(For an explanation of “Ordinary Time,” please see “Introducing Ordinary Time” under the tab, “Ordinary Time, Year I: The Gospels.”)
Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32
How Could Jesus Not Know?
Today, I wish to take up a difficult matter that has puzzled Christians from the beginning. I begin by saying that we worship the Lord of the universe whose being we cannot even begin to understand. He is so great, so awesome, so above anything we could ever imagine that all we can do is fall on our knees before Him and worship this almighty and gracious God. Had He not sent His Son and through him revealed to us His will and way which we now have in the Holy Scriptures, we would be as lost as any of the ancient Canaanites or Greeks who worshiped those immoral gods which they created in their own image. But though God has revealed Himself through Christ and the Scriptures, some things are so mysterious that our finite minds cannot comprehend it all. I count that a blessing; after all, who wants to worship a god that he has figured out?
One such mystery is the one person of Christ in his Incarnate self, which is composed of two natures. It took the early Church roughly seven hundred years to hammer out much of what we take for granted, and there are still differences among the various communions on matters over which we may disagree. The Creed of the Council of Chalcedon of 451 A.D. states that the one person of Christ “be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved….”
I say all of this in reference to the statement by Christ himself that only the Father knows of the hour of his return – the Son does not. But how can that be? If the Son is God as the Father is God, how can he not share the same mind? The answer to this is that when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary in that most holy moment, the Son of God assumed a human nature and body. That nature, though inseparably joined to the divine nature, still remained distinctly Christ’s human nature, which he had to have to redeem us. And so we read those wonderful verses where Christ “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52). We also read that he was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). Why would he need the Spirit if he was God already? Because the human nature of Christ needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit to perform his work. Our Lord and Savior sits at the right hand of the Father knowing all things now, including the day of his return, but when he walked on earth, there was a necessary relinquishing of his divine prerogatives (Philippians 2:7-8) in the service of his sinless humanity – so that he could take our sinful place on the cross.