Monday, November 12, 2012

So Jesus Didn't Know Everything?

Well, I caused some controversy in Sunday school yesterday. (I attend Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Easton, Pa.) The class was discussing Jesus' calling of the 12 disciples, specifically how He knew things about them that could only be known supernaturally. The prevailing sentiment was that Jesus knew because He's God. After all, Jesus knew us "before the foundation of the world."

I disagreed. Strongly.

Yes, Jesus was fully divine and fully human, but He "emptied Himself" (Philippians 2:5-7) to live as a man, accepting the limitations of humanity. How could it be true that "Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature" (Luke 2:52) if he exercised His divine omniscience? Knowing things supernaturally and performing miracles through the Holy Spirit is consistent with this. It was the "power of the Lord," not the power that He set aside, that was "present for Him to perform healing" (Luke 5:17).

Jesus lived a Spirit-filled life. He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1). He "returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit" (Luke 10:14) and quoted the prophecy stating that "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me" (Luke 10:18). He "rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit" (Luke 10:21). God "anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38). He gave instructions to His disciples through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-2).

It was through learning, not omniscience, that Jesus realized John the Baptist had been taken into custody, which led Him on a particular course (Matt. 4:12). He marveled at the centurion's faith (Matt. 8:10). While sometimes He asked questions as a rhetorical device, at other times He posed them to gain information. For example, when the woman who had suffered a hemorrhage for 12 years touched His garment, He asked who touched him and looked to see (Mark 5:30-32). He asked a father how long his demon-possessed son had been exhibiting such behavior (Mark 9:21). Also, He said that He did not know the day and hour when heaven and earth will pass away (Matt. 24:35-36). And He wouldn't have needed to be led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit if He were acting in omniscience.

Jesus also did incredible miracles through the Holy Spirit while maintaining the vulnerability of having emptied Himself of His omnipotence. When He fasted, He became hungry (Matt. 4:2). After being tempted by Satan, he needed angels to minister to Him (Matt. 4:11). He needed an angel to strengthen Him in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). He experienced agony (Luke 22:44).

If we understand that Jesus emptied Himself and was empowered by the Holy Spirit, we appreciate how He humbled himself and accepted the limitations of humanity in His incarnation. We also gain a sense of the power available to us.


  1. Dave, you are dead on right. If Jesus did everything He did out of the power of His Godhood, then we can't consider Him our brother. We can't aspire to His life. He remains wholly other, and can never be our model.

    That Jesus did all His miracles and works by the power of the same Holy Spirit that is available to us rewrites everything! This is the Good News! And greater things shall we do!

  2. Agree totally.

    I started a similar argument a few years ago at a Bible study I was attending, because I contended that Jesus only realized he was headed to the Cross around the time of the Triumphal Entry, and not beforehand. That is, he was growing in understanding as well, because he was fully human.

    The pastor, who was leading the study, was fine with what I had said, though it wasn't his personal view. Other people were outraged, and (I am sad to say) one person actually left our church because I was allowed to continue attending, despite my views.