Section 4: Jesus
Week 2: Jesus Is Fully God
Day 4: Jesus’ Divine and Human Natures Work Together
Mark 13:32, John 2:24-25
When I was in second grade, my dad was taking a philosophy course in college. One day he decided to find out how a second-grader would tackle a thorny philosophical conundrum. So he asked me: “Can God make a rock he can’t lift?” I had learned about the Incarnation in my religion classes. So I immediately replied, “Of course. He makes a big rock, and then turns himself into a man who isn’t strong enough to lift it.”
I have to say, I was pretty proud of my answer. I wasn’t even out of second grade and I had solved a problem that had puzzled philosophers for ages. Well… not quite. My dad was too kind to point this out, but I hadn’t quite grasped the real problem. The question is designed to get at the issue of whether there is anything God can’t do in and of himself. If there is, then he can’t really be all-powerful. The problem with my answer is that it requires God to become human before lifting the rock. In his human power, he can’t. But philosophers want to know whether God in his divine power can or can’t lift the rock.
As we saw in the section on God’s nature however, that’s not really a big problem. There are a number of things we can happily acknowledge God can’t do. He can’t sin, for example. Even though there are things he can’t do, he is still all-powerful in the sense that he is capable of doing anything he wants. So, the answer to the question of whether God can make a rock he can’t lift is probably: No… but why would he want to?
What does any of this have to do with Jesus? My second-grade answer may not have been a particularly good defense of God’s omnipotence, but it does raise an interesting question about Jesus. Could he make a rock he couldn’t lift?
As we’ve seen, Jesus was fully human. His human body, therefore, didn’t possess unlimited strength. So, there were plenty of rocks that were too big for him. But he is also God. As God, no rock would have been too big. How do we put those two truths together?
The key is to remember Jesus has two natures—one divine and one human. His divine nature is capable of doing certain things his human nature can’t, and vice versa. These two natures, however, exist in one person. Therefore, whenever either nature does something, it is appropriate to say Jesus is doing it.[i]
So, if we go back to the question of whether Jesus could make a rock he couldn’t lift, the answer is yes because he has two natures. In his divine nature, Jesus of course couldn’t create a rock that was too big for him. But his divine nature is more than capable of creating a rock out of nothing. And if that rock was big enough and Jesus chose to act within the confines of his human nature, he wouldn’t be able to lift it. Even though his divine nature could have lifted the rock, it would still be appropriate to say Jesus couldn’t lift it because that is a true statement with respect to his human nature.
Is it easy to understand how Jesus had both human and divine natures? Is it easy to understand how the two would have worked together? Why or why not? Should we expect to understand everything God is and does? Why or why not? Does that mean we shouldn’t try to understand as much we can? Is there value in taking a closer look at Christ’s nature?
List one or two ways the readings thus far have helped you understand Jesus better.
[i] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House 1994), 562.