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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Why Did Jesus Call Himself the Son of Man?

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Don Stewart

Jesus' favorite designation, in referring to Himself, was the "Son of Man." The Gospels record some seventy-eight times that Jesus used this title for Himself. For example, when He asked His disciples the question about His identity, He said,

Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? (Matthew 16:13).

Though the Bible does not define its exact meaning, the title "Son of Man" probably refers to the fact that Jesus was perfect humanity. He, as God, came down and lived among us as the perfect human being. By doing this, He fulfilled the Law of Moses and did what no other human being was able to do. By using this title, He is identifying with the people He had come to save.

It Is Connected With His Earthly Life

The title is connected with the earthly life of Jesus.

But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins - he said to the paralytic (Mark 2:10).

Jesus said

So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28).

Jesus also said.

And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Matthew 8:20)

Jesus gave the reason for His coming to earth.

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).

It Is Connected With His Sufferings

"Son of Man" is also connected with the sufferings of Jesus on behalf of humanity.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again (Mark 8:31).

This Speaks Of His Exaltation And Rule

The title "Son of Man" also has to do with his exaltation and rule over humanity.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory (Matthew 25:31).

Jesus said.
The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born (Matthew 26:24).

It Is A Messianic Designation

The title "Son of Man" was a designation for the Messiah. The Book of Daniel predicted that the Son of Man would inherit God's everlasting kingdom.

And behold, one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him. Then to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13,14).

Jesus Employed The Designation At His Trial

When Jesus was on trial and was asked if He were the Messiah, He referred to this prediction:

It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the power, and coming on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64).

This statement infuriated the religious rulers. They accused Him of blasphemy for claiming equal authority with God. It was clear to them that Jesus referred to Daniel's prophecy and hence was claiming to be the Messiah.

The Title Emphasizes That He Was Human

It seems by using the title "Son of Man" Jesus wanted to convey the truth that He was entirely human.


The Son of Man is a title that was used exclusively by Jesus - His disciples never addressed Him as such. Jesus used it to emphasize His humanity. The title goes back to the Book of Daniel where the Son of Man would inherit the everlasting kingdom of God. It is a designation of the Messiah. At His trial Jesus acknowledged that He indeed was the Son of Man - the one who would bring in God's everlasting kingdom. When the religious leaders heard this they accused Him of blasphemy - making Himself equal with God. The purpose of the title seems to be Jesus' own emphasis on His humanity.

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