The expression “Son of God” is used about thirty-five times in the New Testament while the expression “Son of Man” appears about eighty-five times. Jesus only once referred to Himself as the Son of God yet many times used the description “Son of Man.” It was Peter who brought the two descriptions of Jesus together: “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it’” (Matt. 16:13–18, NIV).
Peter, through the Spirit of God, recognized that Jesus, the Son of Man, was also the Son of God. Our Lord then proceeded to tell Peter and the disciples that upon this eternal truth—this absolute fact, this rock that Christ Jesus was indeed both Son of Man and Son of God—the church of the Living God would be built.
If Jesus had been only the Son of God, the world would have needed His continuing display of power to overcome hardship, despair, and sickness. His mighty display of authority over nature and man’s infirmities drew thousands to seek Him and the divine attention He alone could give. From the cradle to the age of thirty, Jesus was probably a normal boy, teen, and young adult, not drawing much attention; but, from thirty to thirty-three, the power of His Father came upon Him in the Jordan River at baptism, and His identity as Son of God became first glimpsed at the wedding in Cana. This mysterious power made known by the Nazarene Carpenter shook up His own family yet drew unmanageable crowds over three years, to the point where He longed for solitude. As the time drew nigh for Jesus, He seemed to lay aside His divine power as Son of God and focus exclusively on His humble appointment as Son of Man. Jesus could have called for 10,000 angels to rescue Him from His assigned baptism of suffering. The cup of pain and agony and death could have easily been set aside with divine intervention by the Son of God Himself, yet this suffering Savior, the Son of Man, chose to drink this cup for you, me, and all of mankind from Adam until the last person is born on earth. Mercy is achieved only through suffering—the law came through Moses, but grace and truth and mercy came from Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Isaiah best describes what the Son of Man had to do for all of us to gain mercy—withholding from us what we all deserve: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:1–12, NIV).