An Evangelical Response to the April 1, 2012 Watchtower.
The Watchtower has a thing about Jesus Christ. They write about him regularly. A careful reading of the Bible alongside their publications reveals significant differences between what the Bible says, and what the Watchtower says about Jesus.
The April 1, 2012 Watchtower is another attempt to build a persuasive case for their specific understanding of Jesus; who he is, what he has done, and why it matters to us today.
Claiming to present “the answers to our questions”, the article contains many misunderstandings, errors, and even deception. Rather than presenting reliable and accurate answers taken from the Bible, they paint a picture of Jesus which is flawed in critical ways. The Watchtower Jesus is another Jesus, not Jesus Christ from the Bible.
Let’s look at one of the question and answers. The Watchtower writes:
The Watchtower position in this specific answer can be broken down and summarized in two specific thoughts:
1) Jesus’ subordination to God demonstrates that he never considered himself equal to God.
2) Jesus distinguished between himself and God, showing they are separate persons. The Watchtower sees in this an explicit denial by Jesus of being God.
Worldview and Philosophy
Few of us are trained philosophers, but we are all philosphers nonetheless. We construct a philosophical worldview at a personal level which acts as a filter through which we try to make sense of the world. Worldviews – everyone has one, and they are always philosophical in nature. The Watchtower “answer” above contains several philosophical ideas.
A Few Words About a Few Words
First, subordination is a statement about what a person does in relation to a position or office… the position they occupy in a constructed hierarchy. For example, a front-line employee in a corporation is subordinate to their supervisor or manager. Within an organization, an employee is rightly said to be subordinate to their boss in position or rank. But take note that this subordination is not a statement concerning the employee’s essential being. It does not concern their inherent worth as a human compared with the inherent worth of their boss’s humanity. A boss is not a higher order human being compared to the employees under them. In other words, subordinate in position is not a statement concerning someone’s essence or being, their nature.
Second, the Watchtower approaches personhood as though our exerience of personhood is the norm, the standard of existence for all beings, including Almighty God. This is an assumption on the part of the Watchtower.
Our response will be wide-ranging. It simply must be. The Bible is filled with teachings, allusions, types, poetry, and prophecies concerning who Jesus is. In fact, we will even see passages from the Old Testament concerning Jehovah taken up and applied by New Testament authors to Jesus. It has been said by others that we can find Jesus on every page of the Bible. To understand who he is, we must spend time and energy seeking throughout the breadth of biblical revelation God has gifted us with.
This wide-ranging examination is in contrast to the Watchtower’s approach. As pointed out in our initial look at this edition of the Watchtower, they limit their investigation into who Jesus is by examining only what Jesus said about himself in the gospels. The Watchtower’s limitation on the evidence and testimony they will consider is an artificial one, one that ignores the incredible nature of the Word of God concerning its own internal unity and claims to inspiration by God.
And yet… this little article is but a nick on a corner, a bare scratching the surface of all the Bible has to say about Jesus. I feel my inadequacy quite sharply, but also the awesome power of God who uses His Word in the winning of souls to the kingdom. Onward.
To develop a grounded and well-formed answer to the question posed, “Is Jesus actually God?”, we will examine five main testimonies:
1) What does God say?
2) What does Jesus say?
3) What do Jesus’ friends say?
4) What do Jesus’ enemies say?
5) What does all of creation say?
1) What does God say?
Is Jesus actually God? Should we consider what God has to say about such a critical question? When we examine the claims of the Bible concerning its inspiration from God, then what he says in the Bible is supremely important, revealing details we would otherwise be ignorant of.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel”(which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:22-23)
The Lord has set the stage, bringing about the fulfillment of his long-standing promise, bringing to us a son born of a virgin, whose name is Immanuel. This name means “God with us”. An exceptional child, where both the means of his birth and his name bear testimony of his unique nature. In this one little passage, we see the incarnation of the Son of God in action. His unique conception is so designed by God to bring about the only appropriate response. “Immanuel. God with us.”
Immanuel arrives as no other has, for “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” God is involved with this little life in an entirely unique way, opening vistas before us which are unimaginable apart from this great act of God’s mercy. This profound miracle bears the weight of God’s testimony, even “God with us”.
Let that sink in for a moment. God delivered a message long ago by the prophet that an even-better message would be given. God, in his providence, brought about the fulfillment of this prophecy which would deliver a more sure word of God’s gracious mercy; the birth of the son Immanuel. This special one, whose arrival had been anticipated and longed-for by the people of God for many centuries, had arrived. He is, in the best and fullest sense, “God with us”.
“Is Jesus actually God?”
To be “God with us” in the context of Hebrew monotheism is not meaningless, nor is Immanuel a throwaway name. When Almighty God, who is jealous for his own glory, identifies the virgin-born as “God with us”, we have no choice but to sit up and take notice. In every way, the Lord is careful and takes great pains to ensure we do not confuse him with his creation. Here we see, not a moment of divine dementia, but instead the opening of our eyes to the absolutely unique person of Jesus Christ. God is using this ancient message from the prophet Isaiah, even today, to tell people everywhere who Jesus is. He is no mere man. He is man, indeed fully man, but also far, far more.
For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:Prepare the way of the Lord;make his paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:3)
which itself is a quote from the prophet Isaiah:
A voice cries:“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)
John the Baptist’s work is seen as preparing the way of the Lord. When you look at his personal context, he is understood to be the forerunner of Jesus. When you look at his prophetic context, he is seen as preparing the way for Jehovah. Readers of the New World Translation take note, Jehovah and Jesus are connected here in a profound way. A clear reference to Jehovah in Isaiah has become a proclamation of Jesus’ arrival. The predicted forerunner of Jehovah is now known as the forerunner of Jesus.
God’s prophet pictures nothing less than the arrival of Jehovah as king of his people. God’s predicted forerunner, announcing his arrival as the savior king, is John the Baptist. Matthew recognizes this king, this messiah predicted. He is Jesus.
I recognize the wilderness spoken of here by John the Baptist. The desert is familiar territory. My life of sin and futile rebellion are pictured vividly in all their stark emptiness. But wait. One is coming who can change all of that, for me, for you, for all who would repent. John calls us to the Lamb of God, given for our sin, that we would be raised to new life in Him.
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)
The Father speaks! His good pleasure in his son is tenderly displayed here in all its vast infinity. When God speaks, we must listen. This one, rising from the waters of baptism (not for remission of sins but rather to fulfill all righteousness) is the beloved Son of God. Beloved by the Almighty. Oh, what soaring affirmation that lifts the human heart to adore this same one beloved by the Father! We do well to place our feet in the footsteps of the Father, as a toddler imitates the gait of his daddy, to commit our hearts in full-orbed love for this Savior, this Son of the Father.
See, God does not say “my first and only direct creation”, as the Watchtower would have us believe. If our own family relationships are to teach us anything, it must be grasped by all but the most profoundly abused, that a son’s position of esteem in a father’s heart is not equivalent to a mild happiness in a well-designed robot he constructed. By no means! My sons and daughters are in my heart, for they are flesh of my flesh and my blood courses in their veins. He is my son! She is my daughter! They are my beloved ones. Let all other constructs, labors, and inventions be cursed forever in comparison. The greatest achievement of my mind or hands shares no glory in my heart beside my own children. They are of a separate order, a unique and precious gift from the Father, and all “things” are unworthy of comparison.
Read again this testimony of the Father for his son. Does this testimony of God reverberate in your hearing, or does it fall flat to the ground, as if the Father professes some good will for an elevator or clever toaster? The Watchtower would instruct you to believe Jesus is only a mere creature, a derived, dependent, temporarily-existing finite human with some extra memories of someone else’s existence injected into his mind. But the testimony of God speaks volumes more about this one, this Son of God, well-pleasing to the Father.
He [Peter] was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5)
On the mount of transfiguration, as Jesus’ appearance is changed miraculously before the small circle of disciples, the Father speaks from within the bright cloud. He speaks again of his beloved Son, just as he did at Jesus’ baptism. Here we see the beloved, well-pleasing Son displayed in veiled heavenly glory.
Jesus is not some kind of creaturely retread, or Michael-recycled. To picture the Most High, who is jealous of His own glory, sharing the stage with Jesus feels unsettling, out of order, if all we have here is a fancy glowing man.
This scene is not the adding of glory to one who did not possess it. It is not a preview of some other creature’s so-called “honor” (hint: the Watchtower’s Michael-recycled), given in a vision to the unsuspecting and certainly confused disciples in attendance. Instead, it is the partial unveiling of the Lord of Glory. Jesus, arrayed in splendor, announced by the Father, is the well-pleasing one, his Beloved Son. As one has described it, “This tranfiguration of Jesus is the appetizer, whetting our appetite for the full display of His glory in heaven.”
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
Good news of great joy, not only for those of Bethlehem, not only for the Jews, not only for those alive at that time. Christ the Lord is born this day, which is news of great joy for all people. This is great news for our joy today, for you and for me. The Savior, the Messiah, has arrived. At the time of his birth, he is Christ the Lord; which again, is quite a departure from the “food in due season” provided by the Watchtower organization.
Something as simple and straight-forward as this announcement from God, delivered by angels, becomes twisted, convoluted, and non-sensical in the hands of the Watchtower. In it’s simplicity, “unto you is born this day… a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The Watchtower says, “a creature has been miraculously born, who is not ‘the Christ’ yet, who is not the Savior yet but who does have some impersonal connection with an angel named Michael (who no longer exists)… but this little one who will become the Christ at his baptism will also be granted memories of that angel named Michael at that time, so that he will know things that angel experienced but which has no connection to him in his current state or labor. These memories will strengthen the resolve of this Messiah, but we’re not sure why.”
The Watchtower’s message isn’t good news. This mess of make-believe is not coming from the text. God’s word stands sure. The child born is Christ the Lord, which is news our worn and weary world needs.
2) What does Jesus say?
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
In describing apparent devout religious Jews, the doubled “Lord” is superbly placed within the account of Jesus as judge of all. “Lord” was a common term among Jews of Jesus’ time to refer to Jehovah. The doubled “Lord, Lord” pictured in the final judgment here bears even more dignity, and it is addressed to Jesus himself. What a perfect opportunity for Jesus to set the record straight, if their error was believing he was equal with God. Yet, his rebuke is not about this profession. Instead, it is about the dissonance between their profession and their lives. Although they thought most highly of Jesus in the world of ideas, they lived a life contradicting that very belief. They were “workers of lawlessness.”
Jesus elevates himself here as the judge of all, the one in whom we may safely place our faith and to whom we may rightly live. This is not a picture of some blank-slate creature who has been hijacked by Jehovah through brain-washing techniques to think it is someone else (as the Watchtower proposes).
Jesus pictures himself, in a devout religious Jewish context, as “Lord, Lord”, fully knowing the weight borne by the title in this specific cultural context. This is not, “Sir”, or “Sir, Sir”, or even “Your Highness” as we may think is being said in our current setting. This is a form of address where the Most High is meant. If Jesus was simply and merely being misunderstood by his hearers, this is the perfect opportunity to set the record straight. But instead of denying his Deity, he frames their judgment in the context of them addressing him as the One True God, without comment or editorial on this aspect of their profession. Dear friends, Jesus is “Lord, Lord” in every aspect, in every act, in very nature God.
And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. (Matthew 9:2-7)
The Savior has arrived, demonstrating his true nature in the most practical of ways. The invisible greater miracle precedes the visible lesser one. The lesser miracle stands as testimony of the greater, that all would see and understand that forgiveness of sins pronounced by Jesus is real, true, and authentic. The true Savior grants true forgiveness.
If we would look merely on the surface, healing the paralyzed man may appear to be the more profound, life-changing miracle. But elevating the outward physical manifestation over the inward spiritual reality is to turn Jesus’ work inside out. The man has been forgiven of all his offenses, all his detriment, all his unbelief and rebellion and hardness of heart, committed personally against and in opposition to God Himself. The previously-paralyzed-but-now-healed, previously-dead-in-sin-but-now-alive has a clean record and a lasting peace with the Almighty, which shall never end. Jesus’ forgiveness has brought life where there was no life, strength where there was no strength, hope where there was no hope. He sends the man home, whole and healed, inside and out, walking in spirit and in body, where there was only death and paralysis before.
It is no blasphemy that Jesus commits here, but it is true and real forgiveness of offenses against the Almighty. Pause to consider something… if I were to say to your most hate-fueled enemy, “I forgive you all your offenses against Joe V. Witness (insert your name there)”, could you accept that this person was now fully, freely, and completely forgiven by you? This person who has sought to offend you in the most personal and repugnant ways: lying, slandering, abusing, stealing, cursing, beating, and dismissing you as well as oppressing your family in the most injurious ways; this one now has a clean slate with you based on my word? Would that be acceptable in your eyes? Of course not! “Who are you to forgive them for me?”
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)
In the broader context of Matthew 11, Jesus is speaking of salvation and judgment in all their vivid color. In verses 25-26, the sovereignty of the Father over all things, including salvation, is highlighted. Then the Son places himself in the center of that picture, as the one who has received all things (pertaining to salvation) from the Father, revealing the true depths of his relationship with the Father. Father and Son have a mutual complete understanding of one another, which is an astounding claim. No mere creature may claim this for himself. In revealing and relating, selecting and saving, Father and Son are equals.
This is not some puny little man, endowed with a fingernail of authority who has lofty thoughts concerning God. Instead, the Son reveals the interpenetrating nature of Father and Son, where every corner of their individual inner existence is known and understood by both in their entirety. This is no place for a mere man who has been brainwashed. The Watchtower God has brainwashed their “Jesus” by inserting memories into his mind, out of concern with convincing him he was another creature, an angel named Michael. How could such a confused creature hope to understand the Father in all things, when he doesn’t even understand who, or what, he is?
But that is not the case at all. Listen to Jesus. He knows himself. He knows he has been given all things. He knows the Father entirely, and He reveals the Father to all whom he wills.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Who is this Jesus, given “all authority in heaven and on earth”? The Watchtower says, “Jesus never considered himself equal to God.” Yet we see Jesus here, possessing all authority spanning all of creation. The ordinance of baptism which he prescribes here, includes himself in the formula. “Jesus never considered himself equal to God”, says the Watchtower. Yet we see Jesus here, standing with the Father and the Spirit as the identified Savior of the professing Christian. “Jesus never considered himself equal to God.” Yet we see here that his word and his presence are given for the strengthening of the saints in all places, at all times.
Dear friends, the Watchtower tries to marginalize Jesus, but God’s word stands true. He is so interwoven in the text with the one true and living God, that there is no seam to be found between Father and Son in their identification as God.
3) What do Jesus’ friends say?
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33)
What an incredible, wonderful scene. Peter’s real bravery and faith shine but not as much as the glory of the Son of God. Jesus invites Peter out of the boat and onto the waves. Peter continues to look at the spectacle as he walks on the water towards Jesus, and in doing so, his faith in Jesus falters. As he begins to slip into the tumult, he cries out in faith once again, “Lord, save me.” The trustworthy Savior reaches out his hand to the disciple at his side, saving him in the immediate context, picturing salvation from far greater chaos – the rebel heart of each disciple who comes to Jesus for salvation.
The scene is deeply religious at its core. The disciples panic, thinking Jesus is a ghost. Immediately, Peter engages with Jesus and participates in the miracle. Upon entering the boat, the storm ceases. In this scene, the disciples worship Jesus, proclaim that he is the Son of God. The story shouts “glory” in the open display of the powers of Jesus. Master of the water. Master of the waves. Master of the storm. Savior. Is it any surprise that the disciples reacted as they did?
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)
Peter makes the great confession which stands as the testimony of the gospel, that Jesus is truly the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Savior, the one sent to save his people. Not only is he the one sent to save; his character, power, and authority are such that Peter believes Jesus is the revealer of God to men. Jesus is not a hologram, or a ghost, or an angel who puts on a human suit to bring God’s message to men. He is the living God’s very own son, displaying the character of the one true God by possessing that character in himself.
Examining Peter’s confession from within the Watchtower would mean he is confessing Jesus is the first and only direct creation, the first and only directly-created-by-God creature, as Michael the Archangel. The Watchtower explains in numerous places in their literature that Jesus’ identity as “the Son of God” is purely due to the fact that he is the only one (within Watchtower theology) to be created directly by God. This is another one of the points where the “system” of Watchtower belief does not stand up under scrutiny. We will be writing a separate piece to provide an in-depth analysis of the Watchtower’s views of “being”. Considered here, Peter’s confession is so much more than an identification of Jesus as “the first created creature”.
Peter’s confession draws out the incredibly profound impression that Jesus has made on the disciples. While remote observers may think this Jesus is merely or only an itinerant rabbi with a group of students, Peter speaks the mind of those disciples. This one among them is like none other, greater than every rabbi, greater than every teacher, greater than every other person in the world. Jesus’ greatness is not a perception that he is God’s only directly-created creature, possessing a nature infinitely less than God in every way. No. Instead of professing that Jesus is a mere creature, a derived, dependent, insufficient creature; Peter confesses that Jesus possesses, within himself, the very nature of God Almighty, the very nature of the living God, as a true son displays the nature and character of his father.
Peter’s confession is not a statement about “which number were you holding when God started creating?” The sonship that Peter speaks of goes to the very root of Jesus’ nature, of Jesus’ identity, of his being.
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:47-49)
Nathanael’s response seems all out of proportion to his very brief interaction with Jesus. Obviously there is more going on here than we are explicitly told. Nathanael’s time under the fig tree bore meaning known only to him, or so he thought. Whatever happened, Jesus is telling Nathanael that he saw Nathanael there. Nathanael was not as alone as he thought.
Although originally skeptical of Philip’s identification of Jesus, Nathanael’s attitude shifts rather dramatically as Jesus reveals he knows Nathanael. Responding to Jesus, Nathanael now addresses him as “Rabbi” (teacher), “the Son of God”, and “the King of Israel”. This is an ascending progression, climaxing with Nathanael committing himself into the hand of his King (note the earlier identification by Jesus that Nathanael is a true Israelite). At this early stage of his knowledge of Jesus, Nathanael is using known messianic titles for Jesus.
Note that “the King of Israel” in a Jewish frame of reference is a title and position which God proclaims for himself in Zephaniah 3:15. “The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;he has cleared away your enemies.The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;you shall never again fear evil.” I do not say, at the time of Nathanael’s proclamation of the Christ, that he fully loaded this meaning into the titles ascribed to Jesus. Ongoing revelation inside the Gospel of John and across the breadth of scripture will reveal the unsoundable depths of Christ.
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:23-27)
Jesus is unlike every other prophet or priest. All who came before, in truth, pointed to another. Jesus’ message is himself. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me… “. He is not merely the provider of resurrection. He is the resurrection. He is not merely the conduit used to provide life. He is the life. Our resurrection, our life, are linked here with unbreakable bonds to Jesus. Our faith must be in him. He possess llife in himself and gifts his followers, his disciples who believe in him, with life that overcomes the grave. Much more could be said, but we will leave the discussion on the nature of resurrection for another time.
Martha responds to Jesus. Responding to him, not simply or only to his message. No, it is faith Martha has placed in him. He is her Lord, “the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Martha is not confessing a belief that Jesus is a mere creature, as the Watchtower paints him. Martha is not confessing a belief that this man in front of her is an amalgam of man and angel, or that he has been brainwashed by Jehovah into believing he was Michael the Archangel. Hers is not a faith in a man deceived by God. No, her faith is in the Messiah, the Son of God, who is coming into the world, and who is her Savior in every way she grasps.
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28)
Jesus comes back to catch the disciple who was absent from his first appearance to the group. Jesus knows the dialogue between Thomas and the witnessing disciples, and challenges him on exactly those evidences that he demanded. Thomas need to know it was Jesus risen, and the proofs he wanted were concerned with the physical body of the risen Jesus. He wants to see Jesus with the marks of crucifixion, which the other disciples had mentioned to him, and he wants to touch them to confirm it is really, truly Jesus risen from the grave.
Jesus steps into the intimate setting with the group now including Thomas. He shows the wounds and invites the touch of Thomas, to break down the barriers of his unbelief. There is tenderness and persistence displayed by Jesus that makes my heart sing in praise to him. He did not give up on Thomas. He did not leave him in unbelieving despair. He did not walk away from him or deny his struggle to believe what no one had ever seen before these days and this Jesus. Instead, he returns to the scene in mercy and evident love for Thomas. Jesus calls Thomas to believe in him… not simply to believe that he has risen, but that he has defeated death and is risen again, the Savior.
Thomas’ response is loaded with profound depth. His profession of faith in this Jesus speaks for itself. “The Lord of me and the God of me!” “My Lord and my God!” After three years following Jesus through personal interaction, teaching, and witnessing his miracles; Thomas’ ripe faith blossoms in this encounter with his Lord, with his God. Thomas makes the supreme exaltation of Jesus Christ explicit in the mouth of a disciple, in a way that the Watchtower says never happens. He identifies Jesus as “the God”. Not merely “a god”, “some god”, “an angel”, “an exalted spirit creature”, or any other designation infintely lesser than the infinite Creator God. Jesus is Thomas’ Lord, Thomas’ God.
The merciful Savior has won the heart, mind, and faith of the struggling disciple in its entirety. Thomas has met the One who is truly the Savior of all who come to the faith that Thomas professes.
“My Lord and my God!”
4) What do Jesus’ enemies say?
And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:3-4)
The old accuser seeks to trip up the savior, tempting him to satisfy his physical hunger (which would be tremendous at the end of this fast) through an act of creation by command. The devil, trying to exert every pressure, challenges the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. The Watchtower’s portrayal of “the Son of God” is that a spirit creature was the only direct creation of the Father, and that all other creatures were brought into existence through the work of the Father in cooperation with this first created creature, as though “Son of God” is an identification of order of creation and not speaking of his essential nature. The old devil is not challenging Jesus on the basis of order of creation. He is challenging this man as one who possesses the creative ability of God.
And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:28-29)
The demon-possessed speak the fear of their demonic oppressors. They are afraid of the judge, the one who comes to put their wicked freedom to an end. They are afraid of the Son of God, not because he is the first one created by God, but because he is the Son of God who will judge them, as the Son of God in essential nature, and who can, by virtue of his Deity, judge and punish them for all time.
But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63-64)
Jesus elevates his person, nature, and glory to the highest level, “seated at the right hand of Power”. The high priest has accosted him, demanding a clear answer to the burning question, “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?” While the high priest has the title Son of God in mind as a messianic title, Jesus ensures that the high priest and the assembled court understand how high he is. Jesus elevates the messianic to the heavenly, to the Divine! He does not possess a title. He is the Son of God, seated at the right hand of the Father and coming with the clouds of heaven (which is another illustration meant to paint Christ as truly God).
Remember the Watchtower’s original premise, that Jesus never considered himself equal with God. Have you not read the passage above? To be seated at the right hand (the position of blessing and honor) of the Power is a claim to equality with the Power. This is unmistakable to all but those with prior commitments which do not allow them to acknowledge the clear language used by Christ in this confrontation and revelation.
5) What does all of creation say?
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)
Finally,what will you and I say of Jesus when we see him at the end of all things? What will the entirety of creation say of Jesus? The picture painted in Revelation 5 is heavy with the weight of glory and the vocabulary of worhip. “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” You and I and all of creation will join our voices in unison to worship the Father and the Lamb simultaneously. Read Revelation 5 in its entirety. It is no mere display of respect to a creature-king. The vocabulary and actions of worship are present and presented to the Lamb proper.
Dear Jehovah’s Witness friend, you will worship Jesus one day. It is my heart’s desire that you would be prepared and eager to offer that future worship by believing in Jesus today, embracing him as Savior and King without reservation. I have sought to present accurately what the Bible tells us about Jesus, that you may see and believe in the biblical Jesus. The Watchtower presents a caricature of the biblical Jesus, concealing his rich beauty behind a veil of confusing creatureliness.
Jesus says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.