The Son of Man

J. N. Darby.

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(Notes and Comments Vol. 2.)

The use of the term "Son of Man" is worthy of closer remark. Christ never calls Himself "the Christ" save to the woman of Samaria, outside Judaism; John 4. He confesses it before the chief priests, that He is the Christ the Son of the Blessed, but then His own testimony is "Moreover" (plen) "I say unto you, Henceforth" (not hereafter) "ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power" - so Stephen saw Him (but that was a vision for one "full of the Holy Ghost") and yet standing - and "coming in the clouds of heaven," i.e., they would from that out only see Him in that way. He calls Himself "Son of Man" continually - it is His name of predilection in the first three Gospels - in John more frequently "Son of God." In John it is used as to the place He has already taken, for He comes into the world, and the Jews are rejected, and His Person as divine while on earth and as to the Cross, see chapter 3; in chapter 4 for His Body given for the life of men and ascending up - Christ on earth; in chapter 5 judgment given to Him because He is such.

Men never call Him "Son of Man," save Stephen as seeing Him in heaven, which after what He said to the Jews is very significant, as is His not being yet set down. Save these cases, the term is used as suffering - as Lord of all - forgiving - in grace seeking and saving what was lost - or coming again in power and glory; as a general rule suffering and rejected, or coming again in glory.

In the Old Testament the name is only used in respect of future glory and power, in Daniel 7 and Psalm 8. The "made a little lower than the angels" of the latter is used in Hebrews as being in order to be able to suffer death.

The term is used in Revelation, "One like unto the Son of man," as judging in the midst of the Churches, and as coming in the clouds of heaven. In one Psalm (80) He is viewed as the future Deliverer of Israel, who is to come.

The "suffering" point, as connected with the term, is very clear in John 12. It is emphatically stated there. In Luke 9 we have it distinctively in contrast with the Christ, and so that the whole blessing is on new ground, and repeated as the grand practical needed truth, verses 43, 44. The remark made above, which is already evident from John 1:51, reading "henceforth," shows the different use of it in John. Hebrews 2 takes it up most distinctly in doctrine, and unfolds most fully its connection with the interest He takes in men (the seed of Abraham) as such; they are "all of One." Ephesians 1 connects it with the Church or the Church with Him; and 1 Corinthians 15, the bringing about the result by resurrection. And this explains the after-subjection of the Son, for He remains - infinite grace - Son of man; His personal glory and headship remaining, but His kingdom, rule and authority given up, as heretofore seen.

297 This explains the character of John's Gospel also, where the divine nature of Christ and His oneness with the Father is so clearly stated - having taken already the place of Son of man, He is always divine, but always recipient and dependent. It is not the Kingdom but the Person - a divine one - the Son one with the Father, but the Son of man who has taken the subject place, as we have often seen, all through. This is most important in itself, and for the understanding of John's Gospel, and most blessed. The whole of chapter 17 brings it out very strikingly, where He brings the disciples into His own place, and having brought the Son into Man, He brings men to be sons with Him - by Him, but with Him. This is very lovely. And this is His eternal place consequently, only then glorified of course, as He demands in chapter 17, "Glorify thou me."

His Person comes out strikingly in such passages as "The Son of Man who is in heaven." But although John distinctly uses it in the way and for the reason mentioned in connection with His Person - the Man down here, yet "The Son of man who is in heaven" - "That meat . . . which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed" - yet the death and future glory are not lost sight of in connection with it, only it holds fast the Person as a present thing. We have it in chapter 6, and we have it when the Greeks come up, adding that the corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die or it abode alone. "The Son of man must be lifted up"; and this goes further than "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation." In John it is directly connected with God - His nature and Christ's work - yet on the part of man towards God, the other side following under the title of "Son of God." But in John it has a most blessed and revealing character, which is indeed the gist of the whole Gospel, adding "The other Comforter."

298 The absolute unity of His Person, though in a taken nature, is seen in chapter 6:62, as well as in chapter 3:13.

It is evident "Son of man," though the predicted, miraculous descendant of Adam by the woman everywhere, is used in the three Gospels in contrast with the Christ (of Jewish promise) according to the promise of Psalm 8 and Daniel, showing He was to suffer, and not then take the place of Psalm 2, but suffer as Son of man in a more dispensational way; whereas in John it is His Person - He who could say "Father," could say it and did say it as Man - a present thing, as remarked before but not developed. See chapter 1: 49, and then verse 51 as following it.

In John the "Son of Man" is first seen in chapter 1 with the Angels of God serving Him as their special object. Then He is "Son of man who is in heaven," but came down from it. He "must be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This "lifting up" is always in connection with the Son of man.

Then chapter 8, "When ye have lifted up the Son of man, ye shall know that I am he." So chapter 12, "How sayest thou: The Son of man must be lifted up, who is this Son of man?"

After chapter 3, chapter 6 next takes up the Son of man. There He is the One "sealed of the Father," but again "come down from heaven" - His flesh and blood to be eaten (to go up where He was before). If "lifted up" He was to draw all men. This "lifting up" was clearly His death, but His death as "lifted up," and this word seems to me of importance - His death as rejected and cast out of the earth, but thereby connected with heaven, and the Object of faith to the earth, i.e., to men on it as consciously lost then, but no longer of it. Hence connected with the Son of man, and contrasted by the people with Christ (Messiah) abiding as they thought ever, according to the law; as "Christ" and "Son of man" are contrasted in themselves in Luke 9.

"The Son of man must be lifted up" is associated with heavenly things, as with the serpent stricken to death in John 3. Israel even must be born again for earthly promises according to the prophets - for the setting up of the kingdom, of course the Gentile; but loving the world is connected with the Son of man being lifted up, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me." And it is on the rejection of the Jews, as such, for rejecting His word, that He says "when lifted up" they would "know it was he." When too late they would know whom they had rejected. So it was with the altar - it was not in the camp but in the court of the tabernacle, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation (of meeting). Only in chapter 8, He is the Word, I Am, whom they have rejected. It was one coming from the camp towards the Tabernacle (Heaven) who found the altar the first thing heavenward - so Christ on the Cross, lifted up, the Witness, dying, that we were dead in sin, but find it in grace in a sacrifice for sin. We go further - we enter into the holiest through the rent veil, but here was the meeting place, but it as having done consequently with the world (the first Adam) as Christ had there done with it - He was lifted up from the earth and all became heavenly but judgment, and that is so to us.

299 He is "lifted up" in chapter 3, in connection with dying men, like the brazen serpent, and as introducing to heavenly things; He is "lifted up" in chapter 8 in connection with the utter rejection of the Jews; He is "lifted up" in chapter 12, drawing all men unto Him - the wide sphere of application here below - all this by His death. These are the only cases of the use of the word regarding Christ.

Matthew 12 gives us the turning point very completely. The Pharisees and Sadducees who composed the Jews (and all religious men, ritualism, and self-righteousness, and infidel rationalists) are rejected - no sign given but a rejected Christ in the grave (Jonas), when it would be too late to be connected with the nation in flesh. In a word, death is brought in and the new resurrection state, but death to man and all hopes in man - the fig-tree is cursed. Then chapter 16, the Lord takes His own place in connection with man, not Judaism - "Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?" Peter then owns Him as "The Christ, the Son of the living God." As "the Christ" He is to be proclaimed no more, but still He was the accomplishment of promise - the Seed of David according to the flesh, and Son of God, of the living God (proved in resurrection). This confession of Peter is the whole Gospel, as to the Person, stated in the beginning of Romans 1 - practically in 2 Timothy 2:8.

The Son of God, accomplishment of promise as the Christ, the Son of David, brings in life in divine power so as to be able to triumph over death. He goes down, as Man, into the full effect as to man's estate of sin, and Satan's power, breaks out in victory, and puts man into a new place beyond it all. The Son of man "made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death," is the Son of the living God in power. On this the Church is built by Christ - the living stones added to the Living Stone. Secondly, as a distinct matter, the keys of the Kingdom - not of the Church, there are none - are given to Peter; the human-built, responsible Church is Paul's work, 1 Corinthians 3, but that is not our subject here. Hence from this point He begins to tell them the fact of His rejection, and death, and resurrection - the wholly, absolutely new footing on which man was set; besides, afterwards, the Son of man should come in His glory - but this is chapter 17.

300 We learn that flesh may keep our state below the revelation we have really received, so as to be an adversary to Christ, for in minding earthly things we are adversaries to Christ, enemies of His Cross - for if we follow the Son of man, the Cross is the path He trod and we tread. Paul stood and started on this ground, "If one died for all, then were all dead," and he knew no man, not even Christ, after the flesh. It is not therefore a passing, as often noticed, from Judaism to the Church, but a passing from man in the flesh to a resurrection manhood through the Cross and death. The Christ-hood living connection with Israel, according to the flesh, being thus gone, and the Son of man taking up man's case, entering into and putting man into a wholly new condition in resurrection beyond death and Satan's power. That, as to the Son of man - but, on His being the Son of the Living God, the Church also is built, His then Christ-hood being then broken down, but this is in connection with the wider place of Son of man. The Church is not built upon His being "Son of man," but on the Son of man being the "Son of the Living God." The "Son of man" is individual and general - its public result and state is in chapter 17, Luke 9, etc.

Note though what is called "The eternal Sonship" be a vital truth, or we lose the Father sending the Son, and the Son creating, and we have no Father if we have no Son, so that it lies at the basis of all truth, yet in the historical presentation of Christianity the Son is always presented as down here in servant and manhood estate, as all through John, though in heaven and One with the Father. "This" - this Person - "is my beloved Son" - He who was as Man there, yet there. In Matthew 3 the whole Trinity is revealed, and we may say for the first time fully. Wonderful grace it is! Hence "No! not the Son," has no difficulty; Mark 13:32.