How is the Father Greater than Jesus?
If Jesus is God, what did he mean when he said “The Father is greater than I”?
The best way to understand this verse is to recognize that Jesus was less than the Father in terms of his incarnation as a human being but not less in terms of his divine nature. This is similar to the way someone can say that Queen Elizabeth II is greater (i.e. in her position) without implying that she is somehow greater in her nature (i.e. as a human).
Ron Rhodes (Th.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) makes this point well. He writes,
It is critical to recognize that in John 14:28, Jesus is not speaking about His nature or His essential being…, but rather about His lowly position in the incarnation. The Athanasian Creed affirms that Christ is “equal to the Father as touching his Godhood and inferior to the Father as touching his manhood.”
Dr. Rhodes also points out how the apostle Paul made essentially this same point in the Bible. Philippians 2:6,7 states that Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6,7)
Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Updated and expanded ed (Eugene, Or: Harvest House Publishers, 2009), 146.
Phil. 2:6-7 (NIV)