Imitating Jesus may seem as impossible as following Superman in flight. We might shadow Clark Kent up a flight of stairs, but not off a tall building. Likewise, we might imitate Jesus when he operated from his human nature, but not when he relied on his divine nature.
Such thinking is based on the belief that Jesus flipped from one nature to the other, depending on the situation. While weeping at the grave of Lazarus, he used his human nature. While raising Lazarus from the dead, his divine. Jesus taught from his human side, walked on water from his divine side.
If Jesus lived like this, wasn’t he cheating? I mean, if he could use his divine nature to hear from the Father, heal the sick, drive out demons, and perform miracles, didn’t he have an unfair advantage? If so, his command for us to follow him seems absurd. We could no more follow Jesus than we could fly like superman.
I bring this up because such a view strips believers of a truth needed to live a supernatural life. It’s crucial we know that during his earthly ministry Jesus never tapped into his divine nature to know or do anything. Instead, he always operated out of his humanity directed by the Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Some Bible scholars say Jesus performed miracles to prove he was God. The Bible doesn’t tell us that. In fact, in the Old Testament, Moses, Elijah and Elisha performed miracles; and in the New Testament, Peter and Paul performed miracles. None of these men claimed to be God, nor did they claim to be the source of their miraculous power. Instead, their miracles validated the claim they spoke for God. And though Jesus claimed to be God (John 10:30-33), he never claimed his power flowed from his divine nature.
Paul taught that, while Jesus was fully God, he laid aside the use of his non-transferable divine attributes (omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability) at the incarnation (see Philippians 2:5-8). Paul didn’t say Jesus laid aside his divinity; only that he laid aside the use of his divinity. God cannot cease being God, but he can waive the use of his divine powers.
For example, we could relinquish our ability to see by keeping our eyes closed. We would still possess vision, but we wouldn’t be using it. That’s what Jesus did with his divine power. He chose not to use it while on earth.
Throughout his ministry, Jesus affirmed the source of his strength. In John 5:19-20, he declared his reliance on God the Father: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed” (NIV).
In John 5:30, Jesus said, “By myself I can do nothing” (NIV). In John 14:9, he told Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (NIV, NLT). In Matthew 24:36, he showed a human limitation of knowledge when he said he didn’t know the time of his return. Later, he noted that he could ask his Father to send twelve legions of angels to his aid, rather than commanding them himself (Matthew 26:53).
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter spoke of the source of Jesus’ power when he said, “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22, NIV, emphasis added).
This is a poignant truth. Why? Because the same resources that enabled Jesus to live a supernatural and miraculous life are available to us. As Jesus abided in the Father, so we abide in Jesus. The Lord promised, “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).
Like Jesus, we can show God to the world. While Jesus was fully God and fully man, his words and actions flowed from his Father in the power of the Spirit–and so can ours. Jesus never cheated by using a power source unavailable to us. While the Lord shows us what God is like in the flesh, he also shows us what a man is like who relies completely on God the Father and the Holy Spirit.