February 22, 2017 • Life for Leaders
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Mark 13:32 is one of the most startling and unexpected verses in all of Scripture. At least it shocked me when, as a young man, I first read it. I had grown up in a Christian community that held Jesus in the highest esteem. We believed that he was “fully divine.” The “fully human” part of classic Christian belief concerning Christ often was relegated to the fine print. Jesus, as the Son of God, had all of the attributes of God. Therefore he was omniscient. He knew everything, all the time, or so we believed.
You can see why Mark 13:32 upset my theological apple cart. In this verse, Jesus said that “about that day or hour no one knows,” not even Jesus, the divine Son. Apparently, Jesus did not know the precise timing of end time events of which he spoke. Only the Father knows these things, Jesus explained. He could not have been clearer in saying that he himself did not know exactly when the end would come, though he knew many of the associated signs.
At first I was deeply troubled by Jesus’s startling admission that he did not know the exact timetable for the end times. How could this be possible for the Son of God? Yet, as I thought and prayed, as I studied and reflected, and as I grew in my faith, I came to understand that Jesus was not just “truly God,” but also “truly man.” (This language, by the way, comes from the fifth-century A.D. Council of Chalcedon.) In the mystery of the Incarnation, the Son of God, who was fully God, gave up certain benefits, including omniscience. There were things that Jesus, the God-man, did not know, even important things like the timing of his own return.
The more I have considered the miracle of the Incarnation and the fact that the Son of God accepted human limitations, the more I am blown away with gratitude. God didn’t just pretend to be human, but became truly and fully human in Jesus . . . and all of this for us and our salvation. Moreover, because Jesus became like us “in every way” (Heb 2:17), he understands us profoundly and personally. He knows what it’s like to be human, and is thus able to help us as we experience the challenges of human life (Heb 2:18).
So, what once shocked and unsettled me about Jesus now gives me great encouragement and comfort. It calls me to my knees in humble praise and fervent gratitude! Perhaps you’ll join me.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
How do you respond to Jesus’s admission that he did not know exactly when the end times would occur?
How have you thought about the nature of Jesus as fully divine and fully human?
Have you tended to emphasize one nature and minimize the other?
Lord Jesus, as you know, I was once unsettled by Mark 13:32. I couldn’t understand how you could not know something, especially something so important as the time of your return. This seemed to be contradictory to your divine nature. I didn’t get it and didn’t like it.
Thank you, dear Lord, for your patience in revealing yourself to me more clearly. Thanks for your Word, which reveals you as fully God and fully human. This is a mystery I will never completely understand, but it is a wonder of your grace, and this brings me to my knees before you.
How grateful I am that you know what it’s like to be limited, that you know what it’s like not to know things you might like to know. How grateful I am that your humanity was not a costume covering your divinity, but a genuine entering in to our experience. Thank you, dear Lord, for understanding me at a depth I once denied.
Lord Jesus, Son of God, truly divine and truly human, what a wonder you are! Hallelujah! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: The Creation Has Become Subject to Evil (Hebrews 2:14–3:6)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.