Today’s message is the third in a series intended to help prepare for Lent. The first two messages directed our attention to the cross and resurrection of Christ. On the cross our forgiveness was earned, through the resurrection the truth of this forgiveness is confirmed.
Our message for today lifts our eyes above the cross and the empty tomb, to the eternal reign of Christ.
Over 500 years before Jesus was born, the Jewish people were conquered and deported to Babylon. There, a man named Daniel received a vision of the glory that would come to a mysterious figure described as “one like a son of man”.
The testimony of the Bible confirms that this figure is none other than Jesus, the Son of God. He shall reign forever and ever, because He was found holy before the Almighty God. He first came to this earth as a humble human servant, but now He reigns supreme as the eternal king. The subjects of His kingdom are those saved by His divine sacrifice, in which we trust.
Daniel 7:14-15 (ESV)
13I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
In Daniel’s vision he saw the “Ancient of Days” sit down on His throne. Daniel saw God as an ancient white haired figure surrounded by thousands of angels and fire. Before Him lie open books. We assume, the books recording the details concerning any case presented before the Ancient of Days. This is a divine courtroom scene.
The way that God chose to appear to Daniel is intimidating to the extreme.
How would you like to be the one on trial? Presenting your case before your sinless and powerful Creator. Standing in view of thousands and thousands of angels. God’s armies of pur and powerful spirit creatures. Feeling the heat of the consuming fire that surrounds the Almighty like a cloak. And there, at His side is a book that contains every word you have ever spoken. Every thing that you have ever done. Every thought that has ever passed through your mind.
When the prophet Isaiah had a similar vision of the Almighty, he cried out,
“Woe to me! …I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV).Psalm 130 says…
“If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,Which one of us would volunteer to go first?
O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3 NIV).
Our choices in life stamp us guilty. Guilty of doing what God has clearly forbidden. Guilty of greed, and lust and hatred and carelessness, envy, pride.
And in this place where we sinners would not dare to voluntarily go, another is brought. A figure that Daniel describes simply as “one like a son of man”. Simply put, He is a human being.
But when this human being is presented before the Ancient of Days, He does not receive God’s wrath, but God’s stamp of approval. God looks in His books and sees nothing but perfection. Not a single mark of sin on this one. And God rewards Him with authority, glory and an eternal kingdom. This figure is worthy of all these things because He is holy. Sinless, just like the Ancient of Days.
The Jewish people understood this “Son of Man” to be the Messiah. The Savior which God had promised to sinful mankind. And because of Daniel’s vision, they associated ONLY glory and power with the Son of Man.
Over forty times in the four Gospels, Jesus clearly calls Himself the Son of Man indicating that He is this figure from Daniel’s vision. But Jesus also described the Son of Man with terms that were not so glorious.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus says…
“…Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20 NIV).He had no place to call His own on this earth, because He didn’t come to build a temporary kingdom. Jesus described the work of the Son of Man in Matthew 20, verse 17…
“17Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 18“We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20:17-19 NIV).This was very different than what the Jews were expecting from the Son of Man. Jesus said that the Son of Man wasn’t coming to rule over servants, but to be a servant! Mark 10, verse 45…
“45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NIV).Only after the Son of Man came as a suffering servant would He appear as a glorious King. Isaiah 53, verse 11…
“11After the suffering of his soul,▬
he will see the light ‹of life› and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
12Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:11-12 NIV).
In Daniel’s vision, the Son of Man is honored and given authority. But He isn’t given this just because He is holy. He has done the great work which the Father asked Him to do. He has offered Himself as a sinless sacrifice in place of all the wicked. He has paid the ransom price so that all sinners are declared holy before God.
Now, we might rightly ask why the Son would subject Himself to such a humbling thing. He already reigned supreme when the universe was created. John 1:1-3 tells us that everything was created through the Son.
The Son of God didn’t need to become human in order to gain glory and authority. It was always His. He became human to elevate the poor, condemned, sinful creature called man. He became human to fill His kingdom with rescued sinners. Only through His holiness are we sinners declared righteous now, and made righteous in the future.
In John 3, verse 14 Jesus says…
“14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15 NIV).When we think about the Kingdom of Heaven, we tend to think about the future when Jesus will return and His kingdom will become visible. But the fact is, through faith in Jesus, we already live under the glorious reign of the Son of Man.
First Peter 2, verse 9 says…
“9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.The Son of Man rules in the hearts of those who trust in Him. Daily He forgives our sins because of His blood. Daily His Holy Spirit works to change our hearts and lives using the Words of the Bible.
11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:9-12 NIV).
We’ve heard the positive phrase, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”. I would change that statement ever so slightly to say, “These are the early days of His eternal reign, and we are living in them.”
In the early 18th century, the great composer, George Frideric Handel composed a piece called the “Hallelujah Chorus”. Hallelujah meaning “praise Jehovah”. I’m going to play the Hallelujah chorus to close our message today, and here’s why. Jesus changes our fear of approaching the Holy God into joy and a “Hallelujah”.
As we travel through the season of Lent, we’re going to see God’s dedication to saving us from our sins expressed in every suffering step of the Son of Man. We’re going to hear that term, “the Son of Man”. Watch for it. Don’t let it slip by. And when you hear it, think of the glory expressed in Daniel’s vision. And even when you don’t hear the term “Son of Man”, let that glorious coronation of the Son of Man be the background music that flows behind Jesus as He walks the road to the cross, the tomb and the sky.
Lent is about our sins. It is about Jesus’ suffering. But above all, it is about the glory to come. The glory of the suffering servant elevated to the highest throne, and the praise that forgiven sinners offer from within His kingdom.
Play Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”.
Prayer: O Ancient of Days, let this song play in our hearts as we see your great love played out on the stage of history. Accept our meditations and prayers and songs during Lent as an expression of thanks for the full and free forgiveness that has been given us through your Son. Amen.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.