I received an email this morning from someone about a question asked of them by a co-worker. The question was related to John 14:28, where Jesus says, “You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” The question was: if Jesus (the Son in the Trinity) is equally God with the Father and the Holy Spirit, then why does He say that the Father is greater than He?
The answer lies in Jesus incarnation in the flesh for the purpose of atonement. Paul writes in Philippians: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). “Being in the form of God” (v. 6a) is the essence of something that is the objective reality of it. In other words, one could not be the “form” of God without actually being God; this is another Pauline declaration of the deity of Jesus. The fact that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to rob from Him, or something “to be grasped” (v. 6b), demonstrates that Christ’s equality with God the Father is eternal and unchanging and not something He had to attain to. Since Jesus is eternal and equal within the Trinity, His deity is unchanging.
So what did Jesus mean in John 14:28? He was referring to His humbling of self for the purpose of the atonement of mankind. He had to be fully man in order to atone for the sins of mankind, yet only an all-powerful God could pay the debt that was owed. Jesus was 100% man, yet also 100% God. Though the math doesn’t work out in our estimation, He was so much more than man during the incarnation, yet so much less than He had the right to be. Hence Paul’s declaration in Philippians 2:8: “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross”. In this, Jesus gave up the privilege of deity without giving up the power of deity. He remained fully God while He walked the earth in the Incarnation, but became fully man so that He might endure all the things that we do: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-15). Once He completed His work of atonement, He ascended back to heaven. Paul completes the picture of Jesus’ return to His full restoration of Godly privilege in Philippians 2:9-11: “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Through Jesus’ willing sacrifice on the cross, our sins were atoned for. In His humanity, He was obedient to the will of the Father. In that act of obedience, we have not only the means of salvation, but an example: we should be willing to humbly submit ourselves to the will of our Father.
A quick note about the blog: my main computer at the office, upon which I do all of the video editing for the sermon clips you see on here, is currently out of commission for a few days. More videos are coming, but it will be next week in all likelihood before any more are posted.