The Irony of the Son of Man

Note: This communion lesson can also be used as an interactive discussion (as well as a sermonette)

1. Introduction

Opening Question: What are some of the names Jesus referred to himself as?
Question: What did he mean when he called himself “Son of Man”? What comes to mind?

Matthew 20:20-28
20Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.  21″What is it you want?” he asked.  She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”  22″You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”  “We can,” they answered.  23Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”  24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

This term is rooted in the book of Daniel (chapter 7) – where we see the Kingdom of God in conflict with the kingdoms of this world, often represented by various beasts.

Question: What is the Jewish context for the book of Daniel? How are the Jews feeling in this captivity

Daniel 7:1-14
1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream. 2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. 4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it. 5 “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’ 6 “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule. 7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. 8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 9 “As I looked,  “thrones were set in place,  and the Ancient of Days took his seat.  His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire,  and its wheels were all ablaze. 10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. 11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Question: What do the Beasts represent?

-The Lion-Beast represents Babylon.
-The Bear-Beast is the Persian empire.
-The 4-Headed, Winged Leopard-Beast stands for Greece & Alexander the Great.
-And the 4th Beast symbolizes Rome
-And then we see the Son of Man being ushered into the presence of God.
-He would lead them to victory.
-Hew would ensure success.
-He would ride on a dark, stormy, loud, thunder cloud and pronounce defeat on the enemy.

Jewish Expectations  

Question: What did a Jew think of when he heard “Son of Man”
Question: What adjectives come to mind to describe the Son of Man?

A Rescuing General 

When a Jew thought of the Son of Man, he thought of a rescuing general.

     A modern analogy might be a “Batman” who looks after the helpless folks in Gotham, 
     …or a “Jack Bauer” who ensures safety against foreign enemies.

So please notice the irony in Matthew 20:28.

This heroic “superhero” did not come to have people assist him and cater to him.
He didn’t even come to lead us to victory in the typical fashion – an exciting, action-packed, thrilling-yet-happy ending.

Read Matthew 20 again

Matthew 20:20-28
20Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.  21″What is it you want?” he asked.  She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”  22″You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”  “We can,” they answered.  23Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”  24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Question: How would you have felt if you were an interested listener of Jesus (to hear this statement)?

Question: Without knowing about the upcoming crucifixion, how would you have understood “ransom”

He says, “That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”

Do you notice how “inappropriate” this sounds to our ears (and their ears too!)?

      As a Jew, you have been waiting for the promised “Son of Man”.
      And this guy, Jesus, just may be “that” guy!
      He does miracles and calms storms – even proving who he is.
      This just doesn’t make sense!
      I’d be thinking, “Jesus – don’t serve me!
      …I want you to Save me!”
     “Jesus – don’t show me how to be a nicer servant who can cook and clean and work hard.”
     “No! Vanquish the enemy instead.”
     “Give us our pride back.”

Yet this is the perfect foreshadowing of the cross!

      The cross is the greatest irony of all time.
      Salvation through service.
      Victory through death.
      Leadership through serving.

      “The General is cleaning the latrines.”

      Jesus didn’t just pay a ransom, He BECAME the ransom.

     And once again, in the irony of Jesus, THIS general who goes ALONE into battle and then LOSES – becomes the greatest inspiration of all time and the source of salvation for countless souls.

Question: Do you feel “served” by Jesus? How does that feel to you?
Question: How does this concept (serving is the key to saving and leading) challenge your view of D-ship?
Question: How does this concept challenge you in your own lifestyle as a “servant”? 

Upward Call

As we take bread and wine, be in awe of your general, the Son of Man.
Possibly read Daniel 7:13-14.
But also check out how your heart reacts to this idea of the general cleaning the latrines and giving up the most, for that is the way of the cross.

Prayer for Bread and Wine

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