Friday, September 18, 2009

Were there some things that Jesus didn't know?

Q. Jesus said that he and God are one. Then in another verse he says that no one knows the day and the hour of the Second Coming. How can he not know if God knows, and he and God are one?

That’s an excellent question! The verses referred to are John 10:30, where Jesus says, “I and the Father are one”, and Matthew 24:36, where he says, “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

Some people have thought that when Jesus said, “I and the Father are one”, that he meant he and the Father are one and the same person—that sometimes he is called God (or the Father), and sometimes he is called the Son (or Jesus), but that in reality the Father and Son are one and the same person.

However, if this were true, we would have a real difficulty, because then the Scriptures would contradict themselves, by saying that the same person both knows and does not know the date of the Second Coming.

The difficulty is cleared up, however, when we understand that when Jesus said, “I and the Father are one”, he did not mean that he and the Father are one and the same person. Throughout the Bible the Father and the Son are distinguished from each other. They are not one in the sense of the same person, but in a different sense.

We find an analogy in the relationship of a husband and wife. The Bible says that a husband and wife are “one” (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5-6; Eph. 5:31). This is similar—it’s not identical, but similar—to what Jesus meant when he said that he and the Father are one. When a man and a woman are married, they remain two distinct individuals, but there is a certain sense in which they become “one.” They become one covenantally—they are united in a covenant of marriage. They become one in a life purpose, establishing one home together. In addition, they become one flesh in a sexual union.

It’s in a similar sense that God the Father, and Jesus the Son, are one. They are united in will, purpose, and affection. But they are united in a much deeper sense, too. They are united at the level of their being. Though they are—together with the Holy Spirit—three distinct persons, they comprise the one Godhead. This is referred to as the doctrine of the Trinity (tri—meaning three; and unity—meaning one). The Trinity is a difficult doctrine to wrap our minds around, but it states that three persons subsist in one indivisible divine essence. Not three gods. Not three divine beings. But three persons in one divine being.

Now, this would seem to pose another problem. If Jesus is a member of the Holy Trinity, and thus, a divine person, how could he not know something—like the day and the hour of the Second Coming?

The Bible teaches that Jesus existed from all eternity and shared in all the attributes and glory of divinity. But that he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (held onto, retained at all costs), but instead made himself nothing. This is the language of Paul in Philippians. Jesus made himself nothing in order to be born in the likeness of men, to live and die among us.

In some mysterious way that we can never fathom, he laid aside his divine powers and lived in this world with all the limitations of our humanity. We find that, like every other man, Jesus got tired (Jn. 4:6). Like every other man, he needed sleep (Mk. 4:38). He became hungry and thirsty (Jn. 19:28). Of course he ate and drank. When he was crucified he felt pain. And of course he died like any other man would have who suffered crucifixion. He lived with the limitations and weaknesses of our humanity (except without sin).

But didn’t he work miracles? And didn’t the miracles come from his divine nature? Well, the miracles he performed, he performed, not with his own divine power, but through the power of the Holy Spirit who descended upon him at his baptism. He lived as a man, empowered by the Holy Spirit. He never ceased being God; but somehow, as I have said before, in some mysterious way we cannot understand, he laid aside his divine powers and lived with the limitations of our humanity. The attribute of omniscience (all knowing) was one of the divine powers which Jesus laid aside when he became a man. We read in the gospel of Luke that Jesus grew in wisdom (Lk. 2:40). He could only grow in knowledge and wisdom if he was not all knowing to begin with. This is why, though being a divine person, there were some things that he didn’t know in his days on earth, for it appears that the Father did not reveal all things to him, only what was necessary for him to know.

As we ponder all this, it makes the love of God appear all the more remarkable, doesn’t it? To think that Jesus existed from all eternity “in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6), sharing in all the infinitely glorious attributes of Godhood (omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, self-existence), but willingly humbled himself to become a man and live with the limitations of humanity; and not only this, but to live among us sinners, and to die for us sinners. What can we say to these things except, “See what kind of love the Father has for us...” (1 Jn. 3:1) that he would go to such lengths to save us.

No comments: