“Son of man” is not a description of Jesus but rather a title. It cannot be a description because Jesus was virgin born. Although Jesus did have an earthly mother, he was no man’s son. “Son of Man” is a messianic title given in Daniel’s prophecy. I don’t recall the exact number of times this title is used in the New Testament, but it was a lot, and it was always by Jesus referring to himself.
The passage in John 14:9 illustrates this. Because God is not human and is far beyond humanity, it is impossible for us mortals to look upon God. (Think of Moses on the mountain looking only upon the residue of God’s presence and glory.) Therefore, because of the great distance, in order for finite man to understand God, at least to the limitation of His finite abilities, Jesus had to lay aside His deity and take on human flesh. (This is but one of several reasons for Jesus’ incarnation. Jesus came to be tempted like us, to be our High Priest and an appropriate sacrifice, and so forth.)
To see Jesus was to see the Father. When the disciples observed Jesus’ heart, manner, and actions they were able to get some understanding of the heart, manner, and actions of the Father. In John 1 Jesus is called the word, but that doesn’t mean that He looks like a word, it means that the totality of what Jesus is, His incarnation, humiliation, ministry, life, sacrifice, resurrection, etc. is the expression of God’s love for humanity and God’s thoughts toward humanity. As Paul writes in Philippians 2:7 Jesus “took upon him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of man.” Prior to the incarnation, Jesus was not in the likeness and physical form of man. This was something that He took on.
So, what does the scripture mean when it says that man is made in the image, or likeness, of God? Does this mean that God physically looks like us? Excellent question! No,this is not referring to the physical body of humanity because if God was limited to a tangible body then by virtue of that God would be limited, and we know that He is not. So what does it mean? It means three things.
FIRST, this image of God in humanity is a personal likeness. God is a person. Man is a person, and when I say person, I am referring to spirit and personality. Even after the physical death of the body, the spirit and person of the person remains. This is one of a number of things that gives value to human life as being distinct and greater than animal life. What is personality? It is a combination of self-consciousness and self-determination.
SECOND, the image of God is a moral likeness. Adam was created morally pure. Sin caused humanity to lose its original righteousness. However, the moral element of humanity’s nature remains. Salvation cannot be earned, but a lost man can live a moral life. All of us are born with a conscience that causes us as children to blush when we lie or be ashamed when we do wrong. The tender conscience of a child is rooted in that moral nature.
THIRD, the image of God is a social likeness. When we think of the Trinity, we think of the fellowship that exists between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All of humanity carries with it this same need. Humanity was created to have fellowship and social relationships—God said that it was not good for man to be alone. But most importantly, humanity was created to have fellowship with God. That fellowship was disrupted by sin, but humanity still retains that social nature.
One of the things that I am reminded of every year during the resurrection season is the infinite discrepancy between what God created humanity to be and what humanity is. The chasm between our original state and our fallen state seems, to me, to be infinite. I recently heard someone say, “This is how God created me, and God doesn’t make no junk.” No, God didn’t make us junk, but sin did. Therefore, our only hope for the full recovery of that original perfection is realized through the resurrection. We must abandon everything of our own selves that we might, by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we can have the righteousness of Christ which comes by faith from God.