Jesus Christ - Conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary (continued)
Sunday, December 7, 2008 -
“We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen”
Today we continue with our important study of the temptation of Jesus in His two natures and the impact this has on our own capacity to receive strength from Him in our times of trial and weakness:
1) IT’S OF GREAT IMPORTANCE THAT WE ACCURATELY THINK OF THE NATURE OF THE INCARNATION AS IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES
For this understanding it is helpful to look carefully at Philippians chapter 2: Philippians 2:3-8 - “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  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 made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form,  he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
While those are all beautiful verses, there are two that are particularly important when we consider the nature of the incarnation. Those are verses 6-7 - “....who [that’s Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.....”
The important point here is that Jesus didn’t become less God when He was incarnate in the flesh. He emptied Himself, that’s true, but the way He emptied himself is clearly described. He didn’t do it by the subtraction of deity, but by the addition of humanity. In other words, the way He emptied himself was by taking on the form of a servant and the likeness of men. This is not the diminishing of deity, but the voluntary addition of all the limitations of humanity. As the second chapter of Philippians makes clear, what Jesus left behind wasn’t His deity. What He left behind was the glory He had with the Father - the esteem and worship of all creation - the undiminished pleasure of the Father’s direct presence every moment: John 17:5 - “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
That’s the glory Jesus left behind when he was born into this fallen world. But He didn’t become less God when He took on the nature of humanity and the role of a servant.
2) IN WAYS WE CAN’T FULLY UNDERSTAND, THE TWO NATURES OF JESUS OPERATED PERFECTLY IN SUBMISSION, NOT JUST TO JESUS HIMSELF, BUT TO THE FATHER’S PLAN FOR REDEMPTION
This is what Paul meant when he said Jesus took on the role of a servant. This is what Jesus meant when He said “My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me.” This is what Jesus meant when He said these confusing words: John 5:19-20 - “So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.”
There are many saying like this in the gospels. And they point to something very profound. Jesus is saying He didn’t just respond automatically to the situations that arose around Him. He was controlled, very specifically, by the will of the Father in heaven. I take that to mean something deeper than merely that Jesus always did good things, or the right thing. I take that to mean that the Father was involved in the display of the very natures of Jesus. The kind of response - the kind of interplay between the divine and the human natures in Jesus - wasn’t just random or lucky. It was submitted constantly to the will of the Father so that the purposes of redemption would be best accomplished. This, I think, is the best explanation for the variety of responses that can be easily traced in the life of Jesus.
I don’t want to get too complicated, but let me ask you a question: was Jesus omniscient when He faced situations here on earth? Sometimes He seemed to know absolutely everything - even the thoughts people were thinking. But other times He admitted there were things He didn’t know: Matthew 24:36 - “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
The Son doesn’t know. What an odd thing for an omniscient person to say. Now, here would be my explanation to all of this. And I hope to show that it’s not just theoretical drivel in just a minute. I believe that Jesus, as God the Son, was omniscient, even while here on earth. But I don’t believe He always knew everything all the time. I believe that all the attributes of full deity were there, latent in His Person all the time, but they were exercised in submission to the Father - directed by the Father, selectively as the purposes of redemption would best be served. This helps us honor the theology of the Trinity more effectively.
I used to play golf with a guy who could hit the ball either left handed or right handed. Depending on what the situation called for, he could accomplish the shot from either side of the ball. Now, that’s a very imperfect illustration. It has lots of weaknesses. The golfer wasn’t working with two natures, simply some extra abilities. But with Jesus, there were two natures - full, complete natures. But Jesus didn’t just randomly choose how he wanted to function at any given moment, like a person changing hats.
The Father would reveal and lead. The Son would yield and submit. The Son, both natures fully submitted to the Father’s will, responded in the way that best serves the purposes of redemption.
And that last phrase is the important one. The purposes of our redemption are always the Father’s deepest concern. The Son responds to the Father’s plan for redemption. The Father’s will is what dictates the direction and nature and response of the Son at any given moment.
Here’s how this can be seen playing out in the New Testament: When the ministry of redemption, in all it’s phases, is being extended to others, you will frequently see the deity of Jesus shining through. He heals. He knows the thoughts of those who would thwart the plan of God. He casts out demons by the finger of God. He feeds the hungry with miraculous multiplication of bread.
But, in His own temptation, He won’t turn stones into bread for His own hunger. No, He faces that hunger and the accompanying temptation in plain human struggle and reliance on prayer and the Word. He will lessen the pain of others, but He won’t diminish His own agony in the garden. In other words, when it came to His own situation on earth (and I’m going to talk specifically about temptation in closing) He submitted to the will of the Father. And the Father’s will was that these things be faced in such a way that Jesus’ response wouldn’t, in any way, diminish His role as our sympathetic, understanding, and merciful High Priest.
Next week we’ll study specifically how Jesus faced personal temptation.