In previous chapters we saw how Jesus came to Israel as their Messiah, with all prophetic promises and physical blessings. This was rejected by the nation and their leaders and they became guilty of nailing Him to a cross. But there remains a lot to think about, and some questions, in considering God’s counsels on the subject of Messiah, especially in His first presentation two thousand years ago.
One of the things we should be able to see clearly in all four gospels is Jesus transitioning from the title and role of Messiah to that of the Son of Man. The role of Messiah is one of earthly promises and earthly blessings to Israel. But in prophecy it was more than this; it would be the full restoration and recognition of Israel in the land as the people of God, by the establishing of a Messianic kingdom. This was to happen by Jehovah, the God of Israel, dwelling in the midst of them, again (Zeph. 3:14-17, Ez. 48:35). But when Jehovah took on flesh and walked among His own, they did not recognize or receive Him (John 1:1-5, 11, 14, and 12:37-41).
The Transitions between the Two Titles in the Gospels
As for the counsels of God concerning Messiah, this title and role has been put aside by God when Jesus was rejected. I speak about this at length in the ‘Israel in the Counsels of God’ chapter. In that chapter we learn of all the truths and things associated with the title of Messiah that are set aside at the same time. But what I want to show you here is Jesus, Himself, setting aside this Messianic title, in His own words, and taking up the title and role of the Son of Man.
“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.”
And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”
“Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.”
“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”
Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
There are the three different locations in the Synoptic gospels were we can see a noticeable transition taking place. Peter acknowledges Jesus as Messiah, but immediately the Lord commands them to not reveal this to any man. He commands them! This is Jesus setting aside this title and role. Then Jesus immediately begins revealing something different – His sufferings as the Son of Man. In this role and title assumed, He would go down under the power of death. He definitely pairs the role of the Son of Man with His death. And it is this thought that Peter takes issue with, bringing Him aside to rebuke Him. But it is Peter that receives the rebuke. And why? Because he does not understand that this is the working out of the counsels of God – you are not mindful of the things of God! Peter, as well as the other disciples, could still only think and accept the thoughts of natural men. Jesus was the Messiah, as Peter boldly declared, and this, a revelation that could only be given to him by God. But this wasn’t the reason Peter was rebuked. Jesus was revealing that Messiah, in God’s counsels, is now set aside – do not reveal Me as Messiah to any man! Peter was rebuked because, at the time, he wanted no part in this Son of Man, and His death in this role.
It is clear from the above scriptures what God’s counsels were in this – the setting aside of Messiah and everything associated with that thought. Immediately we see Jesus taking up the title of the Son of Man, and as Man accomplishing the work of redemption. This specifically meant His death on the cross. But there are other passages in the gospels and the book of Acts that speak of this same transition. This we will look to now.
“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”
Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Nathanael was a good Israelite, just with some obvious prejudices about places like Nazareth. Like most Jewish men, he most likely thought that the Messiah could only possibly come from Jerusalem. Jesus saw him as sitting under the fig tree, both literally and symbolically, and reveals this to him. Nathanael’s response is all Jewish in content; “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” This response is all Messianic in nature. Messiah would be Jehovah in their midst, Emmanuel, and King of Israel (Psalm 2).
Heavenly Truths vs. Earthly Things
But Jesus immediately tells him that He would show him things far greater than these truths. Now, pause here for a moment and consider how this could even be possible? To a good Israelite, what could be better than the Messiah of prophecy as Jehovah in the midst of Israel? Jesus answers this question – instead of an earthly Messiah and earthly blessing, it is that which is found in the Son of Man and the reality (not promises in prophecy) of heavenly truths and blessings. We can see that Jesus was ever mindful of the counsels of God, always speaking in line with them. The thought of earthly and heavenly things brings us to our next example.
“Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Again, Jesus is dealing with a decent Jewish man; this time it is a ruler of the Jews and a Pharisee. If a man could have spiritual insight on his own and by his own resources, Nicodemus certainly should have been such a man. Jesus speaks to him first of things he should have understood – earthly things, which are Messianic, Jewish, and prophetic in character and nature. Nicodemus does not understand, nor believe (v. 12). Is it possible for Nicodemus to believe if Jesus tells him heavenly things?
The earthly things concern the nation of Israel, this world, and are known in prophecy; the heavenly things are greater than this, and will exist as realities long before the earthly things come about. The heavenly things are newly revealed by the Son of Man, as the One who came down from heaven, telling us what He saw and heard there (v. 11-13). The heavenly things result consequent to the Son of Man being lifted up on the cross (v. 14), and lifted up apart from the earth and world (John 12:32). Again, this transition in the councils of God is being emphasized by the Lord’s own words.
The Son of Man came down from Heaven – the Bread of Life
Next, we look at Jesus’ teaching about the Son of Man being the bread of life, come down from heaven; and if we’re perceptive, we’ll see this transition again.
John 6:27 “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
John 6:32-33 “Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
John 6:35 “And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
John 6:47-51 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
John 6:53-58 “Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
There is a subtle contrast of importance being made by Jesus that I want to try to bring out. The obvious comparison is between the food that perishes (bread and fish), and the spiritual food that results in eternal life that only the Son of Man has to give. It is somewhat obvious that the manna Israel had in the wilderness from Moses was not the real spiritual bread and so would also fall into this category of the ‘food that perishes.’ It still remains, however, that the manna in the wilderness is a type/shadow of the Son of Man, the true bread from heaven. But there is a deeper truth to be found.
By way of review, earlier in John’s gospel, at the calling of Nathanael in John 1:43-51, he declares Jesus as the Messiah, the King of Israel. But immediately Jesus moves the understanding for them from Messiah to that of the Son of Man and His redemptive work in type. In John 3:1-15, when a man of the Pharisees secretly comes to speak with Him, it is mostly about the Son of Man who came down from heaven (v.13). He has the heavenly knowledge (v.11-13) concerning this new created nature that man must have to see and enter God’s kingdom (v.3, 5, 7). It would be the redemptive work of the Son of Man, again shown in type (v.14) that has the results through faith of not perishing, but eternal life (v.15). This is the bread that doesn’t perish – the real bread from heaven – given by the Son of Man. Better yet, it is the Son of Man, the bread of (eternal) life.
The Earthly Messiah and the Food that Perishes
In Matt. 15:21-28 we have our previously discussed passage concerning Christ, distinctively in the role of Messiah, to the house of Israel. Here the Canaanite woman’s daughter is delivered of demon-possession. As the Messiah to Israel, Jesus describes her healing as giving the children’s bread to dogs (v.26). In this same chapter (v.30) He heals the multitude; the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others (v.31). This is the children’s bread from Messiah. Then in the remainder of the chapter (v.32-38) we see the feeding of the four thousand men, not counting women and children. This also was the promised children’s bread from Messiah (Ps. 132:15). Yet, however real and needed these physical blessings were, this all was the bread that perishes. And the crowds around Him were pursuing it with passion (John 6:26-27). Yet it was not the real bread from heaven, not the Son of Man as come down from heaven (John 6:32-33).
Eating and Drinking the Flesh and Blood of the Son of Man
As believers, we have eaten the flesh of the Son of Man and drank His blood, to have eternal life (John 6:53-54). The flesh and blood He speaks of is referring to His death. By this eating and drinking, the believer through faith joins to Christ as part and participant in His redemptive work. We go down into death with Him. He then abides in us and we in Him (John 6:56, 15:4-5, 17:21, 23). This is the Son of Man, the true bread from heaven that gives everlasting life. There is a subtle but distinctive difference that Christ Himself makes in John 6, between the roles of Messiah and the Son of Man. The instruction remains the same for all today, “Do not labor for the food that perishes…” This is Messianic and earthly. The Son of Man is the true bread from heaven. The heavenly food that is the Son of Man is the only food available today, and the only food we are told to desire. The Son of Man is the only food that is life.
The Son of Man is not Messianic Thought or Prophecy
If you look closely at the gospels, you will notice that Jesus rarely embraces the title of Messiah. It is true that He was the Messiah to Israel. It is also true He admitted the same before the high priest and His accusers during His trial (Matt. 26:63-64); but this was Jesus speaking the truth as to who He was, and certainly wouldn’t qualify as embracing the title and role.
“But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Jesus had to speak the truth when asked by the high priest of Israel, He could do nothing less. He doesn’t say it directly, “I am the Messiah,” but simply responds indirectly by saying, “It is as you said.” Even here I believe He responded more so because He was asked whether He was the Son of God, not necessarily concerning Messiah. But the counsels of God, and He being obedient to this determined path, are forefront in His heart and mind. Messiah He certainly is, but all these earthly things are now set aside by God. The plan of God, He knows, is revealed in the title of the Son of Man, and all that concerns Him now is the path laid out before Him by God. The counsels of God will bring the Son of Man, as a raised and glorified Man, to the right hand of God. And it will be the Son of Man sitting there, having completed the redemptive work of the cross.
“As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, “If You are the Christ, tell us.”
But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”
The contrasting between the Messiah title and Son of Man is obvious. Jesus doesn’t want to even discuss the thoughts of Messiah. The leaders of Israel, as well as all Jewish men, knew the prophecies and promises concerning Messiah. They never sat around discussing how they should put Messiah to death when He came to Israel, in order to fulfill prophecy. They wanted to kill Him because they did not believe He was the Messiah, as well as the Son of God. There is no hesitation on their part concerning the thought of condemning Him to death. The leaders of Israel were not considering they may be making a mistake and inadvertently fulfilling Messianic prophecy. This simply is not Messianic thought. Jesus’ thoughts here are only about the counsels of God and the Son of Man. My point here is that, in God’s counsels, and in the Lord’s thoughts and words, it is the Son of Man who is put to death, not the Messiah. Messiah is set aside, as the Son of God (Jehovah) in the midst of Israel. We have another one of these occurrences in John 10, when Jesus was walking in the temple and they asked;
“Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”
They ask Him directly if He is the Christ of God, the Messiah. He answers them indirectly by saying He has already told them the answer to their question, but the nation as a whole is blind in unbelief. And this gets to one of the key issues of the matter. If the nation remained in unbelief concerning Jesus as their Messiah, then the title and kingdom would not be forced upon them. The Messiah and the promises would be set aside, as well as Israel. Messiah simply would not work in their state of unbelief. And that state is confirmed by the Lord over and over again in the scriptures (John 5:38, 40, 46-47, 6:36, 8:21, 23-24, 38-47, 12:37-40, 15:22-25, 16:2-3).
The Son of Man is the Good Shepherd
There is a distinct turning away from the thought of Messiah to that of the Son of Man. He still speaks as the Shepherd of His sheep (vs. 26, 27). Back a few verses in John 10:14 He is the good shepherd and in verses 15-18 He lays down His life for the sheep.
“As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
Just like the Son of Man is the bread of life come down from heaven in chapter 6, the Son of Man is the good Shepherd in chapter 10. It is for the same reason — he would lay down His life. The good Shepherd would die for His sheep. This is the redemptive work on behalf of the sheep, the work of the Son of Man (not Messiah). The sheep would be those who would benefit from the Son of Man laying down His life (believers). Look closely at verse 17; the Father loves Jesus because He would lay down His life. This should serve to settle for all believers, what truly is the redemptive work – it is His death alone.
There is another reason this shows the Son of Man is the good Shepherd – in verse 16 He says, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold…” The sheepfold He presently had entered, out of which He gathered only His sheep and no others, was the house of Israel. Having sheep from a different fold that He must gather also, is simply not Messianic (Matt. 15:24). These other sheep would be His from among the Gentiles. They would hear the voice of the Son of Man, who died for them as well. Not only is it distinctly the Son of Man that gives His life for His sheep, but also it is distinctly the same who gathers from a separate fold other than Israel. It is subtle, but it shows important differences between the two roles and titles.[I will also add this comment in passing, because it is so prominent in this portion of scripture. John 10:1-30 is simply poignant with Jesus’ own thoughts and teaching concerning the sovereignty of God. He brings it all out in the open here, as He does not hide it at all. It is certainly worth a second look for all believers.]
I have included the above few paragraphs and comments on John 10:24 because one of my sons happened to point it out to me as a reference to Jesus as Messiah. I do not believe that it detracts at all from anything that I am saying, but only serves to reinforce and support my position. Jesus was Israel’s Messiah when presented to them two-thousand years ago. He will still be their Messiah when He presents Himself to the remnant in the future; this will be a second coming of Messiah to Israel. It will all happen exactly according to written prophecy. But that does not mean that presently, in the counsels of God, Messiah isn’t set aside. Jesus’ own words and actions clearly show this. With the title of Messiah set aside along with all Messianic promises and prophecy, Jesus can only be seen and known presently as the Son of Man.
The Son of Man would go away – to the Right Hand of God
“And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.”
This is an obvious transition. Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham according to the flesh. In the Jewish mind, if there was to be salvation for the Jew, it would come by an earthly Messiah and an earthly Messianic kingdom. Such a kingdom and salvation would be for the entire nation. They thought, mistakenly, that it would be immediate, for Jesus was heading to Jerusalem, the obvious city of the Messianic King. But Jesus’ words do not address Jewish hopes and promises in Messiah. They speak, rather, of the Son of Man – seeking and saving that which is individually lost, and as a nobleman in the parable going far away to receive a kingdom. This is decidedly not Messianic in character. And purposely, Jesus steers away from Messianic thought and talk, and will only speak of what the Son of Man will accomplish with His death.
Jesus was Israel’s Messiah and rejected as such. Does that make Messiah then, by default, a promise to the Gentiles? Can Messiah be appropriated by the Gentiles? Where would we have the authority to say or teach such things? Do we see this anywhere in the scriptures? Israel had every advantage and opportunity as a nation. They were blessed and separated by God, and still blindly rejected their promised Messiah. And the Gentiles, supposedly, in some strange and weird way, will do better? God then, having seen His chosen and separated people refuse Him when He was in their midst, now asks if the Gentiles want the Messiah? Will the land be ours as well? I speak in jest here, but the problem remains. We have to have more spiritual insight than this line of thinking shows. These thoughts only serve to connect the believer to this earth and to this world.
Messiah can no longer be found
The evidence of this transition in scripture continues;
“Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.”
What the Lord is saying is very interesting. He tells the Jews that He is going away – this is the Son of Man glorified to the right hand of God. He says they will seek Him. Well, it couldn’t be said that they were seeking Him at that time, for they wanted to kill Him (John 8:37). But He says that they will seek Him. So what does He mean? As we’ve said before; every Jewish man would properly seek the Messiah according to prophecy. You will seek Me — they still are seeking a Messiah and have been for thousands of years. The problem seems obvious. Even though they legitimately seek for a Messiah after He went away, Messiah cannot be found as long as Messiah is set aside in the counsels of God. You will die in your sin – the blindness and unbelief of the Jews, as it was then and as it is today, only brings death and condemnation to them from God. Where I go you cannot come – as unbelievers this is impossible; their condemnation guarantees this; they cannot come where the Son of Man has gone.
For the believer however, there are some precious thoughts here in His words. We know He went away as the Son of Man raised and glorified to the right hand of God. He is there now, as a glorified Man, as a forerunner in God’s presence for us. It was all for us! When He says to the Jews, “Where I go you cannot come,” He is not speaking to us. Jesus never says this to His disciples. He never says this to believers. When He speaks to the disciples about His going away, it is so He can prepare a place for us there, where He went (John 14:1-4). And precious promise it is, that when the time is right, He will personally come to get us and take us there. We will forever be in the Father’s house, and share in His glory (John 17:23-24). In the meantime, while we wait for Him to come for His body, the church, we have been given another Comforter, who will abide in us forever.
There are similar words and thoughts found in John 7, with the same conclusions drawn from the counsels of God. In verse 26 the question is whether this truly is the Messiah? He never answers them about Messiah at all, but quickly turns His words to His going away.
“Then Jesus said to them, “I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me. You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come.”
Jesus’ words here are even more explicit in revealing the counsels of God concerning Messiah. You will seek Me and not find Me – Messiah, as set aside, cannot be found. Further, as unbelievers, they have no part in the Son of Man, and cannot come where He has gone. It is the Son of Man that goes away, and the Son of Man as glorified, who sends the Holy Spirit to all believers (John 7:37-39), a river overflowing out of them.
I previously said that Jesus never seems to embrace the Messiah title in His first coming. Only to the Samaritan women at the well does He freely identify Himself as the Messiah (John 4:25-26). In contrast to this one incidence, which didn’t even take place in Judea or around Jerusalem, I see Jesus constantly taking up the title of the Son of Man, and His death with that title. I haven’t counted the number of times He speaks of the Son of Man, but I’m sure it is a much larger number than the one concerning Messiah. It gives the reader a general sense of the truth of these things, and the confidence that God’s counsels can be known by His children.
The Determined Counsel of God – the Death of the Son of Man
The question comes up as to whether Jesus coming as Messiah to Israel was a legitimate presentation. In many ways it is a similar question as to why God created man and placed him in paradise, when there was a Lamb slain in the counsels of God before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). God certainly knew man would fall and be driven out of paradise, and Jesus certainly knew He would be rejected as Messiah when He came. As God, He was part of these counsels before the creation of the world. We see in Acts, the Spirit of God through Peter testifying as to the reason and purpose for sending the Son of Man from heaven.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”
Jesus always knew that it was the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God that He should die. He came into this world for that purpose. Redemption is the sole basis for any blessing from God for man, even in securing the promises and blessings for Israel in Messiah (Acts 13:34, Rom. 15:8). Jesus knew that only through His death would this be accomplished. But Peter, by the Spirit, even in view of this, does not remove any guilt from the nation of Israel, saying, “…you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death…” Jesus also knew Israel would not have Him as Messiah.
The Two Separate Presentations of Messiah to Israel
“If You are the Christ, tell us.”
But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go.”
“See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
Jesus knew that in the counsels of God there would be two separate comings of Messiah to Israel. In between these two comings, Israel, as a nation, is set aside and desolate. But do we realize how different these two presentations are in their character and nature? The second coming has all the character of sovereign power, sovereign grace, and sovereign choice. It is simply all God working – He chooses a remnant, He seals a remnant, and He preserves and protects a remnant. He then destroys their enemies and judges the world. He does all this by sovereign work in order that He will be found faithful, while every man is found a liar (Rom. 3:3-4). Every prophetic promise made to Israel in Scripture God will then be faithful to fulfill. He will do so, during the millennium, by sovereign power.
Understanding how God works
In the next three paragraphs I will share some nuggets of spiritual truth that have profound scriptural support, and lay a basis for a better understanding of the remaining chapters. When God works, He does so sovereignly – in power, grace, and choice. The nature of His working, being the Sovereign, means that His work alone is and will remain eternally. His work simply cannot and will not ever fail. It will not be any other way. God working is always for His own glory. This means that all displays of power, all giving of grace, all God’s callings, and every decision and choice He has made are for His very own glory. A beautiful example of these principles is the believer placed in Christ by the Father. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10), and placed there, for the praise of His glory (Eph. 1:12). Now, if His work alone is eternal and cannot fail, doesn’t this truly glorify Him?
When we look at the work of man it doesn’t have this character. Man’s work always ends in failure, and can have nothing lasting or eternal about it. All men will be judged by their works (Rev. 20:12-13, Rom. 2:5-6). People fail to realize what this really means when standing in the presence of God under judgment – man’s works are all his sins. This guarantees condemnation and wrath from a holy and righteous God. Men fool themselves by thinking they will be able to stand before God. They reason that their righteousness is not filthy rags (Is. 64:6), even though in reality man has no resources and is a slave of sin. They actually feel they have true fruits of righteousness to offer to God. However, all unbelievers are no different in state and position than the privileged Jews Jesus was speaking with (John 8:34-47, and 21).
Messiah’s first coming to Israel – Mankind’s final testing by God
Jesus coming to Israel the first time as Messiah was a testing by God of man in his existing state and condition. This state was in the first Adam by natural birth. Man’s condition was a slave to sin as brought in by Adam, and passed upon all mankind (John 8:21, and 34). Jesus came to the tree but found no fruit. Then He condemned it (Matt. 21:19). He says this, “Now is the judgment of this world.” At that time God was finished testing man in responsibility, and He pronounces judgment on it all (John 12:31). Jesus, as presented to Israel as their Messiah the first time, was a final testing of the principle of human responsibility in a very privileged people. This is very different than how Messiah will be presented when He returns. This is the obvious contrast I want you to see between the two presentations.
Was the first presentation of Messiah legitimate? Our finite minds ask questions like this, and our man-made systems of doctrine do not give adequate answers or explanations. One thing I will admit is that I will never know God as He knows Himself (John 10:15). God has reasons and purposes and a will in all that He does. Much of this is finite reasoning of man trying to reach the infinite. However, we can definitely point to what has been revealed in Scripture. Concerning God’s general purpose in all things, it is the exaltation of His own glory. More specifically, God did not find fruit from Israel. He then condemned the world by it. As for the counsels of God, He sets aside Messiah and Israel. He then takes up a sovereign work of grace in the raised and glorified Son of Man, sending the Holy Spirit down to gather a primarily Gentile body, the body of Christ (John 7:39).
The Prophecies and Truths concerning the Son of Man are not understood
“Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”
But they understood none of these things; this saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.”
In the same way that the nation of Israel was confused by what Jesus revealed about the Son of Man (John 12:34), so were His disciples. This passage from Luke reaffirms many of the things we have been saying. There is prophetic scripture that references directly the Son of Man and His death. These prophetic scriptures are not about the Messiah. This transition between the titles of Messiah and the Son of Man was nothing but confusion to those in Israel, including His disciples. Even our Lord’s own words were not enough for them to see clearly.
A Final Transition from the Book of Acts
I did promise an example of this transition from the book of Acts. I do explain these thoughts in detail in a later chapter, ‘the Real Book of Acts.’ The short version I give you here. In response to our Lord’s intercession on the cross for Israel, the first seven chapters of Acts becomes Israel’s last chance of receiving Jesus as Messiah, at that time. All the testimony by the Holy Spirit and the apostles is only to the House of Israel. The nation would have to repent, acknowledge their guilt, and believe in the name of Jesus. This they failed to do, and with Stephen’s death, they reject the testimony of the Spirit of God concerning Jesus (Acts 7:51). Heaven is opened up to Stephen, and he sees the Son of Man in glory at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56). From that point on, the book of Acts takes a dramatic turn in the counsels of God.
The purpose of this chapter is to show the reader how, in God’s counsels and in the Scriptures, we see this transition from Messiah to the Son of Man. We see this in the Lord’s own teachings and words. When we see this we should have the confidence, as believers, to know that we can understand the counsels of God. And not ever again chasing the food that perishes, but may we always feed ourselves on the bread of Life that came down from heaven – Jesus, the Son of God, as the Son of Man.