Summary: Was Jesus merely a cynic rebel as some claim? Was He merely a wise man or prophet? He was and is the Son of God!
"Cynic, Sage, or Son of God" Matthew 16:13-20
An American missionary one day overtook one of his converts in the woods, and after some conversation asked him, ‘Tell me what your heart says of Jesus.’ The Native American stood still, paused awhile, and then replied, ‘Stop, and I will show you.’ Stooping down, he gathered some dry leaves into a circle, in the middle of which he left an open space, and dropped a worm into it: he then set fire to the leaves. The flames quickly ran round them, and the poor insect, beginning to feel the heat, writhed and wriggled about in all directions, seeking in vain some way of escape from the torment. At last, exhausted with its fruitless efforts, it sank motionless. The native stretched out his hand, lifted up the worm, and laid it on the cool ground, beyond the reach of its place of torture. ‘This Jesus did for me,’ said the native; "and this is what my heart tells me I owe to him.”
Who is this Jesus who plucks men, like worms, from the fires which seek to consume them? Who is this Jesus? We are living in times when it quite socially acceptable to talk about God, as long as it is in a rather generic sense. Few are offended when a friend says “God Bless You” when they sneeze. In fact, the ironic thing is that it is considered rude not to do so, even to an unbeliever!
“God talk” is, in most cases acceptable, but what about honest talk about the savior; about Jesus? What about honest dialogue about the truth claims of Christ? Is there, can there be, any question of any great importance than the simple question of Jesus in today’s Gospel reading; “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Mathew 16:13 ESV) “Who do men say that I am?”
(Cynic) The title, Son of Man, is used more of Jesus than any other in the Gospels. With but one exception in John 12:24 when a bystander asks Jesus what He means in His referring to Himself as the Son of Man. There are several interpretations as to the meaning of the term “Son of Man” some 83 times in the Gospels.
Some scholars believe that this title alludes back to the book of Daniel chapter seven. In this view, Jesus is identifying with the prophecy of that book. This may be true but as this is only one of nearly two hundred times that the phrase “son of man” appears in the Old Testament, in every instance being a reference simply to one’s frail humanity, I am inclined toward the view that Jesus is identifying with humanity in calling Himself the “Son of Man.”
Some critics have asserted that Jesus is only a son of man; only a man. This is the view of the atheist, agnostic, or the modern mainstream unconcerned. They assert that the miracles spoken of in the Bible are false or if they are valid at all then it is only because Jesus was an extraordinary man, though still, just a man.
These same critics assert that Jesus was a man to be honored because He, like they, was a cynic, skeptic. It is true that Jesus was a rebel. At every turn He condemned the Jewish religious establishment. At every turn He condemned the Pharisees. The point here, though, is not that Jesus was merely a religious cynic condemning religion. The point is that Jesus had come bearing the authority of Heaven.
In Jesus condemning the religious establishment of His day, He was not condemning religious belief in general or even Judaism in particular; He was expressing the need for a radical shift in religious expression. He was communicating to humanity that a new era had come; the era of grace.
In referring to Himself as the “Son of Man” Jesus is not denying His divine origins or His divine nature; He is giving us a picture of His ultimate character – gentle humility – and He is identifying with the humanity He came to redeem. Jesus, the God Man, the Logos, is the perfect expression or communication of a Holy God to sinful humanity.
A. T. Pierson has this to say about communion with God: “a word is the manifestation of a thought. If I wish to communicate a thought to you that thought takes shape in words. You cannot see my thought, but what is there comes through the channels of speech, and so travels through your ear to your mind, and becomes part of your thought. Now Christ became the Word to take the thought out of the mind and heart of God, and translate that thought so that we could understand it, so that what was before invisible and inaudible and beyond the reach of our senses comes into our minds and hearts as something that was in God’s mind and heart, but now is in ours. Beautiful indeed is this as an expression of what Christ is to us. You want to know God; well, then, study Christ, and you will know all about Him. ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father’ (John 14:9 KJV), said Jesus.”