If Jesus is God, then why did He say 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. ”
There are two explanations usually given as to why Jesus said, “My Father is greater than I.” We will first present both explanations and then come to a conclusion.
Jesus Was A Man
The first reason given by some is that Jesus was referring to the fact that He was a man and not God. As a man, Jesus was inferior to God the Father. A human is inferior to God and Jesus was a man. Jesus is also God. He was both! This is the message of Romans 1:3-4.
. . . concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord . . . (NASB) Romans 1:3-4
The expression Son of God means that Jesus was God. So Jesus was both but in His humanness God the Father was greater. That is the first explanation that some give.
Jesus Was God
The second reason given is that Jesus was God the Son – the second person of the Trinity. Scripture reveals the fact that God the Father makes the decisions for the Trinity. This is His responsibility and both Jesus and the Holy Spirit obey Him (John 8:28-29, 14:26, 31). So the explanation concludes that God the Father is greater because He makes the decisions.
Meaning of “Greater”
The context, or the verses which come before this passage, help us understand the meaning of John 14:28.
These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it comes to pass, that when it comes to pass, you may believe. I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go from here. (NASB) John 14:25-31
In this passage, Jesus was speaking to His disciples. He told them that God the Holy Spirit – the Helper – obeys the Father. At the conclusion of the conversation, Jesus said that He obeyed the Father too! Jesus was making the point that God the Father is greater. The Greek word for “greater” is MEGAS. It has the idea of “big in stature, great, mighty, and high.” This helps us to understand Jesus’ comment. God the Father was greater at that time. He was in heaven in His glory. Jesus was on earth in human flesh. God the Father had the responsibility to make all the decisions, and Jesus was committed to absolute obedience (Philippians 2:7-8; Heb. 2:9, 14). Jesus was modeling obedience as a human should obey God – for us. Man must obey God. Jesus was committed to showing us what that looked like. While here on earth Jesus showed us how to submit.
Jesus is God just as the Father is God. We must remember that Jesus also said, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30). Both explanations are correct.