Why did the Lord Christ call Himself the Son of Man? Is it a denial of His divinity? Why did He not say that He is the Son of God?
The Lord Christ called Himself the Son of God and He called Himself also the Son of Man.
He called Himself the Son of God in His talk with the man born blind, so the man believed in Him and worshipped Him (John 9:35-38). Sometimes, He called Himself the Son in such a way that proves His divinity as when He said, “.. that all should honour the Son just as they honour the Father” (John 5:21-23) and, ” no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Luke 10:22) and He said about Himself, “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36).
The Lord Christ accepted to be called the Son of God and made this the basis of faith blessing Peter for this confession.
He accepted this title from Nathanael (John 1:49) and from those who saw Him walking on the water (Matt 14:33). He blessed St. Peter when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 16:16, 17).
There are many testimonies in the Holy Bible that Christ is the Son of God.
The gospel of St. Mark starts with the words, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1). And the angel, when announcing the Virgin of the holy birth, said to her, “therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35). The Father Himself testified for Him at the time of His baptism (Matt 3:17) and on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:7); (2 Pe 1:17, 18).
In the story of the wicked tenants, the Father said, “I will send My beloved Son.” (Luke 20:13) and said in the prophecy, “Out of Egypt I have called My Son.” (Matt 2:15). St. Paul the Apostle preached the same (Acts 9:20) and St. John the Apostle (l Jo 4:15) and the other apostles as well.
So, He was not only called the Son of Man, but also the Son of God, the Son and the Only Begotten Son.
This is explained in detail in the answer to the question about the difference between our being God’s children and Christ being the Son of God.
The Lord Christ used the name Son of Man on occasions demonstrating His divinity.
1. As Son of Man He has the power to forgive sins.
This is clear in His talk with the scribes in the miracle of healing the paralytic. He said to them, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”; then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” (Matt 9:2-6).
2. As Son of Man He is present in heaven and on earth at the same time.
He said to Nicodemus, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:13). Thus He showed that He is in heaven while talking to Nicodemus on earth, which proves His divinity.
3. He said that the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath.
When the Pharisees blamed Him because His disciples plucked heads of grain on the Sabbath when they were hungry, saying to Him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath” He explained the matter, saying, “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Matt 12:8). And of course God is the Lord of the Sabbath.
4. He said that the angels were ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
When Nathanael was amazed because the Lord knew the unknown i.e. His being under the fig tree and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God.” The Lord did not deny that He is the Son of God, but said to him, “You will see greater things than these … you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:48-51). So, the term “Son of Man” here does not mean an ordinary man but a person having the divine dignity.
5. He said that the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of Power and will come on the clouds of heaven.
When He was being tried and the high priest said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matt 26:63-65). The high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!
The same testimony was made by St. Stephen; for at the time of his being martyred, he said, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) .
6. He said that He – Son of Man – will judge the world.
Though it is well known that God is, “the Judge of all the world.” (Gen 18:25), the Lord Christ said about His second coming, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels and then He will reward each according to His works.” (Matt 16:27). Notice also that He said about the angels “His angels” whereas they are God’s angels.
There is also an implied theological meaning in the words “the glory of His Father” i.e.:
7. He said that He is the Son of God having the glory of His Father at the same time of being the Son of Man.
The Son of Man will come in the glory of God His Father i.e. He is Son of Man and Son of God at the same time having the same glory of His Father. How wonderful it is to say these words about Him as Son of Man. So, this title does not prejudice His divinity.
8. As Son of Man He will judge the world and will be addressed as “Lord”.
He said, “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. All the nations will be gathered before Him… He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you… saying, ‘Lord, when …’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘when did we see You hungry and feed You…'” (Matt 25:31-37). The word “Lord” prove His divinity and the words “My Father” prove that being Son of Man He is also Son of God.
He says also, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matt 24:42). Who is that Lord? In (Matt 25:13) He says, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” So, He used the words “your Lord” and “Son of Man” in the same meaning.
9. As Son of Man He calls the angels His angels and the elect His elect and the kingdom His kingdom.
He says about the signs of the end of ages, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days… Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven … and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they will gather together His lect…” (Matt 24:29-31). And He says about the end of the ages, “the Son of Man will send out His angels and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness and will cast them into the furnace of fire.” (Matt 13:40, 41). Of course it is evident that the angels are God’s angels (John 1:51) and the kingdom is God’s kingdom (Mark 9:1) and the elect are God’s elect.
10. He speaks about believing in Him as Son of Man with the same words He spoke about believing in Him as the Only Begotten Son of God.
He says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:14-16).
Is it necessary that people believe in an ordinary son of Man so as to have everlasting life? It is evident here that what is said about the Son of Man is the same concerning the only begotten Son of God.
11. Daniel’s prophecy about Him as Son of Man refers to His divinity.
Daniel said, “I was watching in the night visions 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 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.” (Dan 7:13, 14). Who but God is served by all peoples, nations and languages and have everlasting dominion and kingdom?
12. He said about Himself in the Revelation that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.
St. John the Visionary said and in the midst of the seven lamp stands, “One like the Son of Man,… He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives and was dead and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen.'” (Rev 1:13-18). And at the end of the Revelation He said, “And behold, I am coming quickly and My reward is with Me, to give every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” (Rev 22:12, 13).
All these are titles of God Himself (Is 48:12, 44:6).
Since all these verses prove His divinity, why then did He call Himself the Son of Man concentrating on this title?
He called Himself Son of Man because He was to carry out redemption on behalf of man.
He came for this purpose, to save the world through bearing the sins of all humanity.
He explained this when He said, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” (Matt 18:11).
The death sentence was issued against man, so, who should die was man. Hence Christ came to die, being Son of Man, i.e. the Son of that man in particular who was sentenced to death. Therefore He called Himself Son of Man. He is the Son of Man and in this attribute He should suffer, be crucified and die to redeem us.
That is why He said, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of man and they will kill him and the third day He will be raised up.” (Matt 17:22,23;26:45) and, “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).
Indeed, His message as Son of Man was this: “The Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” (Matt 18:11).