The Messiah of God, the Son of Man (Luke 9)

Gospel of Luke, Jesus of Nazareth

The Messiah of God, the Son of Man (Luke 9)

If you want to know Jesus, you need to know that He is the Messiah of God, and the Son of Man.

Read chapter 9 of the gospel according to Saint Luke here.

Jesus asks His disciples who the crowds say He is. The disciples respond that the crowds liken Jesus to one of the prophets, such as Elijah or John the Baptist. The crowds can see these great figures in Jesus, but they are unable to make the leap that Jesus is not just another person like others, that He transcends even the great prophets, that He is unlike anyone else they will ever encounter.

Jesus then asks His disciples a pointed question: “Who do you say that I am?”

Peter declares that Jesus is the “Messiah of God.” In Saint Matthew’s account of this story, Peter states that Jesus is the “Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). What do these terms mean? What does they tell us about Jesus?

As the Son of God, Jesus is co-equal with God. He is God Himself. He possesses a divine authority that no other human being can claim. He is the definitive priest, prophet and king. His words are not true, they are the Truth. His actions are not loving, they are Love. If we desire to know the Truth, to love and to be loved, we need to follow Him. Anyone or anything else will not suffice.

Messiah is a Hebrew word meaning “anointed.” It is translated as “Christ” in Greek. To be anointed in the Old Testament was to be chosen by God for a special mission. Priests and kings were anointed. The Jews looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, the one specially chosen and anointed by God to save His people. Peter is identifying Jesus as this individual uniquely chosen to save God’s people. Peter doesn’t understand at this stage what that mission entails, but, through God’s grace, he has made a great leap in his faith journey by identifying Jesus not merely as another prophet, but as the Messiah.

Jesus often refers to Himself as the “Son of Man,” while no one else uses this term to describe Him. What does “Son of Man” mean? On its most basic level, Son of Man refers to Jesus’ humanity. Jesus is both fully divine and fully human. But the title means more than this. The term “Son of Man” would have had a very specific meaning to Jews in Jesus’ time. It refers specifically to a vision of the prophet Daniel:

As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven

One like a son of man.
When he reached the Ancient of Days
     and was presented before him,
He received dominion, splendor, and kingship;
     all nations, peoples and tongues will serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
     that shall not pass away,
     his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

By referring to Himself as the Son of Man, Jesus is identifying Himself as a King, and not just any king, but the king who receives an everlasting kingship from the “Ancient of Days,” that is, from God the Father. The Son of Man is the king who will reign forever.

But what kind of king is Jesus? He Himself addresses this question straight away, saying “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). Earthly kings seek earthly glory. Earthly kings seek military conquest. Earthly kings lord it over their subjects. Jesus is the precise opposite of an earthly king. He has come to conquer not other peoples or other nations, but the great enemies of all mankind, sin and death. He did not come to save a particular group of people; rather, He came to extend the gift of salvation, the gift of God’s love and mercy, to all peoples of every nation. And He saves us through obedience, service and humility, even unto death on a cross.

The question Jesus puts to His disciples is the same question He puts to all of us today. “Who do you say that I am?” If He is the Messiah of God and the Son of Man, the Savior and the Eternal King, He should be adored and served. And if He is not those things, He speaks falsely. Our answer to this question is not only how we define Jesus, but also how we define ourselves. Is Jesus my Savior? Then I am saved. Is Jesus my King? Then I am His servant. If Jesus is Truth, then I proclaim His Truth. If Jesus is Love, then I am His beloved. If I reject Him, then who am I? If I reject Him, what am I turning my back on?

“Now the Savior of His great mercy and loving kindness will have no one serve Him unwillingly and from constraint, but those only who come of their own accord, and are grateful for being allowed to serve Him. And so not by compelling men and putting a yoke upon them, but by persuasion and kindness, He draws unto Him everywhere those who are willing.” -Saint John Chrysostom

Image: Jesus Christ Pantocrator (Detail from the deesis mosaic in Hagia SophiaIstanbul). Digital image by Edal Anton Lefterov (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons) and formatted for this blog by Michael Haverkamp.

Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet every day for the salvation of souls.

Michael Haverkamp

Michael Haverkamp is a lifelong member of the Roman Catholic Church. He is grateful to his parents for raising him in the faith. He resides in Columbus, Ohio with his amazing wife and three sons. By day he is a (usually) mild-mannered grant writer.

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