Since Jesus is divine, why did He say that only the Father knows the day of His return? Today, W. Robert Godfrey considers how the relationship between the two natures of Christ help us address this question.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: This week, we’re joined by Ligonier Teaching Fellow and Chairman, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey. Dr. Godfrey, why is it that only the Father knows the day and hour of the day of judgment?
DR. W. ROBERT GODFREY: That’s a great question. And it relates, of course, to the person of Jesus, to the natures of Jesus. I mean, that’s often why we raise that question. Why is it that Jesus doesn’t know the hour of His return, particularly if He’s divine?
I think it’s important always to look at these verses that are quoted in the context in which they’re recorded in the Scripture for us. So Mark 13, where that statement of Jesus is to be found, is a chapter that revolves around Jesus’ declaration that the temple is going to be destroyed, and the disciples’ shocked reaction, “When is this going to happen?” And that chapter is very much a chapter in which Jesus is not just talking about the destruction of the temple, but He’s talking about what His disciples ought to be doing in anticipation of that event. And so, the great focus of His teaching in Mark 13 is really that we are to be on guard. That we’re to be vigilant. That we’re not to get sleepy and indifferent, but that we should be looking for the signs. Especially they should be looking for the signs that would lead up to the destruction of the temple and be prepared for what God sends in history.
And Jesus is in effect saying to them: “It’s not really helpful for you to know the exact time that these things are going to happen. What’s really helpful for you is that all the time God gives you, you use wisely and faithfully in My service.” And that being the case, He says, we as humans have this obligation to faithfulness, and only the Father really knows the hour of the return. So, I think Jesus, at that point, is speaking out of His human nature in relation to human responsibility. And He’s not making a statement about what His divine nature knows or could know or doesn’t know. But He’s really focusing on human responsibility. And so, I think He’s speaking there out of His human nature, His human emptying of Himself and becoming a man.
And it is part of the mystery of the relationship of the two natures of Christ in the one person. But I think in the context we see why He’s highlighting His own humanness in relation to the requirement of His human followers to be vigilant in light of this unknown future. And just as He can identify in baptism with sinners, so at this moment He’s identifying with His disciples in their lack of knowledge about exactly what the Father’s going to do.
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