Monday, August 6, 2012

One Title Jesus Never Used to Define Himself

There are many titles used of Jesus. Messiah, Son of Man, Prince of Peace, Servant, and Lord of Lords to name but a few.

There is one title that Jesus never used to define himself. Now, this is not to say, the title doesn't define who he is, but interestingly Jesus never used it.

Obviously we can rule out the title 'Son of Man'. This was the most frequent of the titles Jesus used of himself. People found themselves asking, 'Who is this son of Man?' (John 12:34). Son of Man is barely even a title, and in the Hebrew Bible it's 'ben-adam', and simply means 'human being'. It is used frequently in the book of the prophet Ezekiel, and Jesus uses it often to define himself, for example, 'For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.' (Matthew 12:40). 

So what is the title that Jesus never uses?


Clearly the Israelite people were expecting a Messiah. Clearly Jesus understood that he was the promised Messiah that the Israelites had been waiting for. He began preaching in the synagogue mentioning he was anointed of God (Luke 4:18, Isaiah 61:1), and when asked by the High Priest if he was the Messiah, he said, 'I am.' (Mark 14:61-62).

The question then is why was Jesus so reluctant to use the title, 'Messiah' to describe himself?

Christopher J. H. Wright (Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, 1992) sums it up:
The most probable reason is that the term had become so loaded with the hopes of a national, political and even military, Jewish restoration that it could not carry the understanding of his messiahship which Jesus had derived from a deeper reading of his scriptures. A public proclamation of his own messiahship would have been 'heard' by his contemporaries with a load of associations that were not part of Jesus's concept of his mission.
There are implications for ministry today. What titles do we use in ministry and are they appropriate? That's for another day, but for now, Jesus preferred to be called, 'Son of Man', a human being who was and is the Son of God, the Promised Messiah and the eschatological hope for all of humanity.

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