Why did Jesus himself and even demons refer to him by this title? (part 2 of 2)
by Brian Hayward
In part 1 I talked about the identity of Son of God that was applied to Jesus as early as Gabriel's visitation to the virgin Mary 9 months prior to Christmas. A similar title was also given him: Son of the Most High.
Although Son of God is used commonly throughout the Gospels (Arabic-Injeel) an account in the Gospels of Luke and Mark use this exact terminology, Son of the Most High. Once when Jesus and his disciples entered the gentile region of the Garasenes, a demon-possessed man cried out with a loud voice and said, 'What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me'" (Mark 5:7, cf. Luke 8:28). Indeed, demons recognized Jesus's true identity on this and many occasions before even his disciples come to realize who he is.
..."So demons recognized him," you might say. "That is less than convincing." The question is, does Jesus himself claim to be the Messiah, the Son of the Most High? Indeed he does. After Jesus asks his disciples who they say he is, his disciple Simon Peter tells Jesus: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” His disciple equates the Messiah with the title “Son of the living God.” Jesus responds: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” Jesus then tells Simon that he’ll build his church upon Simon Peter, giving him a new name. It’s very obvious that Jesus acknowledged the truth of this identity.
And if this isn’t clear enough, the high priest (the equivalent of the Supreme Court in Judaism) charges Jesus under oath to the living God, “tell us (the Jewish rulers) if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” The first observation is that the Jews equate the title Son of God with the Messiah, based on the promise made to David. The second is that the highest authorities in Judaism are wanting a straight, honest answer, though they’ve gotten only silence from Jesus up until that point.
Jesus replies: “You [the High Priest] have said so [that I am the Messiah]…But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The Mighty One is obviously none other than God Himself. Sitting at the right hand is a clear reference not to God having a right or a left side, or that God sits, but that Jesus is in the place of greatest privilege and honor with God Himself.
When Jesus says that He’s the Son of Man, many would mistake this for a claim that he’s only a man. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. And the Jewish leaders recognized this claim as blasphemy. The high priest tears his clothes, as the Jews did when they heard blasphemy (similar to the Muslim idea of ‘shirk’). The rest of the Jewish rulers who heard Jesus say these words said “He is worthy of death.” Why did they respond like this?
Jesus was clearly saying that the prophecy of Daniel (7:14) applies to him. The prophet Daniel saw in a vision one like “a son of man” who is “coming on the clouds of heaven,” the exact words of Jesus. This son of man approached God Himself and was “given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worship him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
The Jews knew the prophecy which brought together one like a human being, son of man, who would be worshiped by all nations and have an everlasting dominion, yet they refused to believe that it had come to fulfillment, even by one born of a virgin, who clearly raised the dead, healed the blind, and claimed that he had authority to forgive sins. Thus they rejected Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, the Son of the Most High, and the prophesied Son of Man.
The question for us is: how will we respond this Christmas to the claims of the angel about Jesus, and about Jesus’s claims about Himself? Will we simply acknowledge that he’s an amazing man, or a unique prophet? Or will we trust what God Himself said about Jesus, through his angel, or what Jesus clearly said about himself, attested by those who witnessed his life?
*Peace be upon him (pbuh) is a title Muslims give to those they consider prophets. Although David wasn't a 'conventional' prophet because of his kingship, Christians acknowledge that God revealed to him the psalms in a prophetic way. Therefore I use pbuh to honor those to whom God revealed His Word.