Why does Jesus say in John 14:28 the Father is greater than him if they are equal and Jesus is God?
That Jesus is God is clearly declared by John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2). To be simultaneous with God and be God requires understanding that God is not a singular being. Jesus fully represented God while here on earth. "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9). And Paul also stated that while in heaven Jesus was equal to God. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:5-7). That prior to coming to earth in the form of man, Jesus was in the form of God -- indicating that he is deity. Commenting on the word "equal" Albert Barnes noted, "Compare to John 5:18. "Made himself equal with God." The phrase means one who sustains the same rank, dignity, nature."
But equality does not mean exactly the same in everything a person might imagine. The fact that two are under consideration, there are some differences. This shouldn't be surprising. In the United States, all citizens are considered equal. I might be equal to the president, but clearly, the president is greater than I am and has information that I do not have because of his position. My wife and I are equals (I Peter 3:7; Galatians 3:28); but I am stronger physically and, as head of the family and a man, I hold a different position (I Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:23). In other words, one can be equal in many or even most ways and still not be equal in all ways. To declare two people equal implies some measurement or criteria is being considered, but it doesn't imply that equality applies to every aspect.
The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all equally deity. They act with one purpose. "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30). Yet, the Son chooses to obey the Father. "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38). The Father thus holds greater authority. "For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (I Corinthians 15:27-28).
It is to this difference in position that Jesus referred to in John 14:28, "You have heard Me say to you, 'I am going away and coming back to you.' If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I am going to the Father,' for My Father is greater than I." The Father occupies a higher position because He sent the Son and then gave the Son all authority (Matthew 28:18). But both the Father and the Son are equally God -- they are both deity.
Thank you for responding. We read a book, Jesus Christ the Eternal Sacrifice by Betty Choate. It is a very good book in many ways. The lady who wrote it teaches that Jesus does not hold His same position of equality after ascending to heaven, because now He is now subservient to God and now sits at His right hand. She also states that His sacrifice on the cross was a token sacrifice and a physical sacrifice that was not meant to be full payment for sin, there had to be more. So he continues to be our sacrifice by forever losing the position He had before and now being under God, He is not equal anymore. So that He, in this way is continually sacrificing for us eternally. That's why I ask that particular question.
The teaching is false because Jesus told the Father, "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was" (John 17:5). Jesus returned to the position he had before when he returned to heaven. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:5-11).
The flaw is that the author could not accept the simple message that the Bible presents. She thinks there has to be more, so she imagines what she thinks is a greater sacrifice. But notice the Hebrew writer declares that Jesus' sacrifice was greater than the continual sacrifices of the Old Testament because it only needed to be offered once! "By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:10-14).