Then the crowd replied to him, “We have heard from the scripture that the Messiah will remain forever. So how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up?’ Who is this Son of Man?” John 12:34
“Who is this Son of Man?” Is that not the question that has resonated within our hearts at some point in time or even now as you read those words? Who is this Son of Man? For many of us, our Sunday School upbringing or Vacation Bible School days can assist us in providing the answer that we know right off the top of our heads. Perhaps for others of us we don’t really know or understand what it means when we hear the phrase “Son of Man.”
While most of us know or could venture a best-guess at the answer, do we really grasp the meaning of Jesus as the Son of Man? I began to consider the concept of Jesus as a man. As a girl who grew up in Sunday School and church, one of my earliest memory verses was this truth that was pounded into my little brain: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but One who is tested in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
As a child and even a teenager, the takeaway was more judgmental in nature. In those days, what I heard in this verse was a harsh reminder that Jesus who was God dealt with all the same things I did, yet He was perfect. Therefore, there is no excuse for me to sin. While the sentiment was accurate, the tender encouragement behind the words used to be lost on me. It always felt like it was the adult attempt to prevent us from messing up. Not a very effective tactic, for sure. Probably because, somewhere within our human brains, we wrestle with the concept that Jesus was not only fully man on earth but also fully God. And the fully God part is where we get caught, where we get stuck.
Fast forward many years into adulthood, and this concept becomes even more challenging to grasp. Somehow, when we consider Jesus walking wrapped in flesh on planet Earth, we seem to view Him as an archaic superhero of sorts. In our minds, or maybe it is just me, we somehow think that because He was God, it made life easier for Him. Mistakenly, and often completely unaware of it, I have had this image of Jesus similar to Iron Man where He takes on the world but is immune to the effects of it. Fiery darts being shot at Jesus? No worries, they bounce right off his armor. Wounding words and insults hurled His direction? No matter—His superhero exterior kept Him safely from the pain of it. Consciously, this has never entered my mind because I love God’s Word, and I love reading the stories of the compassion, the grace, and the love of Jesus. I love knowing that He encountered the same feelings and temptations and emotions I have endured. Intellectually, I know that He was fully man. But somehow, I have negated that He is truly the high priest who suffered and was tempted in every single way that I have been. I have almost, at times, inadvertently, dehumanized the Son of Man. When I say that, I mean I have given God an out.
Recently, God brought to my attention this concept of Him being fully human and how my mind has processed it. Upon reading the brutality that Jesus endured, it is almost as if I cannot bear to read, to hear, to know what that must have felt like in human form. Jesus was beaten beyond human recognition, to the point He no longer resembled a man according to Isaiah 52:14. When I read these verses, I am so sickened by them and by the fact that it was my sin that caused him so much suffering. I practically discount it by assuming that it was easier for Him to endure because He was also God, as if being God lessened the pain that He felt.
I never realized before that I was attaching the disclaimer to this until God revealed to me that my human mind was doing so. Logically, when I hear of this degree of abuse and brutality, I think the human body cannot withstand such injury without succumbing to unconsciousness, to a coma, or even to death. Yet, Jesus did. He felt every single blow, just as we would, because He was cloaked in human flesh. He bled, just like you and me. He wept, just like you and me. He felt all the things we have felt. Yet, He remained sinless. How can our finite minds grasp so great a thought?
What is one area of your life—one feeling, one emotion, one temptation, one experience—where you struggle to accept and to believe that Jesus felt it too? Take heart, friend. Jesus knows. Jesus loves you so much, and, for that reason, He did endure for you. He sees your honesty and He wants to meet you where you are. Confess to Him where you are struggling to believe He can relate to you in your situation. Then boldly ask Him for the courage to believe Him and to show you how He is right there in it with you.