Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son of Man” nearly 80 times in the gospel accounts. This expression certainly connotes His humanity, that He became a man (Philippians 2:7); however, closer inspection of the term shows its association with His heavenly glory rather than His earthly birth.
The last occurrence of Jesus referring to Himself as “Son of Man” in John’s Gospel is found in verse 31 of chapter 13, where He said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” Judas had just departed from the company. Now that the betrayal was underway, events were set in motion that would soon lead to the great saving act of Christ dying on Calvary’s cross. Jesus understood this sequence of events; He had forewarned His disciples about it (Matthew 16:21; 20:19). A set of savagely sinful acts was to follow, perpetrated by Judas, the Jewish religious leaders, Pilate, and the Roman soldiers. This is not to mention the cowardice shown by followers of the Lord. Jesus’ death on the cross would upon first inspection seem like the very opposite of glory, but as we look back with the eye of faith and look at that man hanging there we see a humble glory. Christ’s glory is seen on the cross in that He stoops to this depth to save mankind and glorify the Father, whose will He is determined to do at all costs.
What followed was the exaltation of Christ through His resurrection and ascension (Philippians 2:8-9). God’s redemptive plan was accomplished. More than 600 years beforehand, God showed through His prophet Daniel that the Son of Man would accomplish God’s redemptive work on earth:
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. 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. Daniel 7:13-14
In this prophetic glimpse, the Son of Man is coming to God (the Ancient of days), returning to heaven after His work on earth was done. God gave this One in human form, the Son of Man, dominion, glory, a kingdom that all people should serve Him. Thus, we see why Jesus used the title Son of Man, for it referred to Daniel 7:13-14, a synopsis of the glory that would come after He humbled Himself to the deepest depths to redeem His people and establish His kingdom.
The church of Christ is His kingdom (Matthew 16:18-19; Colossians 1:13, 18). In the church, glory is given to Christ throughout all ages (Ephesians 3:21). Much of the world may be more aware this week of His birth, but as the church let us remember that we have come together today to declare His death wherein the Son of Man is glorified (1 Corinthians 11:26). The panorama of what Christ has done for us, including His work in creation, in the Old Testament, His birth, His life, His teachings and ministry, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension, His coronation as our King, and His continual service as our High Priest, is a picture that we all should step back and take in. It will change our lives so that we are ready for the last day when the Son of Man shall come in His glory to judge the world (Matthew 25:31; John 5:26-29).