~by Randy Bushey
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men (Luke 2:52).
The harsh reality is this: we know almost nothing of the life of Jesus of Nazareth until His public ministry is launched with the words of John the Baptist: Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
Aside from the details of His birth, and the trip to Jerusalem when the adolescent Jesus was temporarily left behind at the Temple, Scripture gives us scant historical data of his childhood, teen years, and adult period until He was about 30 years old (Luke 3:23).
And yet we know this: in His divine nature the Son of God could not develop, improve or advance by any measurement. He was maximally complete and perfect in every conceivable way.
However, in His human nature Jesus did grow, progress and mature. What exactly does that mean?
When He was a toddler, did He know that He was the creator of the other children with whom He played? With a mind untainted by sin, did He as a child demonstrate unusual academic competence? As a teen, did He have to learn to use hammer and saw, support theory and proportionality in application to carpentry and construction?
When we contemplate such things, we’re delving into the mystery of the Incarnation – the enfleshment of God.
So what was involved – what was relinquished – for the 2nd Person of the Trinity to take on humanity?
The Scriptures reveal little, probably because it would outpace our ability to understand, if such were disclosed.
In Paul’s elegantly written poem in Philippians 2, the apostle focusses on Christ as the principal and ultimate example of humility. And at the same time, he diminishes some of the shadows that otherwise obscure our perception of the Incarnation.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7).
God, the Son, the eternally pre-existent Creator never ceased to be God. Even God cannot stop being God. As part of the Gospel planned among the Trinity from before the foundation of the world, the Son added humanity to His deity.
Jesus is truly God and truly Man.
And in so doing, He did not seize or hold onto or demand, the luxury, the station, the status or essential rights of His supreme position as the Darling of heaven.
In that sense, He chose to relinquish what was rightfully His. He emptied Himself.
Then came 19th century “higher critical theories” where liberal theologians vandalized much of the truth of the Gospel.
One such distortion was the Kenosis heresy, so named because the Greek word related to kenosis (meaning to empty, to void, to lay aside) appears in the Philippians 2 text.
The offending theologians crafted a novel concept of God the Son emptying Himself of His deity to play the role of Jesus, the Messiah.
In other words He stopped being God.
But, if Christ was God, He could not stop being God.
If He terminated even one of His attributes, then the Immutable undergoes a mutation; the Infinite suddenly becomes finite.
But the careful reading of Scripture indicates that, as my beloved instructor at Mount Carmel Bible School, Mr. Stan King used to teach us: in the Incarnation, Christ “willingly gave up the independent use of His divine attributes”.
He chose to submit to Father, subordinating His will so that He acted only as directed by His Father.
According to the Gospels, as the incarnate Christ, Jesus self-imposed limitations in His authority, power, knowledge, and decisions.
In His authority:
I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does (John 5:19).
I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me (John 8:28).
For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken (John 12:49).
In His power:
The Gospels tell the story of Jesus in His hometown of Nazareth where a lack of faith on the part of the cynical residents caused the channels of grace and healing to be closed by the Father due to unbelief: He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them (Mark 6:5).
In His knowledge:
When asked about the date of His second coming and related events, Jesus said: No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Mark 13:32).
In His volition and decisions:
This is best witnessed in the Garden of Gethsemane when Christ was agonizing over what lay ahead of Him in the hours of that night and the next day. His will was totally set aside to obey the will of His Father: My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will (Matthew 26:39).
Takeaway: as we meditate on the Incarnate Christ may our deeper understanding cause us to rise up in worship of Him. After all, you can’t love Jesus with your heart if you don’t know Him with your head.
– graphic by Vivek Chugh, freeimages.com