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Who Do You Say I Am?

Reflections on Jesus' titles throughout the Scriptures

The Son of Man

by Dr. Ken Gore, DBU Faculty

Today's Reading

Luke 19:9-10

9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:9-10

The day Jesus passed through Jericho, Zacchaeus just had to see him. Two obstacles, however, stood in his way. First, since he was short in stature, Zacchaeus was afraid he might not be able to get a glimpse of Jesus as he passed by. Second, because he was short of reputation, he was unsure if Jesus would even want to see him.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector; as such, he was not favored by anyone, either in Jericho or anywhere else. Tax collectors were known not only to collect taxes, but also with them “collector’s fees” and “service charges.” Because Zacchaeus possessed such a lucrative and despised occupation, no one cared for him.

To see Jesus, Zacchaeus did a most surprising thing for a man of his status and stature: he climbed up a sycamore tree to have a good view. The tree was probably his best and safest opportunity to see the man from Galilee.

As he watched Jesus walk by the tree, something amazing happened. Jesus stopped, looked up, called Zacchaeus by name, and told Zacchaeus that he was to eat with him at his house that day! Suddenly, the tables had turned: while Zacchaeus had been looking for Jesus, Jesus had been looking for Zacchaeus!

Startled and excited, Zacchaeus came down from the tree immediately--which probably means he fell out of the tree! Zacchaeus was indeed glad to welcome Jesus into his home.

Even though the people were surprised that Jesus went to the house of a sinner, Zacchaeus proclaimed that his life had indeed changed. He was benevolent beyond belief—half of his belongings he would give to the poor, and he would pay back fourfold anyone he had swindled.

Zacchaeus acted the way that a follower of Jesus should act. He realized that his riches were what kept him from the Kingdom of God. He was, in essence, the repentant tax collector that John the Baptist had prescribed (Luke 4:13), and the type of person that Jesus had hoped the Rich Young Ruler would have been (Luke 18:22). Jesus was thrilled, for salvation had indeed come to Zacchaeus and his home. He concluded that “the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

The phrase “Son of Man” is found in two prophetic books: Ezekiel and Daniel. In Ezekiel, “Son of Man” described Ezekiel himself, as a model of humanity (cf. Ezek. 37:3). In Daniel, the phrase not only referred to a model, but also to a messiah (7:13). Jesus’ use of the phrase alludes to these two references.

In addition, Jesus added that he “seeks and saves the lost.” This supplemental statement probably alludes to God’s overarching plan as a Shepherd: to search for the lost “sheep” and bring them back safely to him (Ezek. 34:11-16). Like the shepherd who found his lost sheep, the woman who found her lost coin, and the father who found his lost son (Luke 15:4-32), Jesus found his lost tax collector Zacchaeus. When the lost were found, there was always great rejoicing!

Zacchaeus went looking for Jesus; little did he know that Jesus was already looking for him. This was--and is—truly the role of the Son of Man.

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