Day 19: Jesus is the Son of Man
Ο Ιησούς είναι ο Υιός του Ανθρώπου (Greek)
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” – Matthew 8:20
After his many healings (Matthew 8:1-17), and astonishing teachings (Matthew 7:28-29), Jesus’ authority was acknowledged by the crowds. People felt that their messianic expectations were finally beginning to be fulfilled, and they wanted in. Who would not want to be closely associated with the new emerging power, share some of that glory, and, possibly, enjoy some of the benefits that are bound to accompany it? The Son of Man has come!
“Son of Man” was the messianic title known to the Jews from Daniel 7, where the prophet saw this messianic figure being “given authority, glory and sovereign power…” (Daniel 7:14). However, Jesus manifested his authority as the Son of Man in unexpected ways. When approached by a scribe who wanted to be on Jesus’ team, Jesus revealed what his messianic authority looks like: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). In this astounding statement there are many elements to reflect on.
First, Jesus reveals his homelessness in this world. One cannot help but notice the solidarity of Jesus with one of the most degrading human experiences, that of homelessness. This experience is particularly relevant to war refugees or victims of global climate change. This summer, hundreds of Greeks became homeless in their own country after uncontrollable fires ravaged their lands for days. The unprecedented high temperatures made it impossible to tame this catastrophe. How is one to comfort these people and make up for the loss of the houses they grew up in and the fields that had been their only source of income? The Son of Man is the one who “emptied” himself in solidarity with those who have nowhere to lay their head. But, as Christ’s body, how far is our solidarity with the state of this world able to go? Perhaps we are also holding on to a certain Son of Man image of power, rather than discerning him among the afflicted.
Second, Jesus describes his experience as unlike that of foxes and birds, for even they have a home. His is a completely solitary experience. Jesus’ lack of a home in this world is essentially an experience of deprivation or rejection in a place that was expected to have been his home. It is clearly said that he came to his own home, “but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). What other experience could come closer to what Jesus describes than the solitary suffering of victims of domestic violence? They find themselves in what is otherwise known as “home,” yet they are denied the peace, belonging, and lack of fear that a home supposedly offers. Indeed, in scripture the home is where one can sit “under their own fig tree and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).
Animals enjoy their nests, according to our verse, but the one who provided these to the animals is “nest-less,” just like the mother who is denied the home where she birthed and raised her children. The rise in domestic violence, partly because of the pandemic lockdowns, has brought to the surface this primarily female experience more than at any other time. In Greece, seven women have been murdered by their partners in the course of the last seven months alone. The Son of Man knows the dangerous home firsthand, in solidarity with the suffering women of our world, and is calling us to stand by them as well.
Nevertheless, we do see the Son of Man laying down his head to sleep, a few verses later (Matthew 8:24), and he does it in a storm! The statement that he has nowhere to lay his head means, at the same time, that the whole world is a place he may sleep and rest. Every place is his home, despite the fact that he does not lay his head in a peaceful world. He lays his head in a hostile, stormy world, yet he is able to sleep. He is home, and so are we. We are always home in His world, despite the uncontrollable storms and our unstable little boats. If the Son of Man tasted the world’s “homelessness” while, at the same time, having been given all dominion, then there’s no need to hold on to a home to find peace. Following Jesus, the Son of Man, means that it is possible for us to lay our heads and sleep, even in the storm.
Dr Myrto Theocharous is a Langham Scholar who received her PhD with support from Langham Partnership. She is a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at the Greek Bible College in Athens, Greece, and President of New Life Ministries Against Sex-Trafficking.