What does he mean by this, and why does he refer to the "son of man" in the third person?
And just what does the "son of man" mean anyway?
What kind of distinction is this? Every male human is a son of a man.
First, we can see here by Jesus' statement that he is separating himself - "me" translated from the Greek word ἐγώ (egō) - from the "son of man" - translated from the Greek phrase υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.
Why would he do this? To understand this better, we must understand his use of the phrase υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου and just what it really means.
The key to the meaning of the phrase is the translation of the word υἱός (huios). This word can mean "son" but only when the context is the physical family. This is reflected in the lexicon, as it states:
"in a restricted sense, the male offspring (one born by a father and of a mother)"
But we find in the same lexicon, its meaning within the context outside being born of a father and mother:
"used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower - 1) a pupil"
And just what is a person who depends upon another or follows another? A follower. Or, in the context of the times of Jesus, a servant.
This relates directly to the next words of the phrase - τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.
τοῦ means "of."
And ἀνθρώπου (anthrōpos) can refer to man, but in the larger sense - mankind or humanity.
Thus we arrive at the more appropriate translation of "servant of humanity."
Why is this more appropriate? Just consider its meaning: "servant of humanity" refers to a person who is a servant of the people because they are helping people - in Jesus' case, saving people.
The civil servant
A similar term is used today by those elected to a government post or otherwise working for the government in a democracy - the term is "civil servant" or "servant of the people". While the person has not literally become a servant is in a slave or something- they are providing a service to others.
This is quite clearly a role, and this is why Jesus refers to it in the third person. And it is not a title specific to Jesus. For example, we find the term also used to describe David and Ezekiel, and others. Consider when God addressed Ezekiel as the "son of man [servant of humanity]" not once, but over thirty times, such as this:
He said: "Son of man [servant of humanity], I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day." (Ezekiel 2:3)And consider this statement, stated by David:
"LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man [servant of humanity], that You are mindful of him?" (Psalm 144:3)In both of these translations - we find the phrase "servant of humanity" applicable, as both David and Ezekiel are serving all of humanity as they preach the teachings of love for God.
And it is this role that Jesus is also applying to. While he certainly fulfills this role, he speaks of it in the third person. Why?
Consider the statement: ".... the son of man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."
It is because God sends messengers to the earth in every age to call us back home to Him. Certainly, Jesus was the servant of humanity. But others before Jesus and after Jesus have also filled that role, and there are more to come.
Does God only have one son?
What - do we think that God can only have one messenger? Or as sectarian institutions say, one son? Is God impotent? Or does God only have the capability of sending one person to save humanity? A normal man can have many sons and many messengers. And God can only have one?
This is a preposterous teaching, put forth by those who have sought to create exclusivity among religious institutions.
And if this is true - then what was Moses doing? What was Ezekiel doing? What was David doing? What was Job doing? Were they and so many others - such as Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Eli and Samuel and Joshua - not teaching to people and saving people? Were they not teaching love for God to those around them just as Jesus was doing?
Certainly, they were. Thus we can positively say that Jesus was not the only servant of humanity.
This also relates directly to why Jesus stated that the "servant of humanity" ...."when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." This is because God's messengers do not appear alone. They appear together with God and His angels. They are backed up and supported by God and God's angels.
In order to retain this exclusivity among religious institutions long after Jesus left the planet, sectarian institutions have created this myth about Jesus' future coming - and twisted Jesus' statements to sound like that, but Jesus' statement here is not about some end of times 2,000 years into the future. It is about each of us personally. Each of us has the opportunity to reach out to God. And should we do this, God will bring us back to Him by introducing us to His messenger who will guide us back to Him.
It is all about relationships
This is the process God uses because it is all about relationships. Loving relationships. God uses His loving servants to guide us back to Him because the path back to God is through developing our loving relationship with God. And God's messengers show us how to love God.
Should we choose to follow God's messenger - any of God's messengers, such as Jesus - then we will be guided back to the spiritual realm once we leave our physical body - at which time God will appear with His messenger and escort us back to the spiritual realm. This is the method as confirmed by Jesus here and other verses in scripture.
And why is Jesus talking about being ashamed? Because some of his students were showing signs of being embarrassed by Jesus' teachings. They were not proclaiming Jesus' teachings, and standing behind them. This was because they were concerned about what others' thought of them. They wanted to fit in.
This is our disease as we consider our spiritual life in the face of how we appear to others. We want to fit in and we want others to accept us and like us, so we will tend to follow the norm. Jesus is confirming here that following him meant not fitting in. It meant not being normal as society sees us. It meant instead of worrying about what others think of us, our concern should be upon our relationship with the Supreme Being. That our relationship with the Supreme Being is the most important part of our lives.
This is confirmed by Jesus when he said:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)