“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)
Ver. 28. The Father is greater than I. According to the common exposition, Christ here speaks of himself, as made man, which interpretation is drawn from the circumstances of the text, Christ being at that time, going to suffer, and die, and shortly after to rise again, and ascend into heaven, all which agree with him, as man, and according to his human nature. But the Arians can take no advantage from these words, (though with divers of the ancient Fathers, we should allow them to be spoken of Christ, as the Son of God: ) the Father may be said in some manner to be greater than the Son, if we consider the order of the divine processions, that is, that the Father is the first person, and proceeds from no other; whereas the Son proceeds from the Father. If any one, says St. Chrysostom, will contend, that the Father is greater, inasmuch as he is the cause, from which the Son proceedeth, we will bear with him, and this way of speaking: provided he grant that the Son is not of a different substance, or nature. St. Athanasius allows the same, and takes notice, that though the Father is said to be greater, yet he is not said to be better, nor more excellent, than the Son; because they are one and the same in substance, nature, and other perfections. (Witham) — The enemies of the divinity of Christ here triumph, and think they have the confession of Christ himself, that he is less than the Father. But if they would distinguish the two natures of Christ, their arguments would all fall to the ground. Jesus Christ, as man, and a creature, is inferior to his Father, the Creator; but, as God, he is, in every respect, equal to him. (St. Basil, St. Augustine, &c.) — Others, likewise, answer it thus: Following the confused opinion of the world, and even of the apostles themselves, who as yet only considered Christ as a prophet, and as a man, eminent in virtue and sanctity, he was less than the Father. (St. Chrysostom; Leont.; Theophylactus; Euthymius) — And likewise the title of Father, (as we generally use the word) is greater, and much more honourable, than that of Son; and in this respect, Christ is inferior to his Father. (St. Athanasius; St. Hilary; St. Epiphanius; St. Gregory of Nazianzus; and St. Cyril) —But this appellation, though really true, does not destroy the equality of the persons, because Christ has declared, in numerous other places, that he is equal to the Father; that he is in the Father; and that he and the Father are one. The apostles ought to have rejoiced that Christ was going to the Father, who was superior to him, considering him in his human nature; because, then, would the Son shew forth his honour and glory to be equal to the Father’s, in heaven. This would have been a mark of a pure, solid, and disinterested love, which ought to have inspired the apostles, if they truly loved their divine Master.
The disciples should rejoice to see human nature divinized and seated at the right hand of the Father, that the much greater Father should deem to associate Himself in such a way with the much lesser human nature.