Friday, March 21, 2008

What Did He Know, and When Did He Know It?

I was recently involved in a discussion related to how much knowledge Jesus had during his time on earth. Being God incarnate, was Jesus omniscient? That's often the image passed down to us - the baby Jesus laying in the manger, knowing the fate that awaits him, feeling the limitation of this tiny body. Or of Jesus hanging on the cross, thinking about you and about me. It's as if his body is flesh and blood, human, but his mind is still divine, carrying the entire databank of Everything God Knows (almost sounds a little gnostic when I put it that way, doesn't it?)

I've come to believe that that image isn't accurate. I would posit that in becoming human, Jesus gave up all rights and privileges of godhood, choosing to rely completely in God the Father to guide and direct his life. In other words, the miracles of Jesus were not from any miraculous powers Jesus had, they came about because the Father was working through the Son. Because the Son walked so intimately with the Father, because the Son regularly communed with the Father, the Son became the vessel open to fulfilling the Father's will.

(Note: I know it gets tricky with that whole trinity thing. I'm a little uncomfortable with the way this image seems to divide up the Trinity. The only reason I prefer this image is that I think it's biblical. So what if it doesn't "make sense" to my finite mind?)

I believe the same would be said of Jesus' knowledge. I believe Jesus did not, in fact, carry around inside of himself any extra knowledge; I don't think he could do a data uplink into heaven and ascertain any extra knowledge. Instead, I think it's more biblical to look at Jesus as a prophet, who knew the future only insomuch as the Father revealed it to him. In choosing to humble himself a la Philippians 2, Jesus laid aside the ability to know the first from the last and the last from the first. Even in Matthew 11:27 Jesus hints that the Father gave to Jesus all that Jesus had. So, essentially what I'm saying is that Jesus himself grew into an understanding of the Kingdom, and his role in it, as he progressed through life, and that it was his relationship with the Father that allowed him insight into those around him, and what the future held.

So I was struck last night by this thought - when Jesus chose Judas to be one of the 12, did he already know Judas would betray him? That's the message that often preaches - "Imagine - even knowing what Judas would do, Jesus still chose him!" But what if that's not the case. What if Jesus saw a broken man who he thought he could fix? What if Jesus had full hope that Judas would turn from his brokenness and embrace the healing of the Kingdom of God? What if, all along, Jesus actually expected that Judas would finally, one day, get it right? After all, along the way it's not like the other disciples acted any better than Judas. So who's to say Jesus "knew" that Judas would betray him, any more than he was growing frustrated with the others?

And at the last supper, when Jesus said "one of you will betray me?" did he know it supernaturally? Or was he just wise to the ways of men; had he watched Judas' recent behavior? Had he seen Judas speaking to the Scribes and Pharisees? Did he have some inside knowledge, or was it more along the lines of a parent who just "knows" that their child is up to something?

I think it makes all the difference, really. If Jesus already knew, then Judas is blackballed from the beginning. But if not. . .then it tells us something about the heart of Jesus, and his love and compassion for even Judas, his hope and desire that even Judas would someday have ears to hear and eyes to see. It takes Judas from the role of Ultimate Bad Dude and puts him back in the category of just one more disciple who Jesus was trying to win over.

Mostly, if we see that Jesus loved and hoped for Judas, perhaps it will inspire us to be more loving and compassionate toward even those who betray us.


Erin said...

I was just wondering how you came to this conclusion biblically. It's kind of a heavy topic, I know, but you didn't add very much spriptiure and I would be interested in how you came to this conclusion.

Also, thanks for the info on homeschooling. It's something I'm really going to have to pray about. It's always good to hear others experience with it though! Loves.

Anonymous said...

I like your thoughts on Judas, but I will have to study the scriptures more before I come around your way. Here's a question:When Jesus met Nathaniel he already knew who he was and said he saw him by the fig tree and that Nathaniel was a man with no guile. How did he know if your supposition is true. Love to hear more on this topic.

HisStoryUn said...

Reply by HisStoryUn
What Did He Know, and When Did He Know It?
The theological discussion of Jesus character as “man vs. God” is certainly an interesting one. But before one begins to “posit” a theory, some basic and common understandings must be chosen before the topic can rightly be discerned. I submit that as Christians we begin this discussion with the Bible as our authoritative guide. Assuming that the Bible is God’s word to man, inerrant and inspired, a consensus agreement as to Jesus’ position will be a much simpler understanding at which to arrive.

*NOTE: For the purpose of brevity, I will use only what I consider to be the most relevant supporting scriptures. Others exist and you can study them for yourself. I will make every effort not to take them out of context but if you catch one that seems so, let me know in order that I may provide alternatives or explanation.

While I agree that the notion of baby Jesus lying in the manger filled with knowledge and understanding, trapped inside the body of an infant is far fetched, scripture indicates clearly that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. Matthew 1:23 says “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"-which means, "God with us."
Matthew adds the definition in order that we understand Jesus’ position as being actually, completely God and not merely a man or profit.

(I wonder what led you to your conclusion that Jesus was only a man. It is not biblical (as you put it) for scripture does not support the idea. It is noteworthy too that you offer no supporting scripture for your theory. On the contrary, scripture supports the opposite idea that Jesus is indeed God.)

If Jesus had somehow given up His role and rightful place as God, how then could He be the Savior of the world because as such he surely would have been a fallible sinner the same as you or me? Why then would He be qualified to be the perfect spotless Lamb of God and final sacrifice for the sins of all mankind? Why then would anyone ever follow a mere man, or put their faith and trust in Him to save and reunite them in eternity with the triune God?

Acts 4:12 says, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

Salvation is about restoring fallen mankind to right relationship with God the Creator. After the fall in the garden, God’s heart was broken and He desired to have His relationship with His creation restored in full. God’s plan of salvation required a perfect and spotless sacrifice that only God (Jesus) Himself could provide. If any old “good guy” prophet would do, then it stands to reason that Muhammad, Confucius, Buda, Jim Jones or anybody else could and would do for God’s purpose of salvation. That however is not the plan that God settled upon. Only Jesus accomplishes God’s ultimate goal of providing the perfect substitution for our sins before a righteous and jealous God.

Isa 9:6 "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever." In Immanuel God has come to dwell with us. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14).

It is not reasonable or even thinkable that Jesus was not God! If He was not God, then all of Christianity is but a hoax.

Could the miracles of Jesus have been performed by a mere man? Sure they could with God’s help. But what does scripture say about it?
Luke 5:17-20
17 One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."
What audacity it would have been and an affront to God Himself, if a man proclaimed “your sins are forgiven”. Even the religious leaders of the day recognized that only God could forgive ones sin.
Luke 5:21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Luke 5:22-26
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . ." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."

Jesus' critics were shocked at his assuming a right that belongs to God alone-the right to forgive sins. The Lord did not say that since He was the Son of God with authority, they were wrong in their assumption. Instead, He proposed a test of that authority. Which is easier? It would be easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven," because if they were not, there would be no outward evidence. If Jesus had commanded healing, and the man had not been healed, everybody would have known that the healer was fraudulent.
(from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press)
Jesus miracles were performed for the express purpose of calling attention to the fact that He was indeed God, the Christ, the savior of the world and not only a man.

Mark 14:61-62
61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" 62 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."

When he was asked whether he was the Christ, he confessed, that he was, v. 61, 62. He asked, Are you the Son of the Blessed? that is the Son of God? for, as Dr. Hammond observes, the Jews, when they named God, generally added, blessed for ever; and thence the Blessed is the title of God, a peculiar title, and applied to Christ, Rom 9:5. And for the proof of his being the Son of God, he binds them over to his second coming; "You shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power; that Son of man that now appears so mean and despicable, whom you see and trample upon (Isa 53:2-3), you will shortly see and tremble before." (from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

John 6:35-40
35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
(from New International Version)

The scripture is very clear. Jesus is much more than a man or even a prophet. Jesus is not only the son of God but also God Himself. Jesus is part and parcel of the triune God, inseparable from the Father or the Holy Spirit.

Now that we’ve established (through scripture) that Jesus is also God we can take a look at the “foreknowledge of God” and how that relates to both the behavior of Jesus as well as the more important question of how it relates to the behavior of God in man’s salvation.

Rom 8:29-30
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
(from New International Version)

The idea here is that God knows everything. He has always existed and in Him there is no beginning or end. (Genesis 1:1) Because of this all knowing attribute of God it is easy to say that God knows the name of each and every person throughout time who has or ever will choose Him as Lord and Savior.

The second point is that God sent His son Jesus to be the “first born” among mankind in providing salvation through the blood that was shed on the cross. All who follow after in acceptance of this great gift of God are equal heirs with Jesus in the family of God. We are each brothers of Christ because He was the first born and perfect son of God. So we can rightly say that Jesus Christ’s death, resurrection and position at the right hand of God is the plan for our salvation that God set in play for future believers whom He already knows.

Since God set into motion this plan of salvation for mankind, we also can rightly say that after our salvation takes place, God then has a plan and a knowledge of what will become of His children after their salvation. God’s plan for every believer is that they become increasingly like the first born son Jesus to the point of sanctification or holiness. As a result of this understanding, we can see that the concept of “predestination” has nothing to do with being predestined to salvation, but rather the following state of the believer’s life of being predestined to sanctification. If one chooses to accept the gift of salvation in the first place, then that same person can be said to be predestined to holiness or (as the verse puts it) “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His son”. In no way does this imply that God interfered with our free will to choose or reject the gift that He so graciously provided through His son Jesus Christ as the Perfect sin offering and replacement for the prescribed penalty of death and eternal separation from God. In other words, after we choose Him as our personal savior and Lord, we are destined (or predestined) to complete His plan for our salvation, which culminates with us becoming “Holy as He is Holy”.

The “call” of Christ is the call to which the believer responds. Christ is at the door of every person’s heart calling out to them to respond and repent. All mankind hears the call with ears. Some hear the call with their hearts as well. This is the “effectual” call. It is to the ones who hear with the heart too that Christ enters in and begins the work of salvation.

Those people who hear His call and respond in faith to His gift of salvation “He also justifies”. This justification is the wiping away of our guilt. Our sins are remembered no more and the slate is cleaned through the power of Christ’s blood. God sees us as complete heirs with Christ because of the justification that takes place when we replace our old position of guilt with the new. God could not look at us any other way because the blood that Christ shed for us on the cross blots out our sin in God’s record book. Our sins can no longer be brought up and held against us because of the justification that takes place for every believer.

“Those He justified He also glorified”. Mankind, in his fallen and separated state has no relationship with God. We are cut off from Him. After we hear and respond to His call we are justified by having the legal complaint against us erased. After the complaint is expunged through justification we are then glorified, which is to say that we will sit in heaven fully restored to our God from whom we once were separated. Glorification is the restoration of our place in heaven with God. Eternal glorification is the fulfillment of the plan and design of our salvation. It is after all God’s ultimate goal that mankind be restored to the position for which we were created in the first place. The fall of man lead to the separation, but the call of God leads to the restoration.

Finally, it is God Himself that foreknew, predestined, called, justified and glorified. No person has anything to do with any part of this. It is completely the plan and purpose of God that leads us to salvation through Jesus Christ. We have nothing to do with the fulfillment of God’s plan. God leaves us free under His plan to accept or reject the call, but the plan and fulfillment are His design alone.

Romans 9:14-24
14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,
"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."
16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
19 One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory- 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
(from New International Version)
This next section describes the Sovereignty of God. “God shows mercy on those to whom He will show mercy and denies it to those whom He will deny”. First, all of mankind is in the exact same boat with respect to sin. We have all fallen short of God’s standard of perfection and are thus cut off from Him. Through His mercy He has made a way out of this state of apostasy (or separation from Him) that is freely available to all. No one is exempt. God sent Jesus as the perfect sin offering on our behalf and set up the way of salvation. However, sinful man is still free to choose or reject the call of Christ on his heart. God is not fickle or unfair in this. God does not run around picking and choosing who will be saved and who will die. God calls us all. God is also the just judge. He knows the heart of man. Even in the case of Pharaoh, God offered several alternatives before the “hardening” of his heart. God raised Pharaoh up, made him famous and powerful through His mercy. The hardening comes in the form of God withdrawing softening grace and simply leaving Pharaoh to himself. In no way should we infer that God interfered with Pharaoh’s free will to choose obedience or reject God. On the contrary, God gives Pharaoh many chances to change his mind. In between each plague Pharaoh is confronted by Moses and given a new opportunity to listen and obey God.

Finally God gives up on pharaoh and leaves him, knowing that Pharaoh will never acquiesce to the prodding of God’s calling him to do right. Through God’s foreknowledge of Pharaoh’s final decision, He still showed mercy to him. He still left open the window of opportunity for a time. Finally God had enough of Pharaoh and withdrew to the fulfillment of His plan and purpose for Israel. God withdrew from Pharaoh to God’s own glory in the freeing of His chosen people. God did not force Pharaoh. Pharaoh forced God.

All of this shows us that God is both sovereign and merciful at the same time. Additionally we know that God is not capricious and will not interfere with the choice of man to follow or reject Him. We clearly see that whether man chooses or rejects His divine plan, God is glorified either way. God rejoices in our acceptance and is saddened by our rejection but because He is holy and His plan is perfect, He is glorified in it all.

The bible is consistent throughout and perfect in message. Judas Iscariot made a choice, Nebuchadnezzar made a choice. Throughout scripture we see the consistency of God’s message to mankind. God does not want us to be confused by the message that He left us. It is indeed His will that we have clarity and understanding so that we know how to conduct or lives and grow daily closer to His standard of perfection which is Christ Jesus.