I have personally found Nikolai Berdyaev’s insights on this subject to be enlightening, particularly this short passage from Slavery and Freedom (bold added):
Christ was a free man, the freest of the sons of men. He was free from the world; He was bound only by love. Christ spoke as one having authority, but He did not have the will to authority, and He was not a master."
The passage immediately raises the question of how Jesus was a free man, and why He was the freest of the sons of men. The freedom Berdyaev alludes to here is spiritual freedom, and it has nothing to do with the contemporary “liberal” understanding of freedom as limitless choices, zero restraints, and endless indulgence of passions.
Limitless choice, a lack of restraint, and self-indulgence are not conducive to being “free from the world” -- of having overcome the world. On the contrary, it reveals a deep-seated servility to the world – a slavish giving in to lower passions and external forces, which is then touted as the manifestation of a powerful internal will impressing itself upon reality. Such an understanding of freedom is certainly not “bound by love”.
Christians often equate spiritual freedom with free will – that is, the potential to make the right choice among choices. Most Christians tend to regard the potential of making a right choice as spiritual freedom. Once the right choice is made, the individual has freed himself from the slavery of the wrong choice. He has used his free will to “will” the right thing into being.
Within this context, it could then be argued that Jesus’s freedom was the result of a pristine record of always making the right choice and willing that right choice into being.
This conceptualization sorely misses the larger dimension of the kind of spiritual freedom Jesus epitomized.
Jesus’s freedom was not the result of perfected free will – more specifically, the ability to always choose right over wrong; good over evil.
What made Jesus the freest of the sons of men was not His ability to choose, but His ability to fully align himself with God’s creative purposes -- an alignment that allowed Him to overcome the world and live His true, divine nature. This alignment expanded his freedom and rendered the question of choices irrelevant.
William Arkle is among those who understand this often overlooked aspect of freedom. In his A Geography of Consciousness, Arkle notes:
What freedom of choice really means is the ability we must develop to sense the whole of the situation in which we are involved, both in our own nature and in the world around us, and then take the best course available. Freedom is not in choosing, it is in seeing the irrelevance of choice.
The vocation to follow Jesus is a divine invitation to everlasting life, but it is also a call to freedom – the freedom to overcome the world, live by our true natures, and participate in the creation of the world.
From the perspective of free will, the vocation to follow Jesus presents itself as a need to make a choice among many choices. From the perspective of spiritual freedom, the vocation to follow Jesus should free us from “the need to choose” by raising our awareness of what is best and correct to such a level that other options are not even considered.
Spiritual freedom is the sort of freedom in which we no longer have to debate whether something is good or evil. We no longer have to consider whether we made the right or wrong choice. We attain a level of awareness in which we just intuitively recognize and know the best course of action.
Once we know the truth, it sets us free.
Christ does not coerce us toward this intuitive awareness. Instead, he invites us toward it through love.
As William Arkle explains (bold added):
To become free-will individuals in this involved world is much harder than we think. In fact freedom is not what we really want. What we really need is fulfillment. Freedom of choice should not exist except in unimportant matters. Real freedom is freedom from the need to choose by being fully aware of what is best and correct.