Son of Man
Isaiah 53:3–5; Luke 19:1–10; 2 Corinthians 1:1–7; Psalm 34:18
Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man. To call himself the son of a human seems a bit obvious, but it is such a powerful name with a beautiful application. For one thing, the title implies that in taking on human flesh, Jesus also embraced human suffering.
The concept of suffering is one that haunts and scares us. I have had clients ask me to assure them that life will get better, that the pain is in the past, and they want me to promise them that the future is bright and beautiful. I can’t offer that. The world around us is too unpredictable. Instead of helping you chase a life of comfort and safety, where no harm befalls you, I want to help you find comfort and safety inside you, comfort and safety that can’t be stolen from you.
Born Into Chaos and Uncertainty
When we talk about what Jesus did for us, the conversation usually centers around the horrible death he endured in order to have a relationship with us. But he didn’t just die; he also lived! The world Jesus was born into was one of chaos and uncertainty. The Romans had taken Jerusalem in 63 BC, and the people felt their harsh rule. Although the Romans allowed the Jews to keep their customs, the Romans inflicted heavy taxes and new laws with threats of cruelty and oppression. The Romans had newly established an emperor, Caesar Augustus, who began the tradition of emperor worship.
To add to the instability, Herod the Great had been appointed the Jewish ruler over Judea. He was delusional and dangerous. He experienced fits of rage, acted impulsively, and was infamous for murdering anyone who threatened his throne, including members of his own family. While Herod was king, a group of wealthy leaders from the east arrived and explained that they had traveled a great distance because the stars had told them a new king had been born. They had come with gifts with the intent to meet the new king (Matthew 2:1–18). Herod panicked, and in his rage and obsessive desire for power, he ordered the murder of all baby boys under the age of two to try to ensure the death of any child who might usurp his throne.
Into this intense and uncertain political climate, Jesus was born to a young, common girl and her husband. Because of the orders of the Roman emperor, Jesus was born in the small town of Bethlehem, far from his family’s home. His mother went into labor just as they arrived in Bethlehem, but they had no place to stay. They were finally given a crude space to sleep, and after his mother gave birth to him, she had to use a trough as a crib (Luke 2:1–7). What a beginning! According to the prophesy laid out about him in Isaiah 53, his life would be filled with pain and suffering.
Jesus Chose Suffering
The authors of the Gospels do not reveal much about the first thirty years of his life but give an account of his last three. In those short three years, the authors document how Jesus experienced rejection (Matthew 13:57), hunger (Matthew 4:2), physical exhaustion (John 4:6), family conflicts (Mark 3:21), loneliness (Luke 5:16), sorrow (Matthew 26:38), frustration (Mark 9:19), betrayal (Mark 14:44), abandonment by friends (Matthew 26:56), homelessness (Luke 9:58), grief (John 11:35–36), false accusations (Mark 14:57), torture (Mark 15:15), constant harassment from enemies (Mark 3:6), and ultimately murder (Acts 2:23).
If I had been told God was coming to live on this earth for thirty-three years, I would have envisioned him choosing to be born in a safe, God-fearing country, living in a palace, and spending each day teaching and preaching to adoring crowds. But instead, he was born in a humble setting to a poor, young couple, grew up as a carpenter, lived a quiet life, and then chose a path of homelessness and servitude. He chose suffering.
The Son of Man’s resume of experience in suffering is extensive. His Father and the Spirit partnered with him as he walked this earth, and I can’t imagine what it was like for both of them to watch him suffer. Without some sort of purpose, this plan is nothing short of cruel. But he knew what he was doing. He called himself “the son of a human” to show that he was choosing a hard life so he could fully understand us.
Finding Power in Pain
I sometimes find myself sitting across from my suffering, trying to sort out the dark thoughts it brings and the anxiety that flares up from it, and wondering how my experience could possibly warrant any purpose. I have become an expert in certain areas as far as suffering goes: medical challenges, depression, anxiety, financial hardships, and relationship challenges. If I believed suffering had no point in the grand picture of a God bigger than me, I would be dead.
A huge turning point for me in battling my depression was when I began to realize that the depth of my pain is where my power actually resides. Trust me, as a young girl making plans for college and a future career, the job title “poster child for depression” was not on the list. And if someone had told me I would write a book, the idea of opening with an introduction about a suicide attempt would not have been my dream. But these places of weakness are where I found my power.
I pray to the God who calls himself the “Son of Man.” The God who so desperately wanted to know me that he chose to experience my challenges ahead of me so he could relate to me. The Son of Man’s pain gives him the power to minister to me. And as he listens to your pain, you become increasingly powerful as you walk through life and experience its hardships. Your suffering can help you to know him better. The more hardship you experience, the more intimately you can know Jesus, the more powerful your influence, and the more dangerous you become to Satan. I would argue that Jesus draws especially close to the broken-hearted because he knows what that feels like.
Gathering Up the Pieces to Give Them Away
I had a dream years ago that brought this to life. In the dream, I was holding my heart in my hands, and suddenly it slipped and shattered into hundreds of pieces on the floor. I was so shocked. I stood, looking over all the pieces in disbelief. I began to cry. And then, Jesus was there, helping me gather the pieces up, very gently and with reverence. Suddenly, without any words, he showed me how I now had hundreds of pieces to give away. Without my heart being broken, I would have had nothing to offer. Your suffering is not worthless. Instead of fighting it, press into it, look at it, and begin to find the ways that you can use it to know Jesus and to influence others. Your suffering matters to Jesus, and he handles it with reverence. He knows what it feels like because he has been through it. Just like in the story of Zacchaeus you read at the beginning of this chapter, Jesus will find you, come make his home with you, and inspire you.
Taken from The Healing Names of Jesus: Find Freedom from Depression and Anxiety. Copyright © 2021 by Jenita Pace. Published by BroadStreet Publishing Group, LLC.
Jenita Pace is a pastor’s wife and licensed professional counselor (LPC) in the state of Minnesota, and a member of the National Board of Certified Counselors helping people who battle depression after overcoming her own battle, and now runs a private practice in Minnesota. She is also an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. Find her on Twitter @threeriverspace, on Instagram @jenitapace, and visit her website at threeriversmn.com.