Jesus had two natures

Question

There are a couple passages in the gospels where Jesus refers to doing His Father’s will instead of His own (John 6:38 and Luke 22:42). Why (or in what sense) would Jesus’ will have differed from the Father’s?

Answer

Thanks for this great question. Two things are going on here, both related to the doctrine of Christ. The first speaks to his role within the Trinity. The second speaks to the human nature he took on in his incarnation.

Jesus’ role within the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity states that all three members of the Godhead Рthe Father, the Son, and the Spirit Рare completely equal in essence, nature, attributes…basically, everything that makes God, God. None of them is more or less God than the others; they are equal. However, when it comes to their functions or roles, there is a difference and a hierarchy: the Father plans, the Son implements or executes the plan, and the Spirit empowers the plan. We see this clearly in both creation (see John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:1-2; Genesis 1:2) and salvation (Romans 3:24-26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5; Titus 3:4-5).

When it comes to Jesus’ earthly ministry, his role as the one who implemented the Father’s will/plan continued. So, as he preached, taught, and did miracles, he was not a “rogue agent”; instead, he carefully and faithfully accomplished what the Father had assigned him to do. That included the cross, of course, but he also explained the Father to us (John 1:18) and offered his promised kingdom to Israel (Matthew 4:17). In the same way, the Holy Spirit does what he is assigned by the Father and Son (John 16:12-15).

Jesus’ human nature

One of the great doctrines of the Bible is that – without losing his deity – Jesus added a human nature, becoming fully human and fully deity at the same time so he could die as a human for humanity’s sin (Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Timothy 2:5). The theological term for this combination of God and man is the hypostatic union.

In this unity of God and man, Jesus had two complete natures and wills. This is especially evident in three ways: his temptation, his ministry, and his death. We have already seen that Jesus willingly obeyed the Father’s will during his ministry.

We know that God cannot be tempted by evil (James 1:13), yet Jesus was “tempted in every way just as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). This was possible because his human nature was temptable, even though his divine nature was not. In his humanity, he had to learn obedience to God, just like we do (Luke 2:40, 52; Hebrews 5:8). And just like us, when he was tempted, he relied on the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to help him (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13)

Finally, we see in the garden at Gethsemane that Jesus’ human will did not want to face the suffering ahead (Luke 22:42). Who would? But because he had learned obedience in his humanity, and knowing the result in his deity, he willingly endured the cross for you and me (Hebrews 12:1-3), rejecting his human will and submitting totally to the Father’s. What an amazing example for us!

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