The church’s role in the world

What does it look like to be human?

What is our role in the world? In a word, to be human.

That doesn’t work if the church holds a negative view of what it means to be human.

God doesn’t. He addressed Ezekiel as son of man — literally human descendant. Jesus called himself the son of man more than any other term. God is restoring humanity in Christ. That’s why our role in the world is to be human.

What could be more fulfilling? Being human is what we were designed to be.

So, what’s the problem? Humans have chosen another path, wanting to be superhuman. It makes us subhuman, for seeking power over each other destroys our humanity.

That’s the reason Ezekiel was in Babylon. That’s why Jesus was crucified. That’s the problem all the way back to Cain and Abel. It is challenging to live as a humans when others are being beasts.

This podcast (23 minutes) was recorded at Riverview Joondalup 2022-06-19.

Continue reading “The church’s role in the world”

The coming of the son of man (Matthew 24:26-27)

If God gives authority to the son of man, “the coming of the son of man” is all about the restoration of God’s reign over the earth.

This might be the crucial phrase in Matthew 24:

Matthew 24 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (NIV)

The western church has often taken this to mean the end of the age, when the Messiah comes to resurrect his people. Based on that interpretation, graves traditionally face east: that way the dead will rise to face the Messiah when he resurrects them.

Is that what Jesus meant? Or was he talking about his own resurrection, the day the son of man came from the dead to receive the kingship?

Continue reading “The coming of the son of man (Matthew 24:26-27)”

Son of man: suffering king (Matthew 16:21–17:23)

The true king takes on his people’s suffering.

Why did Jesus call himself son of man? Here’s a clue: in the Synoptic Gospels, the vast majority of occurrences (78%) are after Peter calls him the Christ. Jesus has used the phrase previously in relation to his authority, but mostly he uses it once they recognize him as God’s anointed ruler. I think the phrase son of man contains a paradox he wanted them to understand. Continue reading “Son of man: suffering king (Matthew 16:21–17:23)”

Jesus’ paradoxical path to power (Matthew 16:27-28)

“Some standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

What do you think Jesus meant by this?

Matthew 16:27-28 (my translation, compare NIV)
27 For the son of man is about to “come in the splendour of his Father with his angels”, and then “he will repay each according to their actions.” 28 I tell you the truth: there are some standing here who will not experience death until they see “the son of man coming in his kingdom.”

We’re expecting Jesus to return in glory to judge the world. That sounds like verse 27, but then verse 28 doesn’t make sense: did Jesus really expect to return while some of his disciples were still alive? Whole books have been written to answer that question.

As every photographer knows, what you see depends where you stand. Come with me back to the first century to stand with the disciples and hear what they heard. Continue reading “Jesus’ paradoxical path to power (Matthew 16:27-28)”

Zenos on Son of Man

If you want to know how Jesus understood himself, you have to ask why he kept referring to himself as son of man. More than any other term. On more than 50 occasions.

Scholars offer opinions ranging from “it just means a human” (as it did in his language) to “it means Jesus is the divine figure of Daniel 7.”

You can imagine how exhilarating it was to find an author summarizing my own conclusions of what Jesus meant, especially one who wrote 100 years ago!

Continue reading “Zenos on Son of Man”

Jesus’ authority on earth (Matthew 9:2-8)

When Jesus healed and forgave sins, was he showing his deity or his human authority?

Open Matthew 9:2-8.

Matthew 9:2-8 (my translation)
2 Look, they presented him with a paralysed person restricted to a stretcher. Having seen their trust, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Be encouraged, child, your sins are revoked.” 3 Look, some of the Bible scholars said among themselves, “He’s blaspheming!”
4 Seeing how they were thinking, he said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5 What’s easier? To say, ‘Your sins are revoked’ or to say ‘Get up and walk’? 6 So you can know that the son of man has authority on the earth to revoke sins,” he says to the paralysed person, “Get up, pick up your stretcher, and head off home.” 7 Having been raised up, he went off home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were overawed and honoured the God who gave such authority to people.

When Jesus finally mentions someone’s sin in the New Testament, it’s to revoke it. The Bible scholars (scribes) weren’t happy. Jesus revoking sins? They can’t let him do that! They need to drag him down into the morass of human sin too. He’s a sinner, they say, a blasphemer.

Blasphemy isn’t just saying a naughty word against God; it’s demeaning our sovereign’s authority, often by making a claim to that authority. When Assyria attacked Jerusalem in King Hezekiah’s day, the Assyrian general claimed to be more powerful than Israel’s God. He claimed God had given him authority to take Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:25, 35). Isaiah denounced his claim as blasphemy (2 Kings 19:6, 22 NIV). When the scribes label Jesus as a blasphemer, they reject his claim to speak and act on earth on behalf of Israel’s sovereign God. Continue reading “Jesus’ authority on earth (Matthew 9:2-8)”

What’s your view of humans?

How could Jesus be human? Surely he’s not like us!

What’s your opinion of people?

  1. Humans are wonderful. They’re born with so much potential. They have the capacity to make the world a better place by fulfilling that potential.
  2. Humans are flawed. They’re depraved by nature. They’re incapable of doing good without external help.
  3. Humans are both wonderful and flawed. They have the capacity for both good and evil.
  4. Humans are neither wonderful nor flawed. They’re not uniquely different to the other animals with whom they share the earth.

You might want to hone the wording, but which is nearest to your belief? Continue reading “What’s your view of humans?”

The homeless king (Matthew 8:20)

When his people are homeless, the Saviour is homeless too.

Open Matthew 8:19-20.

Matthew tells us that people had begun to recognize Jesus’ authority (7:29; 8:9). The king walked among his people, freeing them from their oppression (8:16). He bore their weakness, their dis-ease (8:17).

He was a homeless king (8:20). Ever heard of such a thing? He chose to be homeless as he moved among his people, identifying with them. In a sense, his people were homeless too. They had lost their homeland to foreign powers long ago. When Babylon invaded, so many died trying to defend Jerusalem they couldn’t bury them all, so their dead bodies became food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth (Jeremiah 7:33; 19:7). The birds and the beasts had homes, while God’s people did not. Continue reading “The homeless king (Matthew 8:20)”

Jesus, the son of man (Matthew 8:20)

In calling himself “the son of man” Jesus contrasts his vocation with what’s inhumane.

Open Matthew 8:19-20.

So why did Jesus call himself the son of man more than eighty times in the New Testament? Here’s the first one:

Matthew 8:19 – 20 (my translation)
One of the scribes approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever go. 20 Jesus says to him, “The foxes have dens, and the birds of the heavens have roosts, but the son of man has nowhere he could rest his head.”

In Ezekiel, son of man meant the human servant of Lord YHWH, after Israel had fallen. In Daniel, the Ancient Ruler promised to take the kingdom from the beasts and give it to someone like a son of man. The beasts were still ruling when Jesus was born, so he received the commission given to Adam: to subdue the earth and rule over it as the representative of the divine sovereign. Jesus was to be a son of man in the face of the beasts. Continue reading “Jesus, the son of man (Matthew 8:20)”

Son of Man in Enoch

Did any texts refer to a messianic figure as “the son of man” before the Gospels? There may have been.

Jesus designated himself “the son of man” more than 80 times according to the Gospels, even though this phrase was not a messianic title in Jewish literature before his time. But there may be an intriguing exception: a book known as 1 Enoch. Continue reading “Son of Man in Enoch”

Son of Man in Daniel

What does ‘son of man’ mean in Daniel 7? Does this help us understand why Jesus used ‘son of man’ to describe himself?

Open Daniel 7.

Daniel 7:13–14 (ESV)
13 “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.
14 And 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 one that shall not be destroyed.

Was Jesus alluding to this text when he called himself Son of Man more than 80 times? Was Jesus claiming to be the promised Messiah who would restore God’s reign?

There is a connection, but it isn’t quite that simple. If you make a messianic leap without first understanding the richness of the Old Testament texts, the story falls apart. Ask: Continue reading “Son of Man in Daniel”

Introducing the Son of Man

Why did Jesus call himself ‘the son of man’? Do you understand him as he understood himself?

Jesus called himself the son of man. Matthew 8:20 is the first time, but Jesus regularly describes himself this way in the Gospels: more than 80 times! Why would Jesus think of himself primarily as the descendant of humanity? Isn’t everybody? What did he mean?

The question of Jesus’ identity is among the most important we could ask. If we don’t understand Jesus the way he understood himself, what chance do we have of understanding what he said and what he did? Continue reading “Introducing the Son of Man”