Clearing up the confusion about the omniscience of Christ.
If you, like me, have read Matthew 24:36, then you, like me, have probably scratched your head in theological angst. In this verse, Jesus basically says that He doesn’t know when the end will come.
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. (ESV; emphasis added)
Many people take this verse at simple face value, believing that Christ really doesn’t know everything. But, that raises some hairy issues, bringing into question the omniscience of Christ, which, I’d say is rather faulty ground.
So how do we clear it up? Why did Jesus make this seemingly controversial statement?
I. Jesus was talking in the “present tense”
Though Jesus does say in this verse, this small snippet of Scripture, that He does not know when the end will come—when He will return in all His glory to take His followers to heaven—that does not necessarily mean He is saying He will never know… Concerning this topic, Jesus speaks in the present tense, “no one knows”. Could this mean that maybe Jesus didn’t know then, something that He knows now, post-resurrection?
You may think that this sounds ludicrous. Why would Jesus need to learn anything? That’s sacrilegious! Is it really? I think that saying Jesus doesn’t know everything, in His current, glorified, heavenly state, is much more ridiculous and blasphemous than saying He had to learn and grow during His life as a human 2,000 years ago.
II. We Must Consider the Holistic Gospel Message
Taking into consideration the reason Jesus came to earth in the first place, this concept makes perfect sense. In order to die for the sins of all mankind, Jesus literally had to become a man, live a man’s life—flesh, blood, bones and brains—in order to fulfill his propitiatory mission.
Jesus—God the Son—allowed Himself to be confined to a weak human frame, experiencing everything that comes with it. He subjected Himself to hunger and thirst, to temptation, to physical pain and sorrow, and to a limited mind—a mind that had to grow, just like the rest of His body, and learn.
Was Jesus fully man? Yes. Was He fully God? Yes.
So, if He was fully God? Why didn’t He know everything? As we just discussed: He subjected Himself to a human life—limiting Himself from exercising His full power in order to die as a man. Because, how could Jesus—God Himself—be killed by men, unless He chose to limit Himself. The moment Jesus came into the world as an infant, He was limited, so that, once He fulfilled His mission, we would no longer be limited in connecting with God because of our sin.
It’s the Gospel message.
III. He Was Dependent on the Father
It is obvious that Jesus was no ordinary human. Just because He limited Himself, does not at all mean that He took a break from being God. Being that He still was God Himself, His connection to the Father was much more intrinsic than our own could ever be. Therefore, He exhibited extraordinary powers and authority, even in His earthly confinement.
Take for example, the instance when Jesus was only a boy and amazed the well-learned teachers of the law with His extensive knowledge.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. –Luke 2:46-47 (ESV)
This verse displays Jesus’ outstanding ability, even in human frame, but it also shows the limitations He subjected Himself to. It says that He was “listening to them and asking them questions.” Jesus asked questions; Jesus listened and learned.
Another scripture that shows Jesus had limited Himself in human form is John 5:19, which says:
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.’ (ESV; emphasis added)
Whoa! Did He just say what I think He said? I’d say this verse pretty much covers it. But, let’s continue for good measure…
IV. He Wasn’t Yet Glorified
In His earthly form, Jesus was not yet “glorified”, but the Bible says now He is. During his years on planet earth, confined to a human body, Jesus could not do everything He could do if He were still in all of His glory—that would be cheating. In order to fulfill His mission of redemption, He chose to allow the limiting of His glory, but when His task was completed, after He had died for the sins of the world, He returned to glory—the fullness of glory.
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. –Hebrews 1:3-4
That sure doesn’t sound like the description of a Jesus who is still limited.
Does Jesus know everything? I think the answer is obvious.