Jon: If you read the New Testament, you’ll notice that the most common title people used to describe Jesus is “the Christ,” that is, the Messiah1.
Tim: But surprisingly, Jesus almost never used that word to describe himself. Instead, he called himself the Son of Man2.
Jon: The Son of Man? What does that mean?
Daniel’s Dream Part 1: Beasts and Empires [00:21-01:19]
Tim: Well, the phrase comes from an important chapter in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament3. Daniel was an Israelite prisoner of war who was forced to live in the empire of Babylon and work for the prideful, violent king who destroyed his home4.
Jon: That sounds horrible.
Tim: And while he was living and working in Babylon, Daniel had this crazy prophetic dream. You ready for it?
Jon: I’m ready!
Tim: He saw four beasts crawling out of a dark sea—hybrid, monster-like animals, each scarier than the one before. And the fourth beast is so mutant there’s nothing to compare it to! And it’s violent, leaving death and destruction in its wake5.
Jon: What in the world is this about?
Tim: Well, he’s told that these beasts symbolize violent, prideful kings and their empires6.
Jon: Oh, like the one Daniel’s enslaved to.
Tim: Yeah. And these creatures might seem random, but these images are developing an important biblical theme—how humans are these remarkable creatures capable of doing great good and horrible evil.
Jon: How we can behave like animals.
God’s Intention for Humanity in the Beginning [01:20-02:53]
Tim: Right! Look at the first pages of the Bible. God creates the beasts of the field and humans, together, all from the dust7. But then the humans are set apart and given a royal task of being God’s image8.
Jon: So humans are like the animals but called to become much more9.
Tim: Yeah. They’re to be God’s representatives on Earth, ruling on his behalf like kings and queens. But keep reading and the humans are deceived by a beast, who says that they could be more than just God’s partners.
Jon: Yeah—that they could become gods who rule on their own terms10, which sounds good to them!
Tim: But God knows this will be a disaster, and so he expels the humans to the realm of the beasts11.
Jon: The partnership is lost.
Tim: But God makes a promise that one day a human will be born who won’t give into the beast. Rather, he will overcome and strike the beast while being struck by it12.
Jon: Okay, so for the rest of the biblical story, we’re waiting for that human. But instead, in story after story, we find people acting like beasts13.
Tim: Yeah, like in the next story about Cain who’s jealous and angry at his brother Abel14. God warns Cain that he’s facing a beastly urge called sin, a dark, mysterious kind of evil that consumes humans. But God says that Cain can rule the beast if he chooses15.
Jon: But he doesn’t rule the beast. He lets this urge devour him and he becomes a beast16.
Tim: And then after this, Cain’s children spread their animal-like violence17, and it leads to the founding of a whole civilization known for its beastly pride, the city of Babylon18.
Daniel’s Dream Part 2: The Son of Man and Renewed Partnership [02:54-03:47]
Jon: Okay Babylon! So fast forward—this is where Daniel is enslaved having his bizarro dream.
Tim: Exactly. Now, watch what happens next in Daniel’s dream. He sees into God’s throne room where a court is set up, and God condemns the beast to destruction19.
Jon: That’s great!
Tim: And then Daniel sees that there’s actually more than one divine throne20.
Jon: Oh right—the throne that humanity left behind21.
Tim: Right. There hasn’t been a human who was able to overcome the beast and rule alongside God until now. Daniel sees a figure called the Son of Man, which means “human.” And he rides on a cloud up into God’s presence and then sits down on the divine throne to rule the world22,
Jon: The partnership is renewed.
Tim: Yes, and even more, all humanity worships and serves this son of man alongside God23.
Jon: Huh. Worshiped? So this is no ordinary human. This is like a god-human.
Jesus: True Son of Man [3:47-05:50]
Tim: Exactly. And so now you can see why Jesus of Nazareth, when he came onto the scene centuries later, chose this title, the Son of Man, for himself. He was claiming to be that truly human one on a mission to confront the beast24.
Jon: He was tempted to seize power on the beast’s terms.
Tim: But unlike every human before him, Jesus resisted the urge25. And then he went about banishing the beast from people’s lives, and he was teaching people how to rule the beast instead of being ruled by it26.
Tim: Yes. When Jesus was on trial in a human courtroom and being condemned to death, he said, “From this moment on, you will see the Son of Man sitting at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds.”28
Jon: But this is the moment he’s about to die.
Tim: Exactly. From one perspective, the cross looks like a beastly torture device. But Jesus viewed it as his throne29. And on this throne, he exposed the sub-human nature of our evil by letting it do its worst, and then he overcame it with his divine life and love30. Jesus’ execution was his exaltation31.
Jon: So Jesus is the first human to overcome the beast, and as a result, he can partner with God to rule the world32.
Tim: And so now, Jesus is summoning a new humanity into existence33, one that can overcome the beast in the same paradoxical way.
Tim: And then by discovering that Jesus’ life and power can become our life and power, so we can rule the world as God’s partners, but Jesus-style—in the power of service, humility, and self-giving love35.
1. e.g., Mark 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; James 1:1; Revelation 1:1
2. e.g., Mark 2:10; Mark 10:33; Mark 10:43-45; Matthew 16:27-28