Son of Man

I don’t have a tape measure for greatness, or a floor scale that I can apply to these two claims of Jesus as greater than Solomon and Jonah, but at their face the comparisons settle an important issue for Christianity — that Jesus knew who he was in reference to scriptural texts. At the same time, this self recognition causes a significant problem for non-believers who place Jesus as just another prophet among many. 

The premise for our trust
Jonah 3:1-10
Luke 11:29-32

Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here."

    Luke 11:30-32

Jesus, with great confidence and matter of fact, several times throughout scripture calls himself the Son of Man. He does so again in today’s thirtieth verse of chapter eleven in Luke. The definition of the Son of Man gets a new representation here, though arguably is consistent with every other such Son of Man verbalization. 

The Son of Man holds an elevated, unmatched importance among all of creation. The importance of this verse ratchets up a notch in scriptural value due to an almost exact copy of the 29th through 32nd verses over in Matthew. Whether Matthew’s text or Luke’s was the predecessor makes no difference here. The repetition across synoptics is the important element. The more times something is stated in scripture, the more we should attend to it.

To begin, Jesus, as Son of Man, compares his upcoming death and resurrection as greater than Jonah’s rescue from the whale. Then, the Son of Man compares himself as having greater wisdom than Solomon. These “greater than” statements come in response to a request for Jesus to give the scribes and Pharisees a sign. A sign reportedly different from his recent curing of “all” who had followed him, including a singular mute person who stood among everyone. (Matthew places this event after these miracles.) Curing folks wasn’t quite the magic the religious officials were looking for in order to confirm their suspicions that Jesus might be the emergent son of David, the Messiah. 

I don’t have a tape measure for greatness, or a floor scale that I can apply to these two claims of Jesus as greater than Solomon and Jonah, but at their face the comparisons settle an important issue for Christianity — that Jesus knew who he was in reference to scriptural texts, the Son who becomes man. At the same time, this self recognition causes a significant problem for non-believers who place Jesus as just another prophet among many. 

“Show us a sign,” requests the generation of Jewish people of Jesus’ time. Rather than say, “Already did,” Jesus weaves an intricate condemnation of his challenger’s honesty and authenticity by lining up history and politics as pre-existing signs of his authority. He does so by highlighting his significance beyond both Jonah and Solomon.

His examples easily convince his followers, but only furthers the disputing minds of the Pharisees. The same problem exists in today’s listeners to Luke, or Matthew. 

For a non-believer, Jesus’ use of Jonah and Solomon does not convince them of anything materially superior about the Son of Man. God gifting them with faith hits a speed bump, because the modern premise about both Jonah and Solomon differs from Jesus’ assumptions. First, Jesus speaks of Jonah as if he were a real person. Today, common theological discourse sets aside Old Testament tales about Jonah and Job, likewise, as mythical, hyperbole, and literary characters more useful for children than heady adults. Secondly, Jesus explains the conversion of the Queen of Sheba, a gentile woman, as a result of Solomon’s wisdom in all things. Though a stunning shift for the Queen, Solomon’s example and witness to the Queen are not the popular tales of the Queen of the South, as Jesus calls her, or Solomon.

Solomon’s reported wisdom borders on blasphemy. He had dozens of wives, dismissing God’s demand that he live a chaste life with one wife. Also, his capitalist acumen fell away rather quickly over his obsession with the pomp and circumstances of emperor status. Finally, for all the gifts from God that he received Solomon spends an awful lot of time kneeling at the feet of pagan gods.

Regarding Jonah, largely understood as a mythical character, both Catholic and Protestant theologians paint Jonah as a diffident character, and hard to deal with. At Jonah’s unbelievable exhumation, alive, from the belly of a whale, the sudden portrayal of an entire population and their king covering themselves in sackcloth and ashes in order to repent smacks of B-movie material. 

The data pointing to proof works best when it can clearly speak for itself. Here in this set of verses lies the conundrum for everyone but believers regarding the divinity of Jesus. Data and proof rely completely upon the construction of our data crunching system, our operating system code, if you will. Code’s lexicon of computing functions can be analogous to trust’s baseline relationships. We build our suppositions from a place of trust. What we trust to be true lies at the base of every subsequent estimation, calculation, and decision in our lives.

For Christ followers, the length or weightiness of Jesus’ claims appears obvious, because we’ve shifted the bulk of our trust from someplace or someone else to him. A whale coughing up a 3-day old corpse that returns to life is a perfectly logical prophecy of Jesus’ 3 days and then resurrection. The repentence of the entire town of Ninevah patterns nicely to God’s expectation of Jesus’ time spent with his followers where he both forgives and celebrates for 40 days before ascending to heaven. We have difficulties here and there, but the bulk of Jesus’ comparisons make good sense, and besides, we trust him.

I say “bulk” of trust, because no matter how certain and complete we place our trust in someone or something, the brain, the logical cortex of our experience, necessarily leaves space for doubt. In fact, these independent preaching moments  of Jesus captured by the synoptic writers, once we are gifted by God with faith, fill the space reserved for doubt with tiny particles of further belief. Our doubt shrinks the more our belief system expands. Doubt, though, as tiny as that space may be, still exists, even if it no longer has stability and just floats around lost in our head. 

For non-believers, trust is placed in other things or gods than Jesus. That’s the definition of non-believers. Their doubt space is probably no different than that of believers in Jesus Christ. I’m not sure about the percentage of trust in Jesus, that point where we shift from non-believer to believer. A critical boundary probably gets crossed when we begin talking to God in conversation, believing that God is communicating back to us somehow. Without that, the operating system reverts to something else.

I am speaking here about the belief in Jesus as both God and man — a seeming ridiculous human idea due to the practical limitations of a created being having divine properties that equal the timelessness and authority of God. Belief in Jesus as the incarnation of God obviously requires divine intervention. No math or science can develop such a concept. You can argue that centuries and eons of tales propose the very same idea that I call ridiculous for a human. That history of incarnation tales, though, only points out that since the beginning of creation and then the fall, the imagining of a human as the one true God reflects God’s initial plan to become human. The subsequent revelations about that upcoming and then past event from both the dawn of time and Jesus’ ascension simply supports my point. Again, our suppositions as believers rely upon our operating system code, and where we place our trust. You can see how my trust basis fleshes out the follow-on calculations and decisions of believers in Jesus Christ.

As an aside, though an essential point, I do not posit a relative notion of trust, stating that whatever you trust in will work for you. Only one set of code can be fully true. And, therefore, the battle over the truth code of trust does not clang swords until one trust foundation wins with the best arguments and the better trained arguers. God’s warring activity centers on saving folks from spiraling away from him, not winning arguments. Regardless of tactics and mopping up exercises, since Jesus conquered death and proved his divine power and authority the war has been won. 

God constantly urges those of us who have been filled with his faith code, so to speak, to witness and testify where he sets us. We have agreed to eagerly exist within his grasp while we inhabit this short life (the eventual shortest part of our eternity). Our confidence and assurity in Jesus Christ flickers on and off according to the size between our doubt space and the space hollowed out by us for the Holy Spirit to reside. 

That’s kind of how all that works, and it mostly makes sense only to those of us who’ve allowed God to climb on board our brain and heart and soul. 

Perhaps many non-believers in Jesus Christ have firmly placed their trust in the person of the true God as Father. Or, they have been touched by the magnificent presence of the Holy Spirit and trust in the whispers of God. As you can tell, then, my reflection here doesn’t condemn anyone. That’s not my job.

In essence, we Christians believe both the Father and the Spirit witness to the divinity and equality among the Trinity which is inclusive of Jesus Christ. So, if you have spiritually glommed onto either the Father or the Spirit it’s only a matter of time until they introduce you to Jesus. 

And then, as your trust grows in Jesus, the clarity of his signs and self and active presence in your life will shrink the doubt space into momentary glimpses to a past confusion.

Or, I’m the nut job, and some other thing, or nothing, will explain itself to me later. In either case, we get to find out. I’m betting on Jesus, and the code implanted in my heart.

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