From Praying to the Names of Jesus Week Twenty-Two, Day One
Like the Father, Jesus is God. He always was, always is, and always will be. But unlike the Father, Jesus is also a human being. Though charged with blasphemy and crucified for claiming to be one with the Father, Jesus' resurrection validates his claim to be God's Son in a unique way. When we confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, we share in the love the Father has for the Son, becoming adopted children of God.
Though Jesus was the Son of God, he was also the Son of Man, a title that emphasizes both his lowliness and his eventual dominion. Near the end of his life, when the high priest asked him whether he was the Son of God, Jesus no longer avoided the title but said that he would one day "see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64).
When you pray to Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man, you are praying to the One who is your Brother and your Lord.
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven." Matthew 16:15-17
His Name Revealed
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of death will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:13-21
Lord, Jesus, open my eyes to the mystery of who you are — God's only Son who became a man that we might be reconciled to the Father. Open my ears to hear your voice and my heart to do your will. Shape me in your likeness by the power of your Spirit as I grow in greater maturity as a child of the living God.
Understanding the Name
Though the phrase "sons of God" was occasionally used in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Greek phrase "Son of God," Huios tou Theou (hui-OS tou the-OU) belongs to Jesus in a unique way. Jesus himself indicates that he and the Father are one. He is the only man who could bear the title without dishonoring the Father.
But Jesus is God's Son not in the sense that most Westerners think of sonship, as though the Father preexisted him. Instead, Jesus is God's Son in the sense that he shares his nature and represents his intentions. He is fully divine and therefore perfectly capable of representing the Father on earth. Twice in the Gospels — at Jesus' baptism and at the transfiguration — a voice from heaven announced: "This is my Son whom I love." During Jesus' earthly ministry, even the demons recognized Christ as the "Son of God." However, it was this politically charged title that led to Jesus' death, which may be why he avoided it until the end of his life. Recognizing this as a primary title of Christ, the early church baptized those who confessed Jesus Christ as the Son of God. These early believers understood, as we do, that our relationship with Christ enables us to become adopted children of the Father.
Though Jesus was the Son of God, his favorite title for himself was the "Son of Man," Huios tou Anthropou (hui-OS tou an-THROW-pou). It's a somewhat enigmatic title. But certainly a primary meaning of it is that Jesus is the perfect Human Being. He shows us through his life on earth what men and women were intended by God to be before we fell prey to sin. But the title also has messianic connotations and is closely connected with Jesus' second coming.
Together the titles Son of Man and Son of God express the incredible mystery of the incarnation — that the second person of the Trinity came down from heaven to become one of us so that we could be one with him. When Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven, not just as God but also as a man. C. S. Lewis remarked on this truth, saying: "I seldom meet any strong or exultant sense of the continued, never-to-be-abandoned, Humanity of Christ in glory, in eternity. We stress the Humanity too exclusively at Christmas, and the Deity too exclusively after the Resurrection; almost as if Christ once became a man and then presently reverted to being simply God. We think of the Resurrection and Ascension (rightly) as great acts of God; less often as the triumph of Man."
Studying the Name
- How did Jesus fulfill Daniel's vision of "one like a son of man"?
- What do you think it means to say that Jesus is the Son of God?
- Why do you think Jesus cautioned his disciples against telling anyone that he was the Messiah?
- Describe your image of the ideal father. How does this compare with your image of who God is?
- Describe your image of the ideal son or daughter. How does this compare with your image of yourself in relationship to God?
- How does Jesus as the ideal Human Being reflect your understanding of God's purpose for all human beings?
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.