Son of Man, Part 1
Jesus has many majestic names: King of Kings, Messiah, High Priest. Yet one we find dozens of times throughout the Gospels is Son of Man. It literally means “human being.” But the Son of Man we see in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is no mere human. It’s the Lord Jesus, the Son of God in human form.
We begin a 3-part series this week on this meaningful and intentional title for our Savior. When we first see the term “son of man” in Job, Ezekiel, and Daniel, we find it in a lowly context. It’s a subservient, wretched, suffering creature. Yet when we get to the book of Matthew, Jesus poses a question to His disciples about the Son of Man with a much different identity. Peter’s answer gives a fascinating look at another way the Old and New Testaments are inseparably connected. Be encouraged by this study of the Son of Man!
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover, with me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. We have a great show for you today. But before Chris comes, I want to encourage you to visit our website, foiradio.org. It's there you can find trustworthy and accurate news on Israel and the Middle East. And while you're there, you can support our ministry by clicking on the donate button. Help us continue teaching biblical truth about Israel and the Jewish people. Once again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, I've been looking forward to this episode, actually this series. We're going to start a series on a title that Jesus loves to use for Himself. It's used over and over again in the Gospels. It's a title that we often don't think about Jesus when it's used, but it's the Son of Man. The Son of Man title is kind of like a diamond. There's many different aspects to the meaning of that name. Today, we're going to unpack where it comes from in the Old Testament. And then for the next two weeks, we're going to look at two different elements of that name, the Son of Man. It's going to be a great study.
Steve Conover: Sounds great. I'm looking forward to it. But first in the news, reports from Israel have emerged that Israeli Minister of Knesset Nir Orbach has opted to stall his cooperation with the coalition government until further notice. Orbach's departure will be the demise of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's governing coalition, which would mean Israel's coalition government would find itself in the minority in the Knesset.
Chris Katulka: Steve, here's my take. It's been one year since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ousted by Naftali Bennett and the coalition government that was made up of various parties across the political spectrum in Israel. Many Israelis were definitely thankful to see a new government formed last year, but it looks like everything's falling apart for Bennett and his hodgepodge government. Orbach becomes the second Yamina member to defect from Bennett's party in the last three months. You know what all this could be leading to? Another round of elections.
Chris Katulka: There's a lot of meaning wrapped up in a title. John Adams, America's second President, advocated for the President to be addressed as “His Majesty.” Did you know that? Even as the new democracy was shedding its ties from the monarchy in England, Adams wanted the new leader to be called the same title many new Americans disdained. Of course, that didn't happen though, because titles matter. And that's what I want to talk about for the next three weeks, a very specific title that is given to Jesus. Jesus has many titles, Savior, Messiah, King, Prophet, High Priest, the list goes on. But there's one honorific title that stands out in the New Testament for Jesus, one that roots back to the Old Testament. When Jewish people in Jesus' day heard this honorific title, they knew exactly what it meant and who it was talking about.
Here's what's interesting, this honorific title doesn't sound so honorific. It's not like “Messiah.” It's not like “King of Kings.” It's not like “High Priest.” Those sound honorific. The title I'm talking about sounds less appealing, but it's used 30 times in Matthew. It's used 14 times in Mark, 25 times in Luke, and 13 times in John. Do you know what it is? All right, all right, I'll get to it. The honorific title is the “Son of Man.” That's right, Son of Man. I told you, it doesn't seem to carry the same weight, the same gravitas as Messiah or Christ or King. Yet when that title Son of Man was spoken, Jewish people came to attention. They knew the potency behind that name.
Before we start to unpack the meaning of the Son of Man from the New Testament and why it mattered so much, first let's get an understanding of where it comes from in the Old Testament. Son of Man in Hebrew is Ben Adam. Ben Adam, it means “son.” Ben means son and Adam means man, like Adam and Eve from the garden. Adam simply means man. The simplest definition of “Son of Man,” Ben Adam is what we would say “human.” No matter where you come from, no matter your race, ethnicity, country, you are a son or a daughter of Adam, Ben Adam, a human. Again, just to clarify, when we're talking about Son of Man, the title that Jesus used of himself, it's simply translated as “human.”
The title Son of Man is actually used 96 times in the Old Testament. Once it's used in the Book of Job, twice in Daniel, and 93 times in Ezekiel. Now, in the Prophet Ezekiel, the title Son of Man is used over and over and over and over again. You saw it there 93 times, but it's actually used to describe and label Ezekiel himself as a human. You remember, Ezekiel's receiving all of these visions from God of divine chariots and angels. He's envisioning the resurrection of the state of Israel and Ezekiel 37 in the valley of dry bones, as God brings dead bones back to life and he breathes his breath, his spirit into them. All of these divine things are happening in the Book of Ezekiel and Ezekiel's prophecies.
To distinguish Ezekiel from all of these heavenly actions, God calls him a human one, a Ben Adam, the Son of Man. I mean, just listen to Ezekiel 37:9. He says, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, Son of man, and say to the breath, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breathe, and breathe on these corpses that they may live.’" Now, a better way for us English speakers as we're translating Ezekiel 37:9, it could just literally be translated as “prophesy, human and say to the breath.” Son of Man and Ezekiel is just talking about Ezekiel being a human. I love earlier in Ezekiel 37, God says to Ezekiel as he's starting out over the valley of dry bones, bones that have been dead and scattered, they're dry and dusty.
God says to Ezekiel, "Son of Man, can these bones live?" Ezekiel's response is, "Only you know, Lord." Essentially God is saying, "Human, can these dried up dead bones live?" Well, according to my human mind and according to my human way of life, no, but that's why you're calling me a human. Humans are limited in their scope of understanding. That's why the Prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 55:8-9, he says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." God is saying, "I'm God. You're a human, my creation, Ben Adam."
Ezekiel's response at least is honest. Human, can these bones live? I don't know, but you're God, you're the author of life, so you tell me. There's another time it's used in the Book of Job. Bildad, one of Job's friends, says this about the Son of Man. He says this, "How then can a human being be righteous before God? How can one born of a woman be pure? If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not as pure as he is concerned, how much less a mortal man, who is a maggot, a Son of Man, who is only a worm?" Sounds depressing. Well, Bildad is saying to Job, "Who do you think you are, Job, that you, a man, would appeal to God because of your personal suffering?" Humans are but maggots, worms, terms that symbolize wretchedness and lowly existence.
The smell of death is all around them. Bildad is saying that humans bear the role of weakness and earths and to be human is to identify with suffering and illness and loss. That's why he calls him a maggot. That's why he calls him a worm and he uses that word, Ben Adam, the Son of Man, a human. As Bildad will say, he only has the grave to look forward to, where he will be consumed by worms. See, I told you, this is such a very interesting honorific title for Jesus. By the time we get to Jesus, this title Ben Adam or Son of Man or human takes on new meaning. It becomes more than just a lowly human. It becomes an honorific title of an individual worthy of praise, quite different than Bildad's use of the word in Job.
Look how the title Son of Man changes when we get to the gospels. Remember when Jesus was with his disciples at Caesarea Philippi in Matthew 16? Jesus says to his disciples, you remember he says, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" Now, Jewish people had opinions on the individual and who would fit this title. It's like saying to a neighbor or to a friend, "Who do you think is going to be the next president or prime minister?" There could be several individuals out there who would become the next one, but only one is going to get elected. Jewish people had different opinions about the Son of Man. Listen to the disciples' response to Jesus. They answered, well, some say it's John the Baptist.
He could be the Son of Man. Others say Elijah. Others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Again, notice how this title Son of Man becomes an honorific title that Jewish people say it could be Jeremiah, the prophet from the Old Testament, or Elijah, or maybe even John the Baptist. What's fascinating is that claiming the Son of Man could be Elijah means the end times are drawing near in accordance to what the prophet Micah taught that Elijah would return before the coming of the Lord. But Jesus was intentional with his question when he asked, "Well, who do people say the Son of Man is?" Because he wanted to know what the disciples thought of him. Do you remember his response?
It was Peter who spoke up first. Classic Peter, everybody. Classic Peter right here. Listen to what he says. He said to them, "But who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven." Peter really makes a jump here. He just called the Son of Man, think about this, he called the Son of Man the Son of God.
How did we get to a place where Ezekiel is called the “human one” to distinguish him from divine events in the Book of Ezekiel, and how did we get from Bildad, who's defining the Son of Man or human beings as being associated with weakness and suffering and death, to Peter calling Jesus the Son of Man and the Son of God? Well, listen, we're going to have to go back to the Book of Daniel to see how Peter was able to make this jump. But before we do this, you know what? I absolutely love it when we get to talk about the Jewish roots of our Bible. It's amazing how it opens our eyes to God's intentional plan for his people all throughout time.
Steve Conover: Yes, Chris. One of the great responses we hear from listeners when we, as Christians, dig deep into our Jewish roots is how great it is to make this important connection.
Chris Katulka: Steve, this is why I am incredibly excited that this year, our in-person national conferences are back and we are talking about, I love this, the seven feasts of Israel, where we will be covering the Passover, Shavuot, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits.
Steve Conover: It's going to be fantastic to be together again in person. We want to invite all of you listening to attend one of our two dates and locations.
Chris Katulka: Steve, there's going to be two dates, two locations. July 22nd through the 24th, we'll be at Winona Lake, Indiana. And then on September 11th through the 13th, we'll be doing our conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Steve Conover: Come discover God's rhythms of redemption through the feasts of Israel and join us at one of our national conferences. To learn more, visit foi.org/conferences. Again, that's foi.org/conferences.
Chris Katulka: We're talking about this interesting honorific title, the Son of Man, which seems to develop over time from describing a human like me and you to Jesus taking on divine meaning. If you remember, the Son of Man title is used mostly in the prophet Ezekiel to describe the exilic prophet. Job uses it once, but the prophet Daniel uses it twice. Listen to how Daniel uses the title Son of Man. Daniel saw visions of the kingdoms of the world falling and giving way to God's everlasting kingdom. This is what he saw. Listen to this, Daniel 7 starting in verse 13.
“I was watching in the night visions,” Daniel sees, “and with the clouds of the sky, one like a Son of Man was approaching, and he went up to the Ancient of Days and he was escorted before him, and to him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed.”
Okay, this Son of Man is different from the other ones that we saw in Ezekiel and Job. This human is doing some extraordinary actions. First of all, I don't think the meaning of Son of Man changes. It still means human. Daniel sees one like a human and he's doing some amazing stuff.
Notice what this human is doing. He's riding on clouds and he's approaching the Ancient of Days. That's God. One who looks and sounds and acts like a human is walking up to God without any hesitation. Remember, the Book of Exodus tells us no man can see God and live except for Daniel's Son of Man here in Daniel 7. Once again, look, he's brought before God, the Ancient of Days, and God bestows on this human-like figure ruling authority and honor and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him and his authority is eternal, it says. It will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed. That means that this human-like figure has divine qualities that cannot be overlooked.
This one God makes ruler of the world, the King of Kings. Daniel's Son of Man is much different than Ezekiel or Job. This is why Peter says to Jesus, "You are the Messiah. You're the Christ, the Son of the Living God." When Peter's thinking about Daniel's Son of Man, the one whom all authority is given, the one who was escorted before the Ancient of Days, he's more than just a mere man. He's the Son of the Living God. Now listen, for the next two weeks. We are going to see why Jesus loves to use this title for himself the most. Let me just say this. When you see how Jesus uses the title Son of Man, it's really going to make you think differently about Him and the King you worship, the one whose kingdom will never pass away.
Steve Conover: Israel, on the verge of becoming a state, a teenage Holocaust survivor arrives on her shores alone. His name is Zvi Kalisher. Little did he know his search for a new life in the Holy Land would lead him to the Messiah. Zvi, enthusiastic to share his faith, engaged others in spiritual conversations, many of which can be found in our magazine, Israel My Glory. While Zvi is now in the presence of his Savior, his collective writings from well over 50 years of ministry continue to encourage believers worldwide. Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life of Zvi.
Mike Kellogg: Recently, I found work in a Jerusalem hospital as a handyman. The day after I started working there, something happened that was a clear sign of the Lord's guidance. When I walked into one of the wards, I saw a Polish Jew, a man about 50 years old, who had been in Israel for 35 years. He was in critical condition. I felt led to witness to him. The man told me the tragic story of how his family had been killed during the Arab Bagram in 1930 in Hebron. "When my family perished," he said, "I was left alone, a teenage boy. I soon got into bad company with a gang of Arabs who smuggled morphine across the border. It was risky work, but they paid me well. In a short time, I became addicted to the dope I was smuggling and would do anything to get it.
My companions took advantage of this and sent me to the most dangerous assignments, mostly to Egypt and Lebanon. Only one day, the British Police caught me and I was imprisoned for a year, desperately sick and craving morphine. After my release from prison, I had nowhere to go, so I returned to my old gang in Yafa. They received me gladly and assigned me a new job. They bought camels from Bedouins and instructed me to drive the animals across the border into Egypt. At first, I could not understand why they were doing this, but I soon learned the reason. They were inserting in each camel's stomach 15 bottles of morphine worth about $4,500. The cost of a camel was only about $25 to $30.
When I took the camels to Egypt, the Egyptian partner would pay the high price of the morphine and kill the poor animals right away. By now I had enough money to indulge my vice, but I was caught again and handed over to a British Court in Jerusalem. The judge was Jewish. I confessed everything and told them about my partners in crime. He sentenced me to three years in prison. Altogether I've spent 10 years in prison. And now I am on my deathbed and no one cares to speak to me to relieve my anxious soul. You are the first person to listen." I told him that I believed in the living God, the judge of the living and the dead. And that because he loves us, he sent his only son to save sinners like us.
All of a sudden, he began crying and said, "I'm unworthy of anyone telling me about God in his salvation." I told him, "Christ died for sinners, that they may have eternal life. It's up to you to receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior so that you may have that eternal life. This may be your last opportunity." He then said, "Please pray for me," which I did. Then he looked at me and said, "Now I am ready to receive the Lord." He was very weak, but I was sure that he truly believed. I asked, "Do you believe that Jesus is your savior?" In a soft voice he answered, "Yes, and I'm ready to be with the Lord Jesus. I am no longer afraid because I will go home to him."
When I said goodbye, his last words to me were, "You saved my life." The next morning, I was told that my friend had gone to his eternal home.
Chris Katulka: The impact of Zvi's life in ministry in Israel, it didn't end when he went home to be with the Lord. In fact, Zvi's legacy lives on. Our Friends of Israel Ministry representatives continue to share the gospel in Jerusalem, Israel, and really all throughout the world. We also serve Holocaust survivors and their families. We provide free food, medicine, and clothing, and we even promote the safety and security of the State of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere. When you give to the Friends of Israel, your donation actually allows us to advance the gospel of our Messiah Jesus. You can give online by visiting foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org. You can click right there on our donate link. Also, be sure to let us know where you listen when you contact us.
Steve Conover: Thank you so much for joining us today and be sure to join us next week as Chris continues his series on the Son of Man. We want to create content that we know is enriching your lives and drawing you closer to the Lord, bringing you in a deeper understanding of his Word and his program for Israel. Please reach out to us and contact us on our form at foiradio.org. Some of you have and we really appreciate getting your feedback. Let us know how we're doing. Again, that's foiradio.org. Look for the contact form.
Chris Katulka: Hey, Steve. Also, our podcast listeners on Apple, would you please take time to rate our program? Just remember, your comments, your ratings, they help expose The Friends of Israel Today to new listeners. If you believe it's important to teach about Israel and the Jewish people, hey, drop us a comment so that others can benefit from The Friends of Israel Today as well.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. Again that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey, 08099. I'll give you one last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
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Apples of Gold: An Employee and a Witness
Zvi was working in a Jerusalem hospital. He saw a man that was in critical condition, and he felt led by the Lord to witness to him. Zvi listened as the man told him about his life. He had experienced tragic things and made choices that had destroyed his life. Zvi shared with him about the Living God, the One who could save him. Hear what happened next as this man heard the gospel.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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