The Gospel Apocalypse
To grasp the meaning of Jesus’ unique self-identification, “the Son of Man,” we should begin, I think, with those dominical sayings that most clearly evoke the vision of “a son of man” in Daniel 7. These sayings, which form significant blocks in the Gospels, generally have to do with the Last Judgment and the end of history.
The clearest and most dramatic example is found in the scene of Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin: “Again the high priest asked him, saying to him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed?’ Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven’” (Mark 14:61–62). It is worth observing that this solemn word—and warning!—was Jesus’ final declaration to the leaders of Judaism. He had nothing further to tell them.
The title, “the Son of Man,” first referred, then, to Jesus’ claim to be the final arbiter of history. Because this term was so prominent in apocalyptic expectations among the Jews at the time, none of Jesus’ hearers failed to appreciate the significance of this declaration.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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