Perhaps you have asked, “Is Jesus God or Man?” or “If Jesus is God, why did He pray?”
If you have ever watched a cowboy at work, you have seen an art, dance, and skill all in one rough little show. I do mean a real cowboy, not just some poser wearing the gear. An experienced cowboy has become “one” with his horse. The horse anticipates his next move and lunges or turns in perfect harmony with the rider’s will. This simple harmony can illustrate the sometimes-complex concept of Jesus being both God and man.
The limits of a metaphor
Before going too far with this, I will offer the disclaimer that every good analogy breaks down somewhere. Even Jesus’ parables make sense within certain limits, but pushing every point of a story or illustration to its limits will make no sense. For example, Jesus said we should bear good fruit and to watch out for wolves. This does not mean true believers are stuck waist deep in dirt like trees, nor that false believers have long, sharp teeth like wild canines.
That said, let’s proceed. Our cowboy is “Jake.” His steed we will call “Rocket.”
When God came in flesh
God is an invisible Spirit (John 4:24; I Timothy 1:17). Jesus is the physical, flesh-and-bone person of God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3; 2:14). The Father dwells in the Son (John 14:9; Colossians 2:9). Thus, Jesus could say, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). However, they are not of one substance. This is where my cowboy analogy comes in.
The cowboy in a competition wins a prize, let’s say. Now you could say, “Jake is really good at roping mustangs.” However, the cowboy, by himself could not win. If he were on his own two feet in the field or in the ring, he would be a dead man—at least dead tired or stomped to death. To do his work, Jake has to have an obedient horse to ride.
At the same time, you cannot give the trophy to just the horse. Sure, Rocket did a great job galloping, jumping, and turning when needed, but by itself, the horse could not rope even a calf. It takes the horse and rider to have a good rodeo. Neither one can do the job alone. Similarly, the invisible God could not save the world in His transcendent nature. Neither could a man save humanity alone. Therefore God came in flesh—divinity added humanity to His identity—the rider chose a perfect mount.
If Jesus is God, why did He pray?
Jesus prayed for the same reason a horse eats hay. It was His nature. Just as His human nature caused him to thirst, hunger, and sleep, it was also natural to cry out to God. Sometimes those of us in the stands get so caught up cheering for our Man we lose track of who is who. While we can say Jesus is God, we must remember that this is true only because the fullness of God dwells in Him. Just like you could say, “Rocket is a champ,” you must not forget he is only a winner only because of the excellent rider Jake. Without the skilled cowboy, that equine would just be another hay-burner.
If we kept the proper focus on who Jesus is, we would not have to ask, “Why did Jesus have to pray?” The Son communicated with the Father because human nature naturally cries out to the divine. The whole success of Jake and Rocket is their ability to communicate. Rocket takes commands and eagerly seeks to do everything to make his master happy. Jake senses the animal’s fears and encourages him as needed. Before the action and after the action, you will find Jake in the stall talking to the horse, and in his limited way, the horse speaks back. Similarly, the Son could communicate with the Father.
Is He one God or two?
At the end of a rodeo, the horse and rider are not announced as two winners but one. At the end of the week, the cowboy picks up one paycheck, not two. If you had two, you would have a cowboy on another cowboy’s shoulders. Or even crazier, a horse saddled up on another horse.
Some say God in Christ cannot be One God because you have two wills. However, you do not have two human wills or two divine wills. You have the divine will (the Father) and the human will (the Son). Since the Son fully submitted His will to the Father’s, you only have one will.
The Father and Son are not two of the same substance. If you overfill your bathtub and then hop in, water will splash onto the floor because you are physical substance displacing physical substance. However, if you flood that same tub-full of water with light, neither one gets in the way of each other. Similarly, the invisible Father fully dwells in the visible Son without compromising divinity or humanity.
How does God get glory when we worship Jesus?
If you walked up to Jake and said, “You are an awesome cowboy,” you would be doing so only because Rocket made him known to you. Without the horse, he would have been just another guy with boots and a hat. You cannot come to the Father except through the Son. It is the redemptive work of the Son on the cross, which only a man could do, that brings us into right-standing with our heavenly Father.
If you walked up to Rocket and said, “You are an awesome roping horse,” you would be praising Jake as well because he made the horse great. Some people pray to God and do not talk to Jesus. They might say, “Father, in the name of your Son.” However, Stephen in Acts 7 called on God saying, “Lord Jesus!” Our Lord Jesus also said to ask Him and He would do it (John 14:13-14). When Jesus presented Himself alive to the disciples in the upper room, Thomas came forward and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” If this worship was wrong, Jesus would have corrected him. Instead, He blessed him for believing something others would never see (John 20:28-29).
Jesus prayed, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). God coming in flesh was not a one-time act. He needs flesh and bone to reach this world: your flesh and bone. How will He do this? He went on to pray, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:22-23).
The Lord is looking for another champion to take to the ring. Will you let Him ride? Will you give Him the reigns of your life?
I welcome your comments on these topics of “If Jesus is God, why did He pray?” and “Is Jesus God or Man?”