Christians take it for granted that Jesus is the Son of God. It is, after all, a cornerstone of their faith and the foundation of their confession (Matt. 16:16; Jn. 6:69). However, we tend to oversimplify the meaning of His sonship. When the angel appeared to Mary, he told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). This passage actually places two important ideas together that pertain to this descriptive title of Jesus. He would “be born,” which declares His humanity, but the one to be born was also described rather specifically as “holy,” a moniker reserved for those who follow God’s character by doing God’s will. But since this Holy One was yet to be born, calling Him holy indicated something about His character that preexisted human existence. Again, this does not surprise Christians, but it should cause us to take more careful note of such things.
For example, in the midst of the second psalm, a psalm declaring the victory of the Messiah over the plot against Him, David (known as the author through Acts 4:25) says, “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You’” (Ps. 2:7). What is interesting about this statement is its timing, because Paul declared in Acts 13:33 that David said this in regard to the Messiah’s resurrection from the dead. Therefore, in declaration of His upcoming birth, God calls Jesus the Son of God. Jesus, throughout His life, claimed to be the Son of God. But here we find the Father declaring Jesus to be the Son of God at the resurrection. Which one is right? The short answer? They all are.
The Father/Son relationship is an essential part of Christianity because it combines the concepts of a close relationship and loving obedience. Indeed, these are at the core of the son/child passages in the New Testament. When the Word left heaven to become man (Jn. 1:14), He was fulfilling the will of the Father (Phil. 2:5-8) and so rightly called God’s Son. As He lived upon this earth and submitted to the Father’s will, He properly called Himself the Son of God (Jn. 10:36; Lk. 22:70) as did God Himself (Matt. 3:17). And this is what makes David’s prophecy so powerful. The Father’s prophesied announcement at and by Jesus’ resurrection was a declaration that both at death and in death the Messiah was obedient. Up until the point of His death, the temptable nature of man meant that Jesus still could have given into Satan. The prayers He offered in the garden on the night of His betrayal show just how difficult it was for Him to accept such torture, but He did it. And because He did so “even unto the death of the cross,” the holiness He had in heaven throughout eternity, declared in the announcement of His coming birth, He maintained perfectly in human form. Thus, the Father’s declaration of Jesus’ sonship in the resurrection was an announcement to the world that God had placed Himself in human form, submitted to the requirements placed upon all men, maintained His holiness, and thus provided the foundation upon which not only He, but we also, could be raised from the dead in overcoming Satan’s power (Heb. 2:14-15). Let us then say with that centurion of old, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (Mk. 15:39).