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In the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament), the expression “son of man” often refers simply to a human being. This is clear from Ezekiel, where the Lord’s prophet is called “son of man” nearly one hundred times. In this way, the Lord reminded Ezekiel that he was a mere human being, and that he must accept God’s power and purpose in the world.
The prophet Daniel also uses the expression, but with a slightly different meaning. He says he saw what “looked like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven” (Dan 7:13). Here “son of man” refers to a savior—the person God will choose to rule over all the world and its people. Like this son of man, Jesus comes as God’s chosen one (Messiah).
In the Gospels, Jesus speaks of himself as the Son of Man. Sometimes he uses the term to express his humanity (Luke 9:58) or to emphasize his role as the one who will suffer and die to forgive sins (Mark 10:45; Luke 9:22,43). But this expression is used as well when referring to Jesus’ future glory, when God’s people are gathered together and God’s kingdom (rule) will be set up (Mark 8:38—9:1). People will see the Son of Man sitting at the right side of God All-Powerful (Mark 14:62). Also, he will be seen returning to earth with great power and authority (Matt 24:30). Because of these last passages from the Gospels, some scholars think Jesus was using the expression in the same way Daniel was.
People are called to decide and publicly acknowledge who the Son of Man is (Mark 8:27; Matt 16:13). Those who believe that he was sent by God to renew God’s people and to bring all creation under God’s control will be part of God’s family. They will also be rewarded for what they have done (Matt 16:27-28).