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Who Should You Worship? Did Jesus Accept Worship? (Bonus Section)

SERIES INFO: This series of blog articles will include topics (and bonus sections) I couldn't fit into my book Reintroducing Jesus: Uncovering Jesus of Nazareth in the Misinformation Age.

If Jesus were an honest, good man of God but not God himself, wouldn’t he have corrected Thomas in John 20:28 when the disciple called him “My Lord and my God”? I mean, I know if someone got hit in the head with a piano and was so disoriented as to call me God, I would respond quickly and rather awkwardly, “Well, uh, I’m flattered… But noNO….”

We even see apostles of Jesus swiftly correcting people when they're mistakenly taken for divine beings. When some pagans believe the Holy Spirit-empowered, miracle-working Paul and Barnabas are Greek gods (Zeus and Hermes, to be exact), Paul and Barnabas rush out to adamantly assure them they’re regular hombres (Acts 14:14–15). When a Roman centurion named Cornelius falls down at Peter’s feet and worships him, Peter says, “Stand up; I too am a man” (Acts 10:25–26). We even see this with angels. When John, overcome with emotion, falls down to worship an angel, the angel says,

You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God. (Revelation 22:9) [1]

Yes, in Judaism and Christianity (and Islam) the one and only God is the only one to be worshipped. Yet, Thomas straight up calls Jesus “my (the) Lord and my (the) God,” [2] and Jesus is cool with this. So, Jesus either believes he’s God or he’s a delusional blasphemer.

Dr. James White writes, “No created being could ever allow such words to be addressed to him personally. No angel, no prophet, no sane human being, could ever allow himself to be addressed as ‘Lord and God.’ Yet Jesus not only accepts the words of Thomas but pronounces the blessing of faith upon them as well” [3].

Christians, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Muslims alike would agree that God alone is worthy of worship; to worship anything other than God is a grievous offense. After recognizing Jesus as God, I imagine Thomas did worship him. It’s easy to imagine Thomas falling flat at Jesus’ feet as he cries out, but John’s gospel doesn’t explicitly say. If Thomas did bow down and worship him, would Jesus be cool with that too?

In Matthew’s gospel, after Jesus walks on water and calms the winds that are threatening the lives of his disciples at sea, we’re told “those in the boat worshiped him” (Matthew 14:33). Does Jesus stop them? No, Jesus accepts their worship, an honor only allowed to God.

The word translated as “worship” is from the Greek word proskyneo. You can see right in there the English word “prostrate”—to bow down before. It’s a gesture of complete submission and reverence. Some may argue that the original Greek word doesn’t necessarily mean “worship”; for instance, someone may prostrate themselves before a human king or religious leader to show respect. Not every use of proskyneo in scripture means to worship; we have to look at the context of each use carefully. But note again the reactions of Jesus’ disciples—and even angels—when people prostrate themselves before them. They reprimand them. They say—quite alarmed—“Hey! Don’t do that!”

Yet, Jesus doesn’t stop people who prostrate themselves before him. And this passage where Jesus walks on water isn’t the only place where it happens. When we look at all of the New testament evidence, the writers certainly believe Jesus is worthy of worship, and when we look at Jesus' actions in the gospels, he appears to be perfectly comfortable accepting reverence and worship. Jesus is worshiped before his death and resurrection [4], after his death and resurrection [5], and after his ascension into Heaven [6].

[1] Also see Revelation 19:10.

[2] The definite article (“the”) is in the original Greek, but not translated into English. Thomas is calling Jesus THE Lord and God, the one and only God of the Jews.

[3] The Forgotten Trinity by James White. Kindle. Loc 950.

[4] Matthew 2:2, 11; 14:33; 21:15–16 (compare to Psalm 8:2); John 9:38; Hebrews 1:6.

[5] Matthew 28:9, 17.

[6] Luke 24:52; Philippians 2:10 (compare to Isaiah 45:21–23); 2 Timothy 4:18.


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