Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ performed mighty miracles that no human being had ever done. We know that he was God in human flesh—both man and God at the same time. Was it by virtue of his being deity that he did the miracles, or is there another explanation? This question is an important one to those who serve him.
John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
Jesus promised his disciples that they would do the works that he did, which include miracles to confirm to the world his identity as the Son of God.
John 20:30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Many of Christ’s servants want to do these works to glorify the Father. How do we begin? We begin by studying his ministry to see how he did the miracles. If it was indeed by virtue of his being deity that his miracles were performed, then we are faced with a serious roadblock. We are not deity, and will never be deity. We are simply mortals saved and sanctified by God’s grace through faith alone. Thus we can never hope to do these miracles for the gospel’s sake.
Let us propose an alternative explanation, and determine whether or not it is worthy of support according to Scripture.
Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
Isaiah prophesied that when the Messiah appeared on earth, he would carry out his ministry of preaching, healing, and deliverance only after the Holy Spirit came upon him. This was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at the Jordan River following his baptism in water by John:
Luke 3:22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
Luke 4:1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. …13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. 14 Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region.15 And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. 16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
It is clear that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled when the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jesus at the Jordan River after his water baptism. We note that before this “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” Scripture does not record Jesus doing any healing miracles, even though his essence before and after had not changed one bit—he continued to be in very nature God. After this baptism, he began to do miracles and “news of him went out through all the surrounding region.” We can only conclude that the manifestation of power through Jesus was correlated not with his being in very nature God, but with the Holy Spirit descending upon him. Dare we go one step further to venture that his ministry of the miraculous appeared so suddenly as an actual result of the Holy Spirit descending upon him?
Philippians 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and become obedient to death—even death on a cross!
These verses teach us that although he was in very nature God, he voluntarily made himself nothing when he took on human flesh and become like us to be our sacrificial Lamb. Based on this, it does not stretch the meaning of Scripture to say that he also voluntarily gave up the prerogatives of power and authority he had before he was incarnated as a human being.
John 17:5 “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
A very important question to consider at this point is: why did Jesus give up these prerogatives?
Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
He emptied himself and became like us so that he could function as an effective High Priest for us, dying on the cross as a sin offering on our behalf. Is there another reason?
1 Peter 2:21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
Jesus became a human being and suffered for us to leave an example for us to follow. Now, how closely are we to follow in his steps? Ought we to limit it only to the area of his suffering, or can we reasonably follow him in the area of his ministry as well?
John 14:11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (NIV) 12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also;…. (NKJV)
Jesus tells us that believers will do the works that he did, which include his miracles. Not only his suffering, but his ministry becomes an example for us to follow. Thus we have at least two reasons why Jesus emptied himself to become like us: to become our High Priest, and to leave an example for us weak human beings to follow in our lives and our ministries, in holiness and power. But is this a reasonable expectation for us with all our weaknesses? How can we really become like him in holiness and power?
2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
It is only by the indwelling Holy Spirit that we are being transformed into his image. In the same way, it is only by the Spirit of the Lord that we can do the works that he did. This is the Spirit of which Isaiah prophesied in Chapter 53 and who descended upon Jesus at the Jordan. And this is the same Spirit that came upon the disciples at Pentecost. He is the same Spirit in whom every believer has been baptized.
Might we reasonably propose that Jesus underwent water baptism as well as Spirit baptism in order to lay down an example for us to follow? Certainly he did not need to be baptized in water by John for the forgiveness of sins. But he underwent it “to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) What this might ultimately embrace certainly exceeds the understanding of this author, but I believe it includes God’s work of righteousness in us sinners who would later by faith follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Everyone who has put his faith in Christ as Savior should follow his Lord in water baptism. In the same way, Christ would not have needed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit in order to minister in power had he chosen not to give up the divine prerogatives of power. But since he made himself nothing and become like us in part to provide an example for us to follow, he needed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit before he could minister in supernatural power.
In John’s gospel, Jesus mentions his dependence upon his Father in the doing of his mighty works.
John 5:19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.
It was not because of his divine nature that he could do the miracles; it was because the Father had given him authority to do them through the Holy Spirit.
John 5:20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. …26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
As the Father gave Jesus authority on earth, Jesus has given his disciples a measure of his authority to complete the Great Commission.
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. …6 So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.
Note that Jesus did not “anoint” the disciples to minister. Rather he gave them power and authority to minister to others. It’s important to note this difference. Nowhere in the New Testament is it taught that God “anointed” the disciples to minister supernaturally. But it is clear that He gave them supernatural gifts (1 Corinthians 12) as well as power and authority for that purpose.
Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. …9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’
Finally, we know that God cannot be tempted to sin.
James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
We also understand from Philippians 2:6 that Jesus is in very nature God. Yet Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted just as we are.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
We can only conclude that Jesus voluntarily made himself nothing, becoming like us and subject to temptation as we are. Although he was without sin, he had to be perfected through suffering, temptation, and obedience to become our High Priest just as we are being perfected in our walk with him on earth.
Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Hebrews 5:8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
Hebrews 7:28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.
We see Jesus Christ voluntarily choosing to lay down certain of his divine prerogatives when he become flesh for our sake. He had to depend on much prayer and his Father’s help to resist temptation and go obediently to the cross. He also had to depend on his Father through the indwelling Holy Spirit to perform his mighty miraculous works. Because of this we disciples of Christ can have hope. We can also succeed in resisting temptation and living holy lives by trusting in him. We can also do the works that he did by trusting in him and following the example that he left for us. He left not only an example for us, but he left the Holy Spirit.
John 20:21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
What is Jesus’ state at this moment?
John 17:5 “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
To Jesus Christ has been restored all the divine prerogatives that he voluntarily laid down for our sakes when he took on flesh. The very purpose of the ‘kenosis‘ has been fulfilled and its phase forever in the past.