The Coming Son of Man

A sermon by Pastor Michael Pahl on March 3, 2019, called “The Coming Son of Man.” It is the seventh and last in a series called “Reading the Bible with Jesus.” The sermon is a reflection on Jesus’ use of “Son of Man” to refer to himself, including his use of Daniel 7:13-14 in this.

Here is a written excerpt:

James Tissot, Jésus dans la synagogue déroule le livre

Many times when Jesus uses the phrase “Son of Man,” then, these are the kinds of things he is thinking of: he is the “Human One,” representing the full promise and responsibility of humanity. When he heals on the Sabbath, for example, he says, “Humanity was not made for the Sabbath but the Sabbath for humanity. The Son of Man”—Jesus, in other words, representing all humankind—“is Lord of the Sabbath.”

But there’s still more to all this. There are a few times when Jesus uses “Son of Man” to refer to a specific Old Testament passage, one that puts an extra strong spin on all this: Daniel 7.

We read a snippet of Daniel 7 this morning. If you’re looking for something to read this afternoon, you should check out the whole chapter. It’s a doozy! It was also a pretty popular passage of Scripture in some circles in Jesus’ day.

Daniel 7 describes a dream Daniel had, a prophetic vision. In the dream he sees four beasts, each one more monstrous than the one before. These beasts, we’re told, represent four successive empires in human history: perhaps the ancient Babylonian Empire, then the Persian Empire, then the Greeks and the Seleucids.

Then, in sharp contrast to these horrific, horrible beasts, these inhuman empires, these oppressive powers of this age, “one like a son of man” comes “on the clouds of heaven” into the throne room of God, and God gives this son of man “dominion” over all the earth. In other words, this is a kingdom with a human face, a human touch, a humane kingdom: this is the kingdom of God.

In other, other words, this is humanity fulfilling its original divine purpose: extending God’s reign of love and light and life to all creation.

Here, then, is the significance of all this “Son of Man” language by Jesus. Here is what this odd way of referring to himself is all about.

Jesus comes as “Son of Man,” fully and truly human, sharing in our humanity. As Son of Man Jesus share all our weakness, all our frailty, all the dust and dirt of our bodily existence.

Jesus comes as “Son of Man,” representing us as humankind. As Son of Man Jesus draws us up into God’s presence, paving the way for us to fulfill God’s purpose for us created in God’s image.

Jesus comes as “Son of Man” to receive God’s eternal kingdom and to reign over all the earth in love and light and life, in contrast to all the monstrous, inhuman empires and evil powers that continue to plague our world.

And in Jesus’ birth and life, his baptism and transfiguration, at the cross and in the resurrection and at the renewal of all things, all this is fulfilled. Jesus is this coming Son of Man.

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