall had never been: Man, and of
man, yet in more than all the promise of his first creation; God’s Man
indeed, justifying that creation itself, as all else had dishonored it;
and thus having in Himself the promise for men of a new creation,
by which they too at last should fulfill the purpose of the Creator;
“Lord of the sabbath,” as He who shall bring in, in such wise as to be
violated no more, the rest of God.

But for this the Son of man must
suffer, must be lifted up, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the
wilderness,” giving His “flesh” thus “for the life of the world;” but
“glorified” in this ability to work out in the extreme of human
weakness the purposes of God. “God” thus “glorified in Him,” He must
“also glorify Him in Himself,” yea, “straightway glorify Him.”

In such scriptures the “Mediator, the
Man Christ Jesus,” is set before us. They show us, if there could be
question of it, how His perfect manhood had to do with the atonement
wrought. And while on the one hand it is said that “we are reconciled
to God by the death of His Son,” and that “God sent forth His Son to
redeem,” yet, when we come to the details of this glorious work, the lifting up of the Son of man is
that by which is indicated for us the bearing of curse by which “Christ
redeemed us from curse,” (Gal. 3:13) “for it is written, Cursed is
everyone that hangeth on a tree.” Throughout, it is one
blessed Person; but Scripture is perfect in the way these things are
put. If it would win our hearts with the amazing gift that God has
given for us,—if it would show the power that has laid hold upon
us,—then it speaks of the work of the Son of God. If on the
other hand we are to think of the actual suffering and sin bearing,
then it sets before us Christ, or Jesus Christ, or the Son of man; and
the last is more the Lord’s own language, while the former is that of
the apostles. The two may be put together where it says, “the blood of
Jesus Christ, God’s Son,” but it is a false emphasis that would pass
over the first part of this, to fasten itself upon the last. We have
many times over, “the blood of Christ, of Jesus, of Christ Jesus, of
the Son of man, of the Lord, of the Lamb;” once, “God’s Son,” is added to this.

It is one Person throughout, and all
these wondrous names are His; but Scripture is in such delicate
adjustment that it is easy to disturb the balance of it. As surely as
we do, we find in result that we are losing the equipoise of truth
itself. A false emphasis upon the truth is the beginning of error.

The “Son of man” speaks of what the
Son of God became in order to redeem us. It insists upon His manhood,
true, full manhood, by which He became, for His believing people, the
typal, representative Man before the eye of God. As this the
“meal-offering of first-fruits” (Lev. 2:14–16) sets Him forth. But,
really to avail for them, He must go beyond this type, and be the Sin
bearer in their behalf. For this He becomes the Christ, the One
Anointed to be Prince and Saviour. For this He dies the death of the
Cross, and becomes, as risen from the dead, the “last Adam.” Head of a
new race of men.

In this we are but touching things
that we must take up later. What remains for us here is but the
connection of this title “Son of man” with the prophecies of the
future, which the Lord takes up from Daniel’s vision of the
world-empires, and applies to Himself. All judgment is given to Him
because He is the Son of man (Jno. 5:27); and here we find in fact
Ezekiel’s vision perfected. With full knowledge of man, with abundant
tenderness for man, Himself the Representative Man before God, it is He
to whom it belongs to settle all things on the basis of a righteousness
which He has glorified. “The likeness of the appearance of a Man” upon
the throne comes into realization, and the vision of Daniel takes full
place as the hope of Israel and of the earth. It is indeed connected
with the appraisement of responsibilities, and the solemnity of
judgment to come: when the Son of man comes with the glory of His
Father and with His holy angels, He shall reward every man according to
his works; but this can adjust itself to the gospel and to a hope that
shall not disappoint. The Son of man is the true Bridegroom of His
people, and judgment itself only clears the way for the exhibition of
all the fullness of a grace which the fact of His manhood sufficiently

Yes, hope, full, glorious hope is in
this title of the Son of man. It cannot be separated from it. It is for
David’s house what the Branch out of the root of Jesse is, but wider in
its promise and tenderer in its implications:—a Son of man in whom
alone man’s cut off years renew themselves, and now with divine
strength. The hosts of heaven wait upon Him, zealous to do His
pleasure; but our hearts go back to One amid the scanty group of His
disciples, giving them as the pattern for their imitation, and an inlet
into the glory of heaven itself, the “Son of man, come not to be
ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for

We surely see from all the relations
in which we find this title of Son of man,—if even it be that under
which the Lord takes the Kingdom or assumes the judgeship of the human
race,—that it implies (apart from sin and all its consequences)
humanity in its complete likeness to our own. It is because of this
that He is indeed the suited judge of men. Defect of any kind would
here be fatal. The Apollinarian Christ would be far removed from
likeness to the sons of men. The substitution of the divine for a human
spirit would be the deprivation of that which gives to manhood its
distinctive character. The loss of personality would make impossible
“the Man Christ Jesus;” and thus the “One Mediator,” who is this same
blessed “Man,” would disappear for us (1 Tim. 2:5).

These ways in which the Lord is presented to us in Scripture show how near to
dual personality we have to come in any simple apprehension of its
statements. Their very boldness (when we realize who it is that is
spoken of) exhibits a characteristic feature of inspiration, which does
not concern itself with mere mental perplexities, in matters that are
so evidently beyond us. We cannot fathom the Christ of God. We can
realize how perfectly—divinely—on both sides He suits us; though we may
be quite unable to put the two sides together. Dual personality would not suit
us; but we want One who is both perfectly human and truly divine,—one
who can sleep in the storm on the sea, and rise and still the storm.
Such a Saviour we have got—how good to know it!—if we can see nothing
besides His heart of love that unites the two together.

Take, then, the Lord in His childhood
life in Nazareth, and think of His waxing strong in spirit, growing in
wisdom as in stature, in favor with God and man (Luke 2:40, 52). How
perfectly is He man; how really within human limits; a marvellous
Child, yet a Child, as He is plainly called. Who shall adjust the
divine to the human here, omniscience to growing knowledge? Shall we
attempt it? What would it be but to exercise ourselves in things too
high for us, and prove but the pride of our hearts? Would heart or
conscience find deeper rest or satisfaction in Him, if we were able to
comprehend what for all these centuries has been inquired into and
speculated upon, with no more knowledge achieved at the end than at the

But assuredly it is the Son of man I
find here,—a Person in all the truth of humanity; and who shall deny me
the happiness of drinking in the grace that has here stooped down to
the condition of a child, so that a child may realize His sympathy and
adore Him for His love? Thank God that none can deny me: it is as open
to one as to another; and the love is as unfathomable in it as is the

The Old Testament, in a passage
well-known, but to which we naturally turn in such a connection as
this, to admire afresh its sublimity and beauty, brings together in
sharpest contrast such oppositions as these. It is the voice of the
Lord to Israel that we hear in it, but we soon recognize it as familiar
to us. It asks:—

“Where is the bill of your mother’s
divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to
whom I have sold you?” Nay, the Lord is not so poor:—“Behold, for your
iniquities have ye sold yourselves; and for your transgressions is your
mother put away.”

And now comes out the controversy that He has with them: “Wherefore, when I came, was
there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is My hand
shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to
deliver?” Here is Jehovah Himself come as a Saviour to them, but there
is no response; He is not recognized, or credited with power to redeem.
And we know well when this was: when One came to His own, and His own
received Him not; and though the power of God was in His hand, and He
used it for them without stint, yet they would not believe in His
gracious visitation.

Now He openly declares Himself:—

“Behold, at My rebuke I dry up the
sea, and make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh because
there is no water, and dieth for thirst. I clothe the heavens with
blackness, and make sackcloth their covering.”

But it was not in this guise He had
come; and the voice becomes strangely altered. It drops into a softer
key, and is now appealingly human:—

“The Lord God hath given me the tongue
of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him
that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to
hear as the learner.”

We need not for our purpose go
further. The prophet does, and shows us Christ in His suffering and
rejection plainly enough. Here, however, we have already the contrast
we are seeking. It is the Almighty who is come in servant’s form: it is
He who is strangely taking the place of obedience and acquiring the
tongue of the learned for the ministry of grace to individual need, if
the nation at large reject Him. For this He becomes Himself a learner,
and is wakened morning by morning to “hear” as that. Yet it is the One
who dries up the sea and makes the rivers a wilderness. Who shall put
these things together? For satisfaction to the intellect, no one can.
Yet even the intellect may be satisfied another way: namely, in the
assured conviction of its inability to understand one’s own being—to
know how “spirit and soul and body” make up one man. Is it so
wonderful, then, that there should be modes of the Infinite that baffle
us altogether? or that “no man knoweth the Son but the Father?”

Let us turn reverently to another
scene in which we find Him whose name is “Wonderful”—to the awful scene
of Gethsemane. Here the “cup” which He took upon the cross is causing
Him agony in the anticipation of it. Three times He prays that, if it
were possible, it might pass from Him; and to this He adds the words so
familiar to us, “not My will, but Thine be done.”

The cup could not pass. He needs must
drink it. But when we realize it as that which, expressed outwardly by
the three hours of darkness, has its inner meaning in the agonizing
cry, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” we can understand
that it was the very necessity of His holy nature that He shrank from
it and could not take it as of His own will, but only as the divine
will for Him. Here, surely, we have a perfect and therefore a real,
human will. He is as true man as any man can be; and personally man, as
such a will must prove Him. We are again beyond the limit of
comprehension here, if we say, as we must say, “Yes, but He is none the
less divine;” but we are not beyond the limit of enjoyment or of faith.

At the cross we find the cup
itself—the awful abandonment; but who shall explain it? Or who shall
tell us how He is, all through, the Man of faith, yea the pattern of
faith? Shall we not rather drop all such questioning, and believe,
where alone belief finds its opportunity,—where we see not?

How grandly the 102nd psalm faces the
seeming contradiction; putting it in the strongest way in the mouth of
the blessed Sufferer, crying out:—

“Because of Thine indignation, and Thy
wrath: for Thou hast lifted me up and cast me away. My days are like a
shadow that is lengthened; and I am withered like grass...He weakened
my strength in the way: He shortened my days. I said, O my God, take me
not away in the midst of my days; Thy years are throughout all

Thus the contrast between man and
God—between God and man fading away under divine wrath—is vividly
realized. And now comes the answer of God to Him:—

“Of old hast Thou laid the foundations of the earth; and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt
continue: and they all shall grow old as a garment: as a vesture Thou
shalt change them, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same,
and Thy years shall have no end.”

Here is
God, suffering as a man, and at the hand of God! the cross in its
deepest mystery is told out: we see that it is recognized, faced, but
not explained. Christ is Himself “the mystery of godliness God manifest
in the flesh.” And here is all that we can say about it.


F W Grant