Let’s read John 14:28, “You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I’” (NKJV). It surely does sound like Jesus is contracting Himself in these two statements, for how can Jesus and the Father be ONE, and yet Jesus declare that the Father is GREATER than Him? But there is a very simple and precious answer to this “seeming contradiction.” The answer lies in the fact that Jesus Christ is both God and Man. As God He is “one with the Father” and as Man “the Father is greater than Him.” As God He is PERSONALLY equal with the Father in nature and shares the same Divine attributes of Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence. As Man He is POSITIONALLY inferior to the Father, for He willingly “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) so He could be man’s Savior by taking their punishment for sin on the cross (see 1st John 4:14; Hebrews 2:9 & 1st Timothy 2:3-6)

One passage that brings these two truths together is Philippians 2:5-8. Let’s read that from the New American Standard Bible: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” We learn here that Jesus humbled Himself by become a true Man and a Servant but first we see that “He existed in the form of God.” That simply means that before He became a Man, HE WAS GOD! John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This is clear, is it not? Verse 3 tells us, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” This means HE WAS THE CREATOR! The very first verse of the Bible states, “In the beginning God CREATED the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). This confirms that God the Son is God, and that He is equal with God the Father. They are truly ONE!

We see next that He “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” What does that mean? This surely implies that He was willing, in some way, to NOT BE EQUAL with God the Father. Here is where the rest of the passage comes in, for by becoming a true Man and a true Servant, He took a POSITION on earth where He was NOT EQUAL with God the Father. He willingly left the position He had in heaven with His Father (where He enjoyed all the glories of heaven along with His Father), so He could become “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He did this in love for you and me! He was willing to give up His POSITION in heaven temporarily in order to become mankind’s Savior. The Father never left His position; He never became a Man or a Servant to become obedient unto death, but the Son of God did. So, while Jesus remained on earth He could say, “My Father is greater than I.” Jesus remained “equal with God PERSONALLY,” (and thus He could say, “I and My Father are ONE”), but He was “not equal with God POSITIONALLY.”

In closing, let’s read John 17:4-5, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Jesus was anticipating the cross being accomplished. As a Man and a Servant, He had glorified God by doing the work necessary to save sinners and now His desire is to return to the Father and once again share the glory that He had with the Father from all eternity. We know that His prayer to the Father was answered (see Ephesians 1:19-20 and Hebrews 1:3) and thus He was once again “equal with God POSITIONALLY.” He was reinvested with all the glory that He had with the Father, which means His glory (as God) was no longer veiled as it was here on earth (see Revelation 1:12-18).  (DO)  (531.1)