SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 4 December 2022
Sermon Text: Matthew 16:15-16
Sermon Series: Jesus Christ the Son of God
I. The Son of Man
II. The Son of Man declared
III. The Son of Man in believer’s life
I wonder whether you’ve heard of a group of biblical scholars called Jesus Seminar. Since its foundation in 1985 with a membership of 50 scholars and 100 laymen, Jesus Seminar was active in the 80s and the 90s, publishing their reports and running a series of lectures and workshops in America.
Hearing the name of this group, Jesus Seminar, you might consider it as one of great Christian organisations. But, the nature of this group is far from good, and its works are, in fact, heterodox and anti-Christian. This group claimed that they had examined the NT, then, they published the results of their study on Jesus’ nature and works. I’m going to read you one of the statements they publicised and this statement will give you an idea of how unchristian they were: ‘Jesus of Nazareth did not refer to Himself as the Messiah, nor did He claim to be a divine being who descended to earth from heaven in order to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.’ As clearly mentioned in this statement, they denied Jesus’ divinity; they rejected Jesus identity, the Saviour of the world. They considered Jesus as a great man and teacher from Nazareth but no more, let alone the Son of God.
Their claim is baseless and false. That’s because, while He was on earth, Jesus clearly declared who He is. He said that He was the Messiah came in flesh as promised by God. He taught His disciples that He is the Son of God; He is both God and man in His nature. As He taught, Jesus is our Saviour and Lord of all.
Over three Sundays in December, I’d like to consider together with you the nature of Jesus Christ. I think this is the most proper time for us to contemplate on who Jesus truly is and why He came to us. So, we’ll begin today with the title our Lord used to identify Himself, that is, ‘the Son of Man,’ and His being our High Priest and Immanuel, ‘God with us,’ in the following Lord’s Days.
I. THE SON OF MAN
I said a minute ago that Jesus had clearly taught and declared His true identity to His disciples. And that by using the title, ‘Son of Man.’ ‘The Son of Man’ is found 82 times in the four gospels of the NT and, over 50 occasions, Jesus used this title to point Himself out and the rest are spoken by others to designate Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel alone, ‘the Son of Man’ is found total 26 times and, in all of these occasions, Jesus said it for self-designation. In a word, the Son of Man was Jesus’ favourite title.
What does this phrase ‘the Son of Man’ mean? What’s the difference between this and another similar phrase, ‘the Son of God’? By hearing them, you might think that one is to point out Jesus’ divinity and the other His humanity. But, unlike this impression, both terms may mean the dual nature of Jesus depending on the context. But interestingly, ‘the Son of Man’ is originally associated with the idea of the promised Messiah. So, when we hear Jesus’ use of this title, we should interpret it as the Messiah, the Saviour, that the world has waited since Adam’s fall in sin. Whenever Jesus uses the Son of Man as a self-identifier, He means, ‘I am the Saviour God the Father had promised and His prophets prophesied in the OT.’
Daniel 7 which we read earlier today is one of the most significant OT prophecies on the promised Messiah described in the phrase ‘the Son of Man.’ Especially in v. 13, Daniel tells us about a vision of “One like a Son of Man who came to the Ancient of Days.” In v. 14 he continues and says, “to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom.” This dominion given to the Son of Man is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom shall not be destroyed. When Jesus says this title for Himself, He is referring to the One in Daniel’s vision whose dominion over all peoples and nations and languages will be everlasting.
This is why Jesus says in Mt. 9:6 that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, and in Mt. 12:8, the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath. Moreover, He teaches His disciples about His kingdom and dominion in Mt. 19:28, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, … the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne.” In all, Jesus means that He is the One Daniel saw in his vision, and His will be an everlasting dominion over all in the world, implying that this will follow His victory over Satan which was portrayed in Daniel’s vision as beasts. This truth Jesus declared clearly to the ears of both His disciples and all in Israel by identifying Himself as the Son of Man. He is the Saviour of the world.
II. THE SON OF MAN DECLARED
Contemplating this stuns me and it should also make you bewildered because Jesus has always and vividly declared His identity to everyone around Him as the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. Not only that, but also as the Lord of all to whom an everlasting dominion is given. But none of them realised His message.
He almost always identified Himself as the Son of Man, referring to the One who appeared in Daniel’s vision. But no disciple understood His message, nor did any of the Jews. Even Peter, James and John who had seen Him transfigured on a high mountain, talking with Moses and Elijah, did not grasp their Master’s glorious identity. On the way down from that mountain, Jesus spoke to them with words like these: “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” Only after Jesus’ ascension, then, receiving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, they understood Jesus’ message and Peter declared to all Jews in Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts 2, that God raised Jesus from the dead and made Him both Lord and Christ. Peter also testifies in 2 Pet. 1:16 and following that he and other apostles are eyewitnesses of Jesus’ majesty.
In every occasion of Jesus’ self-identification with this title, He declared to people that He was the Saviour. But none heard His message, and how could that be possible? What went through their minds when they heard Jesus referring to Himself as the Son of Man, the well-known title to all Jews as an important indicator of the promised Saviour? Why did they miss this extremely important announcement?
I believe that finding an answer is not difficult. That’s because the same is taking place even now at this very moment. I mean, the people of this present generation hear the same message but no one understands. About this, 1 Cor. 2:14 explains, “the sinful person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
As a good illustration of this, let me take you back to the case of the Jesus Seminar I mentioned earlier in the beginning of this message. About 50 scholars who were qualified with the doctorate in theology systematically examined the Bible for 12 years – so they claimed – and concluded that Jesus had never referred to Himself as the Messiah or come from heaven to save sinners. What a waste of their time and scholarly aptitude! Like the Jews of the 1st century AD, those of Jesus Seminar could not hear the message, and so is with all others in this generation!
In fact, the people of our time hear Jesus’ message always. As they turn their eyes, there are churches and God’s words are constantly displayed to their eyes in various ways. Many of them even know and memorise some famous Bible verses, and some of them even enjoy quoting them. Especially in this Christmas season, people cannot escape from the message of Jesus’ birth and cross. They even talk about love in this season and also about grace and mercy and forgiveness. It’s a festive season, they say, but in the deep side of their hearts, they constantly think about sin, guilt, judgment and death, thus, seek a way to escape from all those. Nevertheless, none is able to hear Jesus’ message, none is capable of coming to Him!
But only through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, like the case of Peter and all disciples, can sinful ears hear Jesus’ word, and sinful hearts understand the Lord’s message! Hearing and understanding the message, sinners can believe in Jesus as their Saviour, and realise that Jesus is the Lord over all!
III. THE SON OF MAN INBELIEVER’S LIFE
What does this mean to us believers? We’ve already received the Holy Spirit and by His ministry in our life, we know and believe that Jesus is our Saviour and Lord. Then, what else do we need to consider?
This is, in fact, what Jesus asks in Mt. 16:15. He asks this question, “But who do you say that I am?” The unbelievers of the world say this or that about Jesus, “But who do you say that I am?” Do you consider Him as your Lord and God? Thus, bow to Him always in obedience as your worship, giving Him all your heart and mind and strength? Or consider Him as One less than what the very word of God declares? Thus, bow to Him occasionally whenever circumstances allow you to do it or only when you feel like to come to Him?
In fact, this is what Jesus asked His disciples, and the same He asks you and me. Jesus the Son of Man, our Saviour and Lord, asks us who He is to us believers. And you know Peter’s answer. Being inspired by the Spirit of God, Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”! I believe that the same is your answer and confession. I believe that your heart’s desire is to live your confession out in your days on earth.
Then, what should we consider and what should we do? We should seek to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,’ as Peter tells us in 2 Pet. 3:18. Seeking to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus is, simply put, asking the Holy Spirit to teach us more about Jesus through the word recorded and given to us. Seeking to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus is not anything mysterious or magical. Rather, it is tangible and achievable through worshipping Jesus on the Lord’s Days together with all fellow believers, and studying the word in Bible study meetings, and living for Jesus in the world. As we humbly seek the Lord, His Spirit will lead us to His presence; as we obediently bow to our Lord, the Holy Spirit will deepen our understanding of Him and our joy in Him.
Remembering God’s grace, let me suggest that you examine your heart to see whether you’re living a life worthy of your confession. As you thank God for giving of His Son to be the Lord and Saviour, renew your heart and refresh your confession, and say to Him, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”! ***