Session #3  (Most quotes are NIV)


For the bulk of His ministry, Jesus referred to himself as “The Son of Man.”  He didn’t call himself “Son of David” or “Messiah” or even “Prophet.”  What purpose did this title serve, and where did he get this name?

The name “Son of Man” refers to a strange passage in Daniel 7:13-14 “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.

During the four centuries leading up to Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was a time when Apocalyptic literature was thriving.  It told in glowing picture language of a coming era when God would return the land to prosperity and peace, when the evil rulers would perish and those who loved God would be elevated and honored.  But it did so with “code words” of bizarre beasts, numbers and eerie visions (the 2nd half of Daniel in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New Testament are Apocalyptic–and other writings which are not in the Bible).  The message was always the same:  God will get us through this terrible ordeal—just wait it out!  He is still in control.

What did the rabbis think the “son of man” in Daniel 7 meant?  They had no idea!  What expectations were connected to this term?  None!  When Jesus selected “Son of Man” as his favorite designation for himself, He could then add any meaning he wanted people to know.

If Jesus had called himself “Son of David” or “Messiah,” the crowds would have thought immediately about the things they had been taught (see Session #2 Jewish Expectations About the Coming Messiah).  And of course, they would have tried to make him “King of the Jews!”  (remember that mocking title Pilate affixed to the cross?  See John 19:19 “Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.”  We will have more to say about that later.)

When He called himself “Son of Man,” the crowds of people would have merely said  “Huh?”  There were no nationalistic overtones to this name, no expectations of a bread-king or a Rome-killer.  And then Jesus could tell them what He wanted them to know.  It was a title which did two things:  it hid the real Jesus from the crowd (the Messiah) but it also revealed the real Jesus to the crowd (the true meaning of “Messiah” and not the rabbinical one).  Until he was ready to die, Jesus would not come forth and say “I am the Messiah!  I am the Son of God!”

At the Passover, when the time was right to die and Jesus had allowed himself to be arrested, there was no more reason to be cryptic.  He spoke plainly and in a completely different way.  How did Jesus use the term “Son of Man” to reveal Himself as God Almighty?   Mark 14:63-64  Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  That’s Daniel 7, all right, and Jesus is saying “I am the Messiah you never saw coming.  All people will worship me and my kingdom will never be destroyed!”

Jesus had prepared his “Coming Out Party” as the Messiah a week earlier—in Jericho!  But the plot of the Jewish leaders to kill Jesus was even earlier in Bethany at the event of raising Lazarus from the dead.  This was the final straw for Caiaphas.  John 11:49-50 “Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’”  The Jewish leaders were looking for a chance to kill Jesus from that day onward.  However, they would have to wait until the coming Passover.

Just as an aside, many liberal scholars claimed for years that this passage in John was wrong, because the Jewish High Priest was a “lifetime job” and not just for a year.  However, we have learned that the Romans had become pretty well fed up with the Jewish whining, complaining, lack of cooperation, uprisings, etc., and had decided that THEY would be the final arbiter of who was the High Priest.  The Romans made it a one-year job, renewable if the High Priest “behaved himself.”  (So, you see—the Bible was right after all!!!  Surprise, surprise!)  Caiaphas held the job for 17 straight one-year terms!  This was a man who knew how to shake hands, kiss babies, play both sides against the middle and do what was necessary to keep power.  His abrasive speech in John 11, typical of Sadducees, was to “set the boys straight!”  He told the other leaders “You are brain-dead! We either kill Jesus or he will be the death of us!”

The mysterious “apocalyptic literature” of the Intertestamental Period told the people to expect the Messiah to reveal himself at Passover.  (Orthodox Jews today still believe he will reveal himself at the Passover.)  


There are unbelievers who claim Jesus was a “peace-loving guy who just got in over His head and before he knew it, they killed him.”  

Does the following passage from Mark 10:32-34 indicate that Jesus didn’t know what he was happening?   “They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.‘We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles,who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’”  He knew in detail!

Galileans headed for Jerusalem had to go through Jericho.  Why?  A direct route from Galilee to Jerusalem went through Samaria—and the Jews hated the Samaritans.  As a result, they crossed the Jordan River to the east, came south through Transjordan (today’s Jordan), and crossed the river at Jericho (863 feet below sea level) to climb to Jerusalem (2490 above sea level), about 22 miles, a dangerous (bandits) twisting path unless with a group of people!  Today the route is four-lane divided highway.


#1.  Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus (Matt. 20, Luke 18, Mark 10)

“So what?” you might ask.  Jesus had healed many people.  But Bartimaeus repeatedly calls Jesus “Son of David”—a Messianic title—and for the first time, Jesus accepts this title as his own!  The crowd goes crazy.  (Luke 18:43 “…all the people gave God praise.”)

NOW we’re talking—we are headed for Passover in Jerusalem with the Messiah in tow!  GREAT!

#2.  Jesus eats with tax collector Zacchaeus  (Luke 19)

Jesus associates with, eats with, and forgives a tax collector!  Argh!  This is a guy who is not supposed to be part of God’s Kingdom, but Jesus says (vs. 10)  “Today salvation has come to this house.”  Zacchaeus might have been overjoyed, but not everyone was.  (Luke 19:7 “All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’”  Jesus isn’t acting like the Messiah we anticipated.  Now THERE’S a shock, huh?