Chapter 15: The Son of Man

Our Faith
by Emil Brunner

Chapter 15: The Son of Man

Do you know what a man is? Is he not an abysmal riddle? What has the wholesale murderer of Dusseldorf in common with Father Bodelschwingh, or with Elizabeth Fry, the angel of the imprisoned? Which of those is "man," true man? One can say what a true fox, dog or eagle is -- but what is a true man? Are you perhaps a true man? Really?

This question itself shows us at once the source of the riddle of man. It comes from our failure to be what we should be. Such a thing can be said only of man. He alone has freedom to be different than he ought to be. And indeed we are all different than we ought to be. What is written in the story of creation is no longer true, "God created man in his own image." We have all seen pictures taken in the World War, a man with helmet and gas mask, half erect and charging with fixed bayonet -- the image of God? or the devil? Which does he most resemble? You could be this man! It is only "chance" that you or your husband, brother or son do not look like that. God's image? We recall the starving thousands in China, the pitiable folk in insane asylums, prisons, hospitals, the drunkard who is violent in his home, the prodigal son, wasting his substance in the far country, remembering that we, too, are this prodigal son who can say nothing more to his father than, "Father, I am no more worthy to be called thy son. . . " What has happened to the image of God? Is it perhaps a fairy story? "You know what men are like. . ." "I know something about men and know. . . " Who can believe that fabulously great statement of the divine creation of man? A true man is an "ideal" that never occurs in reality. But how does it happen that we have such an ideal? How does it happen that every man knows quite well, I am no true man, things are not right with me? Whence this measure, this image of what we "really" ought to be? And whence the anxiety and the concern over our failure. When the Prodigal Son came to the extremity of his misery, keeping the swine, there awoke in him the memory of his home, and he sobbed with homesickness. How different it was at home! That is the secret experience of all of us. That "ideal" is like a. yellowed photograph of us, "as we used to be." A faded picture scarcely visible any more; we can hardly believe that there is a "true man."

Here he stands before us, not a fantastic ideal, but a true man of flesh and blood. "Behold the man," the image of God. That is Jesus, man as God wanted him to be when He created him, the man who lives wholly in the things of his Father. "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work." He not only says it but is it in all the narratives and word~ that the Gospels report of him. The "Son of Man --" he, before whom one must halt and say, yes, I have found him whom I have been seeking -- the man, the true Man.

What does it profit us that he lived 1900 years ago? For all of that we are not what we ought to be. But this man Jesus has something to say to us. "I am sent to you by my father -- by your father, to tell you that He wants to make you like me. You are to become as truly man as I am."

"Who, me?"

"Yes, you!"

"But that is impossible -- I’m a poor sort of man; no one can make anything much out of me." "You are right. No one can do it but God. But He will."

Jesus Christ is come not only to show us the true man, but to tell us God's purposes to remake us in our lost image. That you shall become. Moreover, you shall be like Jesus Christ, who has gone into eternity. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him." That is the glad message of the Gospel. We suffer most from ourselves, even when we do not realize it, even when we suppose the cause of our grief and suffering is from without. The deepest cause of all that is not right, is that we ourselves are not right. And therefore that is the greatest message that we can hear -- things will be right with you. Ponder how a blind man must feel when he is told, "You will receive your sight again," or when a cripple is told, "You will be straight and strong again!" And this is only external! We are to become internally right again, straight and strong and fine through God's grace. "Rejoice with exceeding joy." That is the message of the Son of Man.