While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples... (Luke 9:43)
What does Jesus mean by his statement?
Most certainly Jesus is speaking of his upcoming arrest and persecution. But what is the meaning of his statement at that time and place, and why did they need to "listen carefully"?
To fully understand Jesus' statement we must translate the text more accurately.
The key to understanding the text lies in the Greek word ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos) - translated both to "man" and "men" in Jesus' statement. The Greek is translated to "Son of man" and "hands of men" here. Is this the right way to translate these?
Not completely, as ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos) means "mankind" or "humanity." Thus while "man" and "men" are not completely wrong - they are out of context with the rest of Jesus' statement.
This is understood only when the Greek word υἱός (huios) from the phrase υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (translated to "son of man") is translated accurately.
According to the lexicon, the word υἱός (huios) can only mean "son" in the context of a physical family: "in a restricted sense, the male offspring - one born by a father and of a mother".
Thus we cannot apply the word "son" to this phrase, as ἄνθρωπος (anthrōpos) does not mean a single "man," but refers to "mankind" or "humanity." Jesus is not speaking of being born from a man.
What would it mean if he were? Every human male is a son of a man. This would give absolutely no distinction to Jesus' reference to himself. In fact, this translation (to "son of man") is offensive to Jesus because first, Jesus did not say it, and second, because it relegates Jesus to being no different than any other human male.
So what should υἱός (huios) be translated to? According to the lexicon, the word also means, "used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower." Thus the word was commonly used to describe a "follower," "devotee" or "servant."
Let's illustrate this. The following statements by Jesus also use this same word υἱός (huios).
"But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 8:12)
“How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast." (Matt. 9:15)
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are." (Matt. 23:15)Thus we find many statements using the word υἱός (huios) refer to either a "follower" or "servant" - or "subject." They do not refer to being a physical offspring or "son".
As for Matt. 9:15, Jesus is really describing those who are servants of the bridegoom - in ancient weddings, both the bride and the bridegroom brought servants to facilitate the wedding - the custom has carried through the centuries although they are not officially servants anymore. Yet today they are still called "bridesmaids" and "groomsmen", which reflects their tradition as servants.
The correct translation of υἱός (huios) to "follower," "servant" or "subject" means that the proper translation of the Greek phrase υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου is:
Servant of humanity
Why? Because Jesus is placing himself in the humble (yet acclaimed) position of being the servant of humankind. He came to teach us to love God - which is a service to humanity.
Today we use the phrase "servant of the people" or "civil servant" when we describe government leaders or civil leaders. These descriptions illustrate their focus on helping others.
Jesus' self-description was along these lines, as he often extolled the service of others:
"The greatest among you will be your servant." (Matt. 23:11)Given this clarity we can now find in Jesus' statement unveils another concept regarding the condition of humankind:
“Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Servant of Humanity is going to be delivered into the hands of humanity.” (Luke 9:44)Thus we can now distill Jesus' meaning here. He is commenting that while he has come to be of service to people - trying to save us by teaching us about how to rekindle our loving service relationship with God - he will be persecuted by the same people he is trying to save.
Why is he bringing this up at this time?
Jesus is responding to the fact that people were so amazed by his healings. Jesus is noting the fact that while people around him were so impressed, these same people would allow his persecution. As we find later, those who previously were so amazed by Jesus' healings and miracles stood by while the Jewish priests and Romans orchestrated Jesus' torture and murder.
This commentary on people of this world also comes across in another statement by Jesus - where again he referred to these people with the word υἱός (huios) (and again mistranslated):
“Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter" (Mark 3:28)Here we see the phrase "sons of men" - translated from the phrase υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων - which is the same Greek phrase as "son of man" except it is plural. But here Jesus is describing those who are offensive to God and God's representatives, confirmed with the text previous as well as "whatever blasphemies they may utter."
Why would Jesus use the same term for these blasphemers as he does for himself? This highlights the fact that υἱός (huios) is being mistranslated to "son" as discussed above. If they were both "sons" of men then there would be no distinction between two obviously distinct references.
If we understand the word υἱός (huios) does not mean "sons" when the context is not a physical family, then we can understand its meaning relates to one who is a "follower" or "servant" or "subject" of someone or something.
In this reference in Mark 3:28 to "sons of men" - υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων - we can thus properly translate this to "followers of men" or "followers of humanity" or "servants of men." They are not following and serving God - they are following those within the physical world - they are focused upon gain within the physical world - driven by self-centeredness and greed.
But Jesus' reference to himself as "son of man" is actually "servant of humanity" in a different context. He is speaking of himself as someone who does service for humanity: Not becoming the subject of humanity - but one who works for the welfare of humanity.
Yes - there is a subtle difference between the two in the semantics - but the difference in meaning is huge.
Consider, for example, if a person is speaking to a crowd of people. It can be said that the person was "speaking to a crowd." It can also be said that a person could be "speaking in a crowd." While both are surrounded by a crowd, one is within the crowd and the other is leading the crowd.
This is similar, as the "followers of humanity" - Jesus is referring to in Mark 3:28 is the same element as he speaks of those to whom he will be handed over - "delivered into the hands of men [humanity].”
Why is this important?
Because Jesus is teaching his students about the nature of humanity.
You see, we are living in hell at the moment.
Yes, we don't need to worry about going to hell after we die - we are already there.
Just consider the state of affairs around the world: Mass shootings, chemical gassings, bombings, kidnappings, civil wars, stealings and cons, starvation, torture, wife and child beatings, murders - the list goes on and on. The physical world is a place of suffering, much of which is brought on by us - the citizens of the physical world.
So Jesus is commenting on the fact that while he has come to this hellish place to try to save people - those very people he is trying to save will be organizing his persecution and murder.
Why is this place such a hellish place? Is God not kind? Why, if he were kind, is the world not a better place?
The fact is, this place was set up by God to house those of us who have rejected their loving nature, and rejected the spiritual realm, rejected God and our relationship with God.
Yes, we have each fallen.
We are the fallen ones - fallen angels so to speak. That is why we are trapped within the confines of the physical world - because we have rebelled against God. We became jealous of God's enjoyment and His controllership.
In essence, we want to be God. This is why the citizens of the physical world are mostly fighting for control. We are fighting to control the things around us. We are trying to own and possess things. We are trying to be the boss. We are trying to become famous. We are trying to become wealthy and powerful. Why? Because we want to be in the position of controller - of dominator.
Yet none of us are. No matter what our temporary physical position is here, we will lose it. We might think we own so much but none of it is ours and it will be taken away from us at some point - if not the time of death.
So God set up this virtual dimension for us to be able to ignore Him and even pretend to be Him. He gave us these temporary physical bodies to occupy and gave us these temporary lifetimes to play out our desires.
But we are here in this hellish physical realm not just to get away from God and play out our self-centered goals: The Supreme Being also set this world up to teach us. This is a rehabilitation center.
And this is why there is so much suffering here, and consequences to every action we take. This is why there are so many natural disasters, such as flooding, earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, sickness, chronic disease, and eventually death.
In fact, we suffer from the time we are born into this world to the time we leave it. At any stage of our lives we are suffering from some kind of negative situation that stresses our bodies physically or our minds emotionally. We toil our lives away hoping that one day we will retire in comfort, only to find that retirement is plagued with body pains and eventual death - if we even see retirement. And this is among the wealthier societies of the world. Those from less advantaged societies face a fate far worse as they age.
Despite our illusion that it is, this world is not our playground. It is not a place where we "make our mark." It is not a place where we enjoy life and live forever.
We are in prison.
We are in God's rehabilitation center.
Just imagine if a social worker came to a high security prison where all the prisoners were hardened criminals. And the social worker's goal was to try to get some of the prisoners to change so they could be let out of prison. So he comes to jail and lives within a cell, trying to invoke change in others.
What will likely happen to this social worker? He would likely be beaten up and possibly even murdered in prison.
This is the status of Jesus. He has descended into hell in an attempt to save people. In his service to God, Jesus took on a temporary physical body to walk the earth teaching about God. And indeed, he did save many with his teachings.
We can conclude that Jesus did indeed describe himself - as the Greek indicates - as the servant of humanity, but also - as other verses clarify, as the servant of God - and a special servant of God at that: A loving, compassionate servant of God who came to rescue us from the depths of hell.
But God's loving servant Jesus was also brutally tortured and murdered by the same humankind he came to save, due to the self-centeredness of those individuals - not only Jewish priests and Roman governors, but the very people Jesus was trying to rescue.
This is what Jesus is trying to communicate here, and why he said to his disciples:
"Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you:"