The Shofar is the ancient trumpet which called the people of God to prayer, repentance, sacrifice and war.


Jeremiah 18:7-15
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By Stephen Green

First published in Christian Voice November 2010

Dan. 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Mark 14:61 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

John 8:28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.

After praying outside the site of the proposed Abbey Mills 'megamosque' recently, a few of us went down to the gate.  Two Muslim youths manning the entrance came out and asked what we were doing.  So we told them we were praying against the mosque, and they asked why and we said 'Because Jesus Christ is Lord of this land,' and that started a conversation.

The very first thing they wanted to know was where in the Bible it is recorded that Jesus asked anyone to worship him.  The usual answer a Christian gives is that he didn't, followed by a lot of theology.  I surprised the Muslim boys by showing them the words of Jesus in Mark 14:62 and linking them to Daniel 7:13.  The fact that they could see the words written on the page - Muslims have a great deal of respect for holy books - made a deep impression.

So what is the significance of the expression 'Son of man' and why does it mean that Jesus was saying he was to be worshipped?  Well, there are over a hundred uses of the expression 'son of man' in the Old Testament.  Most of them are found in Ezekiel, as it happens, but in all but one of these Old Testament verses the expression refers to man in the ordinary, human sense.  The single exception is Daniel 7:13.

In contrast, there are eighty-five references to 'the Son of man' in the New Testament, and in all but five of them, the Lord Jesus uses the expression to refer to Himself.  Four of the other five have other people referring to Jesus in this way, and the only reference to 'son of man' to mean just an ordinary man is in Hebrews 2:6 where Psalm 8:4 is quoted ('What is man, that thou art mindful of him; and the son of man that thou visitest him.)

So just once in the Old Testament 'Son of man' means the divine ruler - the Messiah himself.  And just once in the New Testament it doesn't.  It is a dramatic reversal.

All through the Gospels, 30 times in Matthew, 14 times in Mark, 26 times in Luke (which is once a chapter on average), and 10 times in John, we have Jesus referring to himself as 'the Son of man'.  If someone heard the Lord speak of himself in this third-person way, and raised a challenged, Jesus might say 'Well, I am the son of man; you know my mother.  What is your problem?'  So it may be argued that the Lord Jesus was emphasising his humanity.  That is certainly how most people, possibly even a majority of Christians, would read it today.

Even when the Jews asked, 'who is this Son of man?' (John 12: 34), they received a typically oblique rabbinic answer, in which Jesus did not answer directly, but described Himself as 'the light' instead, giving them yet another challenge.  The use of these sort of expressions is an example of our Lord's speaking constantly in parables, asking questions of his hearers on so many levels, emotional, intellectual and theological.  He told his disciples the reason:

Luk 8:10  And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.

By the way, and having quoted John 8:28 at the start, let us be wary of using the 'lifting up' motif we find in John in any sense other than the one intended.  Many praise songs and prayers today speak of wanting to see Jesus 'lifted up'.  Yes, it is right for us to want his name lifted up and his person exalted.  But in John 12 Jesus says this:

John 12:23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.  32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.  33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.  34 The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?  35 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

He is telling them, and John tells us he is telling them, as plainly as he can, that he would be 'lifted up' in his death.  He is telling us how he would die.  On the cross Jesus was lifted up.  It is his work on the cross which draws all men to him.  We can no more lift him up again than we can crucify him again.  It is a finished work.  Let us glorify him, exalt him, praise him, but let us never want to see Jesus himself 'lifted' anywhere again.  It won't happen.

To resume, to anyone unacquainted with Daniel's vision, it can indeed seem as if 'Son of man' is someone purely and solely human.  Yet there is still something disturbing about the way our Lord uses it.  To take just a few examples from Mark's Gospel:

Mark 2:10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, ...

Mark 2:28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

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

Mark 8:38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Mark 9:9 And as they came down from the mountain, he charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen, till the Son of man were risen from the dead.

Mark 9:12 And he answered and told them, Elijah verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought.

In the last reference, Jesus is identifying 'the Son of man' with Isaiah's mysterious suffering servant, the one who is 'despised and rejected of men' (Isa 53:3) but be 'exalted and extolled and be very high' such that 'kings shall shut their mouths at him.'  (Isa 52:13,15)  It is another reinforcement of his 'Son of man' accreditation.

But it is at his trial that the Lord Jesus finally explains plainly that he is the 'Son of man' from Daniel's vision.

In front of the High Priest our gracious Lord is first silent in the face of accusations and lying witnesses.  This goes on to the point where Caiaphas loses patience and begins to ask Jesus point blank to confirm who he is.  And then the answer comes, shocking the high priest to lose his temper:

Mark 14:61 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

63: Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?

64: Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.

The words 'I am' in v62 in themselves identified Jesus as God, but then the Sanhedrin was rocked by that distinct reference to Daniel 7:13.  Now they, and we, can see that whenever Jesus has called Himself 'the Son of man,' He has been identifying himself as the righteous and everlasting King of kings in Daniel's vision.

The learned Sanhedrin certainly understood.  The High Priest tore his robes and said, quite rightly, that Jesus had condemned Himself out of his own mouth.  He realised immediately that Jesus had claimed equality with God.  With the benefit of Christian theology and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we can now see that the Lord's constant identification of Himself as 'The Son of man' is the same as being the only begotten Son of God.

Curiously, Jesus only refers to Himself as 'the Son of God' on five occasions, all in John's Gospel.  Others never call Jesus 'Son of Man' but regularly call Him 'Son of God.'  The Devil sneers at 'the Son of God', demons implore 'the Son of God', disciples fall down and worship 'the Son of God', Caiaphas asks him if that is who he is and finally the centurion acknowledges him in that way.  But Christ usually refers to himself in John, and exclusively in the so-called 'synoptic' Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) as 'the Son of man.' 

Before the Sanhedrin all the pieces fall into the place.  'The Son of man' in all his Daniel context is now truly seen as the divine everlasting ruler (see Isa 9:6).  And from the context, it is much more explicit an expression of our Lord's origin, status and destiny than 'the Son of God' could ever be.  After all, Adam was 'the son of God' (Luke 3:38).  We can all be children of the Most High.

We can probably say that this seemingly innocuous phrase,  'Son of man', is the most significant expression of our Lord's divine nature in the New Testament.  It shows that Jesus understood himself as being the one to whom all dominion and an everlasting kingdom would be given.  So did the early church.

The Apostle John used the expression on two occasions in his Revelation.  This is the second:

Rev. 14:14 And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.

The Revelation was given when Christian theology was well-developed.  The Apostle Paul had already told Timothy that Jesus was the blessed and only Potentate, King of kings and Lord of lords (1Tim 6:15).  All things were made through him and for him ( Col 1:16), and he is before all kings.  John understand perfectly well what he saw and appreciated the Daniel significance.

But when Stephen addressed the Sanhedrin, he had none of the benefit of Paul's scholarship and what God had revealed to him.  He received a vision in pure Daniel 7 terms right out of the blue.  His could not fail to articulate what he had just seen.  He called out, echoing Christ's own words in front of the same court:

Acts 7:55  But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Those were the last words the Sanhedrin allowed him to speak.  The 'Son of man' business was really getting to them, to put it mildly.  And we can see that way before John's Revelation was written, the early church fully understood the significance of the expression.  Let us remind ourselves of Daniel's vision.  Does it really mean what we think it means?

Dan 7:14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

It is fairly obvious, isn't it?  Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords.  Not just in heaven but here on earth all people, all nations and those of all languages should serve him and there will come a day when they will.  We truly worship a great king whose destiny and purpose is to rule the whole world.  And that King, the Lord Jesus Christ, foretold this wonderful truth over eighty times, every time in fact that he referred to himself as 'the Son of man.'