Jesus’ encounter with would-be disciples (Matthew 8:18-22) is the first time that Matthew records Christ calling himself the “Son of Man.” In all, Matthew will document 32 times that Jesus used this culturally-charged title for himself.

The phrase “Son of Man” was not unique to Jesus. In the Old Testament it generally referred simply to one who was part of the human race (i.e., Numbers 23:19, Job 25:6, Psalm 8:4, Isaiah 51:12 and so on). Most notably, God called the prophet Ezekiel “Son of Man” as a proper name, addressing him this way early and often (Ezekiel 2:1 and throughout the book of Ezekiel).

However, most scholars agree that when Jesus called himself “Son of Man” he was identifying himself with a well-known Messianic prophesy from Daniel 7:13-14, which says in part, “There before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven…He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him.”

That had to have been a confusing, ironic moment for the first would-be follower of Jesus. Matthew reveals this man to be a “teacher of the law”—someone who would’ve been well versed in Messianic prophesies like Daniel 7:13-14. The “Son of Man” reference would’ve been immediately recognizable as a claim by Jesus of “sovereign power” and even Messianic worship. Then, immediately after making that divine claim, Jesus gave a promise of degradation to any who would follow him: “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

The all-powerful Messiah is homeless and destitute? What?

We’re not told how this teacher of the law responded to that mixed messaging of Jesus. Perhaps he walked away confused and disappointed. Or maybe he took up the challenge, even though he didn’t understand it all. Perhaps he became one of the many, unnamed, dedicated followers of Christ throughout his time on earth. And maybe Matthew deliberately left out the conclusion of this man’s encounter in order to prompt people like you and me to ask the question:

How will I respond to the Son of Man?

 

Works Cited:

[DBI, 447]

 

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