The Lord from Heaven - 3 - THE SON 0F MAN

Tins preliminary inquiry will help us to appreciate the significance of the word " Son" in the titles of our Divine Lord. And first as to His self-chosen designation of Son of Man. Is it, as the Rationalist and the Jew would tell us, a mere Hebraism meaning no more than that He was human?
The English reader misses the significance which the Greek article lends to the words in the original. But it is recognised by scholars; and those who wish to evade it maintain that the Lord spoke in Palestinian Aramaic, and in that dialect, they declare, the phrase could not have the meaning which the Christian assigns to it. But we can afford to ignore discussions of this kind. For words are like counters, in that their value is settled by those who use them; and there can be no doubt as to the significance which the Lord Himself attached to this His favourite title.
When, for example, He exclaimed, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head," it is clear that the contrast implied in His words was between the highest and the lowest. The humblest creatures had a home, but He, "the firstborn of all creation," was an outcast wanderer. This is the first occurrence of the phrase in the New Testament, and in Scripture a first occurrence is often specially significant. And certain it is that on the last occasion on which He used the title - it was when on His defence before the Sanhedrim - His purpose was, by declaring Himself to be the Son of Man of Daniel's vision, to assert His claim to heavenly glory. For while the first vision of the seventh chapter of Daniel (like the vision of the second chapter) is of earthly kingdoms in relation to Israel and Israel's Messiah, the vision which follows, in which He is seen as "Son of Man" in heaven, reveals a wider sovereignty and a higher glory. In many a learned treatise the question is discussed whether this be a Messianic title at all; and in not a few this question becomes merged in an inquiry whether the Jew regarded it as such. But the Lord's words before the Sanhedrim clearly point to the conclusion suggested by His use of the title in the passage already cited, namely that it was His rejection as Messiah that led Him to declare Himself the Son of Man.
And this conclusion is confirmed by the record of the martyr Stephen's vision. His murder was Jerusalem's final rejection of Messiah. For he was the messenger sent after the King to say they would not have Him to reign over them. And as his eyes were closing upon this world, they were opened to see the heavenly vision Daniel saw-"the Son of Man on the right hand of God."
It was not His human birth that constituted Him the Son of Man. That birth, indeed, was the fulfillment of the promise which the name implied; but the Son of Man, He declared explicitly, "descended out of heaven." And He said again, "What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before? " When, therefore, He proclaims that "the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost," came "to give His life a ransom for many," faith responds intelligently in the words of that noblest of the Church's hymns, "When Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man, Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb." For the Virgin birth was but a stage in the fulfilment of His mission.
Nor was it as the Virgin's Son, but as the Son of Man, that He claimed to be "Lord even of the Sabbath," and to have "power upon earth to forgive sins." And, according to the language of our English Versions, it is as the Son of Man that the prerogative of judgment has been committed to Him. The Father, He said, "hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man." But a reference to the original discloses the fact that here the form of the words suggests that His purpose is to emphasise that it is because He is MAN that He is appointed to be the judge of men.
The revelation of the Son of Man will lead the spiritual Christian, who has learned to note the hidden harmony of Scripture, to recall the language of the creation story: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness."(Footnote - Eighty times the words "Son of Man" occur as uttered by the Lord; but here, and here alone, they are anarthrous (see p. 14 ante). Bishop Middleton maintains (" The Greek Article," p. 246) that the absence of the articles makes no difference; and he accounts for it by saying that "Now, for the first time, has Christ asserted His claim to the title: in all other places He has assumed it." But surely this would be a valid reason only if this were either the first time, or the last, of His using the words.) "The type," as the biologist would phrase it, is not the creature of Eden, but He after whose likeness the creature was fashioned. And this suggests the solution of a "mystery." We are but men, and while angels behold the face of God, no man hath seen Him or can see Him. We are "flesh and blood," and "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." And yet as men we are to dwell in heavenly glory; and that wonderful promise shall be fulfilled to us-" They shall see His face."
How is this seeming paradox to be explained? "Flesh and blood" are not essential to humanity. True it is that, as "the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same. He assumed "a natural body." "For there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." The one pertains to "the first man," who is "of the earth earthy, the other to "the second Man," who is "of heaven." For the Lord from heaven is "Very Man," and it is as Man that He is now upon the throne. But the body is not the man: it is but the tent, the outward dress, as it were, which covers Him. And He is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever " the same who once trod the roads of Galilee and the streets of Jerusalem. He is enthroned as Man, but no longer now in "flesh and blood." For ere He "passed through the heavens" He changed His dress.
And we too "shall be changed." "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly,' The image, or pattern, of the earthy is the Adam of the Eden creation; that of the heavenly is the last Adam, the Lord from heaven. And He will "fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory. For the triumph of redemption will not be in restoring us to the place which Adam lost by sin, but in raising us to the perfectness of the new creation, of which the Lord from heaven is the head. The eyes of our faith are not fixed upon the blessedness of Eden, but upon the glory of "the Holy Mount"; for "we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."
We must bear in mind, then, the distinction so clearly marked in Scripture between the Lord's essential glory as the Son of Man, and what He became in virtue of His human birth. Nor is this all. We need to remember also that, because of His humiliation, He has been raised to a position and a glory beyond what is revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures, or even in the doctrinal teaching of the Gospels. "He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted Him and gave unto Him the name which is above every name." In view of His prayer on the night of the betrayal, how can this be understood? "And now," He said, "0 Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." A higher glory is inconceivable, and this glory was His by right: what meaning, then, can be given to the statement that He was raised to the highest glory in virtue of the cross? There is only one explanation possible, namely that it is as MAN that He has been thus exalted. It is not that as the Son of Man, by inherent right, He has "ascended up where He was before," but that as the Crucified of Calvary He is enthroned in all the glory of God.
And this may explain what to some may seem a difficulty. The Apostle John was not only "the disciple whom He loved" he was one of the favoured three who were with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration; how is it, then, that while that vision of glory served only to excite wondering worship, and led the disciples to pray for its continuance, he was so completely overwhelmed by the vision of the Lord vouchsafed to him at Patmos? "When I saw Him," he writes, "I fell at His feet as dead." May not the explanation be that, whereas the glory of "the Holy Mount" was that of "the Son of Man coming in His kingdom," the Patmos vision revealed Him in all the fulness of the supreme glory to which He was exalted when "begotten again from the dead"? He was "like unto the Son of Man"; but "His eyes were as a flame of fire." "And He had in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength."
And it is as thus exalted that the Christian is called upon to know Him and to worship Him. It is not that there are many Christs, but that "upon His head are many crowns." Nor is it that the Lord Jesus of Bethlehem and Calvary is lost to us. "He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, fear not," is the seer's record of the scene when he lay like one dead in presence of such awful glory. But though His hand held the stars of that vision of glory, it was the same loving hand that had so often rested on him in the days of the humiliation. And though that voice was "as the sound of many waters," the words were such as the beloved disciple was doubtless used to hear during the ministry of the forty days-" I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death."
That supreme glory was His, I repeat, by inherent right. "Originally in the form of God," and "on an equality with God," are the words of the often-cited text. But, not counting this "a prize" (or "a thing to be grasped"), He emptied Himself - divested Himself of it all.
The inference of the rationalistic "Higher Criticism" is that during His earthly sojourn He was, in effect, a mere man, and therefore a dupe of the ignorance and error which prevailed among the Jews of His time. And this, moreover, not merely in ordinary matters, but in the sphere that most vitally concerned His ministry and His mission. Strange it is that even un-spiritual men can fail to be shocked by the profanity of this; stranger still that even a surface acquaintance with the Gospels does not enable them to detect its falseness. (Footnote - Here are the words of the standard text-book of the cult: "Christ held the current Jewish notions respecting the divine authority and revelation of the Old Testament." (Hasting's Bibl. Dict., article "Old Testament," p. 601.)
For the antithesis so often emphasised in His teaching was not between the divine and the human, but between the Father and the Son. Nor was this the limit of His self-renunciation. He not merely "emptied Himself" in coming into the world, but, "being found in fashion as a man He humbled Himself." And yet He claimed to forgive sins, and to be Lord of the Sabbath; and in the hour of what seemed His greatest weakness and shame He declared that He could summon myriads of angels to His help.
Is this the attitude, is this the language, of "a Jew of His time"? As we read the record we realise that we are in the divine presence of the Son of Man. And yet He humbled Himself to the extent of giving up even His liberty as a man, and refraining, not merely from doing His own will, but even from speaking His own words.
The holiest of men could not be trusted thus, When, in His dealings with the exiles of the Captivity, God needed a prophet who would never speak save in words divinely given, He struck Ezekiel dumb. Two judgments had already fallen on the nation - first, the Servitude, and then the Captivity, to Babylon. But they were warned that, if they remained impenitent, a third, more terrible than either, would befall them - that of the seventy years' Desolations; and until the day when Jerusalem, their boast and pride, was smitten, Ezekiel's mouth was closed, save when the Spirit came unto him, and God gave him words to speak.' But the self-renunciation of the Son of God was so absolute and unreserved that He could use language such as this - The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do" (John v. 19).
"He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak, therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak" (John xii. 48-50).
Are these the words of One who "held the current Jewish notions" of His time? Blind though they were, the Jews of His time were not so blind as some Christian ministers and professors of Christian Universities to-day. For the Jews could recognise that "He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." From the scribes they were used to receiving definite and dogmatic teaching, but it was teaching based upon "the law and the prophets": here was One who stood apart and taught them from a wholly different plane. The words of the Apostles and Evangelists were "inspired," but His words were "the words of God " in a higher sense. For it was not merely the body of His teaching that was thus divine, but the very language in which it was conveyed. So that in His prayer on the betrayal night He could say not only "I have given them Thy Word," but "I have given them the words which Thou gavest Me."
So complete was His self-renunciation and submission that beyond what the Father gave Him to speak He knew nothing, and was silent. With reference to His coming in glory, for instance, He declared, "Of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father."
This was not within His "authority"; the Father had not given Him to speak of it. But if and when He spoke, He spoke with authority. "Whatsoever I speak, therefore," He declared, "even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak." What wonder, then, that He said again - and the words gain tremendous force from being part of the very same sentence in which He disclaimed the knowledge of the time of His return - " Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away." What wonder that He declared His coming to be the crisis of the world!