If Jesus Was God, Why Did He Say, ‘The Father Is Greater Than Him’?


Many Christians acknowledge that Jesus is God, but wrestle with the question, if Jesus was God, why did He say, ‘the Father is greater than Him’?

This question isn’t a new question, but it’s a question which is often thrown at Christians by other religious groups in an attempt to disprove the deity of Christ.

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away, and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” John 14:28

Jesus is in the upper room with His disciples speaking about the promise of the Holy Spirit who would come after His resurrection.

Jesus had told His disciples time and time again that He must go away and return, John 14:2-3 / John 14:12 / John 14:18-19 / John 14:21 / John 14:23. This should have made them rejoice, but it didn’t because their thoughts were on themselves, not on Him.

Many people make the mistake of forgetting that Jesus was also human. Throughout His life, we see glimpses of both natures. Because He was human, He got thirsty, John 19:28, but because He was God’s Son, He could turn water into wine, John 2:1-13.

Because He was human, He got hungry, Mark 11:12, but because He was God’s Son, He could feed 5,000 hungry people, Mark 6:30-44. Because He was human, He became weary, John 4:6, but because He was God’s Son, He was raised from the dead, Matthew 28:1-15.

Jesus was fully God but also fully man, John 1:1-3 / John 1:14. When He came to earth as man, He voluntarily chose to restrict some of His divine attributes, Philippians 2:6-8.

Paul tells us that Jesus ‘emptied Himself and He humbled Himself.’ He emptied Himself so that He could serve, ‘He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.’

When the Bible says, ‘that he emptied himself’, it doesn’t mean He became less than God, when He was on earth, it means He became more than God, in the sense that He was God, but now He was also a man.

He didn’t get rid of deity, He emptied deity into humanity. He could never stop being God because God is His nature. This is something the Jews certainly did understand, John 8:58-59 / John 18:4-8.

We must also remember that He voluntarily ‘humbled Himself’, Philippians 2:8, in other words, Jesus lived a life which was in complete submission to the Father, and so set us the supreme example of what sacrifice is all about.

When we read of Jesus doing things that only God can do, and knowing things that only God can know, it’s because, at those moments, the Father was telling Him what to say, and showing Him what to do.

He submitted to the Father but still remained One with the Father, Matthew 26:39 / Matthew 26:42 / John 5:30 / John 6:38 / John 8:28-29 / John 10:30 / John 12:49 / John 14:28 / John 14:31.

‘The Father is greater than I’

So, what did Jesus mean, when He said, ‘The Father is greater than I’? He’s saying that His Father was greater in the sense that His Father was in Heaven, while Jesus was made a little lower than the angels while He was in the flesh, Hebrews 1:5 / Hebrews 2:9.

His Father was greater in the sense that Jesus became man, John 1:1-3 / John 1:14, and humbled Himself when He became a man, Philippians 2:8. His Father was greater in the sense that His Father was responsible for making decisions, while Jesus submitted to His Father’s will, Philippians 2:7-8 / Hebrews 2:9 / Hebrews 2:14.

The Authority Of Christ

We must remember that when Jesus was a man, He still had authority. Jesus spoke as one with authority, Matthew 7:29, and had the authority to forgive sins, Matthew 9:6. A Roman centurion displayed his great faith by rightly believing in Jesus’ authority to command at a great distance for his servant to be healed, Matthew 8:5-13.

The wind and the waves obeyed Jesus’ commands, Matthew 8:27, which was actually a sign of His deity. The demons feared His authority as the Son of God, Matthew 8:29. Jesus even affirmed in several places that He was the one to whom all would answer as judge on the last day, John 5:22 / Acts 10:42 / Acts 17:31.

The Scriptures teach that Christ was given all authority in heaven and earth after His resurrection, Matthew 28:19-20. The Scripture also teach that one day, when Christ returns, He will surrender His authoritative role to the Father, 1 Corinthians 15:24-28.

We must note, however, that His surrendering of the kingdom authority doesn’t mean He forfeits His deity or His divine glory, John 17:4-5. He will still be our brother, Romans 8:17 / Hebrews 2:9-12, and we will still reign with Him, Revelation 3:21 / Revelation 22:5. He will still be God our Lord and our Saviour, John 20:28 / Titus 2:13.


Maybe a couple of illustrations will help answer the question.

The Bible teaches that a husband is greater in position and authority than his wife, Genesis 3:16 / Ephesians 5:23 / 1 Peter 3:5-6, but the husband is no different in nature and no better than his wife, Genesis 1:27 / Genesis 2:24 / Ephesians 2:10 / Galatians 3:28. They share the same nature, that is, they are both human beings, and they work together by love.

The Prime Minister has a greater position than I do and greater responsibility than I do and has greater authority than I do, Matthew 22:21 / 1 Peter 2:13 / Romans 13:1-7, but he is no different in nature than I am, he is no better than I am, Isaiah 53:6 / Romans 3:23. We share the same nature, that is, we’re both human.

In the same manner, the Father had greater position and greater authority than Jesus, while Jesus was a man, but the Father is no different in nature than Jesus, He was no better than Jesus. They share the same nature, that is, they are both deity. God the Father was greater in authority, responsibility, and position, but not in nature. Jesus was still deity but human too.


When Jesus said, ‘The Father is greater than I’, He was not denying that He was God, He was simply acknowledging the fact that He was also a man. Jesus is both God and man, He’s the Godman.

As a man, He was in a lesser position than the Father. He was subject to the laws of God so that He might redeem those who were under law, Galatians 4:4-5. He had added to Himself humanity, Colossians 2:9 and He became a man to die for people, John 3:16 / 1 Timothy 1:15.

Some people will go to any length and grasp any straw to try and prove that Christ wasn’t God. The words ‘The Father is greater than I’ are used to support false doctrine, e.g. that Jesus wasn’t deity.

This interpretation would flatly contradict the teaching of John’s Gospel, John 1:1-2 / John 1:14. It also contradicts Jesus’ own assertions, John 8:59 / John 10:30.

It likewise contradicts other New Testament teaching, Colossians 2:9 / Colossians 1:19; in His humanity Jesus accepted limitations and was subject to His Father, John 14:29 / John 13:19 / John 16:4 / John 2:22.

‘We wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.’ Titus 2:13