I have been wondering all week about today’s meeting. Since we were scheduled to read through chapter four in the Teach book, titled, “Who Is Jesus Christ?,” I knew our meeting could potentially get heated. Each of the three times my Jehovah’s Witness elder friend has threatened to discontinue our conversations, it was when we were talking about the deity of Christ.
When I arrived at the restaurant, JW2 was there with my elder friend. The three of us talked about the upcoming Super bowl, the San Antonio Spurs and a number of other things. I sensed that JW2 was enjoying himself, but JW1 was stalling. I don’t think he wanted to get our conversation going because of the topic. You know how when you really don’t want to talk about something, but you know you have to, you just jump right into it to get it over with? That happened. It looked sort of like this.
KW: Yeah, Manu got hurt again. He pulled a hamstring.
JW2: Didn’t Kawhi Leonard break his hand recently?
JW1: Who is Jesus Christ?
KW: Boy, that was a segue.
The three of us laughed because of how awkward it was to move from the Spurs to the identity of Jesus.
KW: Isn’t He the new player on the Spurs?
JW1: I wish He was.
We then began talking about whether or not Jesus would ever miss a shot or purposefully commit a personal foul. We ended up talking about funny YouTube videos. We didn’t get into the book for almost 40 minutes. Finally, JW1 said it again.
JW: Who is Jesus Christ?
He immediately began reading the first paragraph. One interesting sentence states, “However, just knowing the name of someone famous does not mean that you truly know him.” I told JW1 that I liked that sentence, but didn’t tell him why. I think he already knew that I was referring to the Watchtower’s insistence on using the name “Jehovah” for God. Just because you use the name, doesn’t mean you really know him. I was content to know that he realized what I was getting at even though we didn’t talk about it.
One of the questions for the first paragraph was, “What confusion is there about Jesus?” I could have answered that some people think He is Michael the arch-angel, but that would have been tipping my hand too early. Instead I told them about a group which believes that Jesus is a mushroom. I will not go into all the details about this group here, but suffice it to say that I used this example to show that we really need to define our words when talking to people about Jesus.
It was JW2’s turn to read a paragraph, which he did enthusiastically, just like he did last week. Paragraph three contains John 17:3, but uses the text from the 1984 edition of the New World Translation (NWT). JW2 read; “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”
KW: Isn’t this one of the verses that was changed in the Revised NWT?
I wanted JW1 in particular to remember our conversation when he first brought this verse to my attention. They were so happy to show me that their verse had been changed to something more personal when my “biased” translation already said “know you” instead of “taking in knowledge.” I thought it ironic that the Teach book was trying to make a distinction between knowing facts about someone and knowing someone, then using John 17:3 as a proof text. The point was contradictory in the older version of the NWT, but makes more sense now with the change.
After we read paragraph four, I pointed out the picture on page 38. The caption says, “At his baptism, Jesus became the Messiah or Christ.” I asked;
KW: Why at His baptism? Unless I am reading this incorrectly, it is saying that Jesus was not the Messiah until after He was baptized.
My elder friend’s eyes got pretty big at this point. It was almost as if I could read his thoughts. I could almost hear him telling himself, “Uh-oh. Here it comes.” We had avoided any conflict up until this point so he was starting to get nervous. I had to be careful.
KW: So, what was Jesus before He was baptized?
JW1 went into a long story about some of the details in Jesus’ early life, but he never really did answer the question.
KW: Is there specifically a Bible verse that says one of two things, either that He was not the Messiah until baptism or that He became the Messiah at His baptism? Is there anything that says that specifically?
KW: The reason I ask is because I have a verse in mind that gives me the impression that Jesus was the Messiah at birth, before He was baptized. It is in Luke chapter two.
I purposefully did not give the complete reference because I wanted to see how he would respond to my statement. I wanted to see how interested he is in looking at things in the Bible which contradicts his beliefs. He could have easily avoided this situation, but instead he said;
JW1: Let’s read it.
KW: Alright. It is Luke 2:11.
Once my elder friend flipped to the correct page, he read the verse aloud.
JW1: “For today there was born to you in David’s city a savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
It stunned him for a quick second, but then he immediately started making excuses.
JW1: It could be either way because it was already known that He would fulfill this role.
KW: This verse is one of the reasons why I believe that Jesus was the Messiah before His baptism because the angel said He was.
JW1: Hmmm… Okay. Well, He slipped into the role of Messiah in the year 29 when He was baptized.
KW: Sure, that was when He started His public ministry, but He was still the Messiah before that. If the text says that He is the Messiah, then I am going to take the text at face value and say that he was the Messiah at birth.
My Elder friend sat and thought for about 20 seconds before he said anything. He was thinking hard about what we just looked at in Luke 2:11. I got the impression that he was trying to decide between two options. One, argue against what Scripture plainly teaches or two, ignore what he saw and move on to the next paragraph. He chose to read the next paragraph. After we talked about it for a very short time, my elder friend went to the bathroom.
While he was gone, JW2 and I talked about the Bible app I use on my iPad called “Olive Tree.”The app itself is free, but you can purchase different translations, maps commentaries and even tools to study the original languages. I thought it couldn’t hurt for him to know that there are real top notch Bible aids. We had a good long time together because my Elder friend was in the restroom for more than ten minutes. I was beginning to get worried about him.
When he finally returned to our table, he immediately read the next paragraph which was about how Jesus could be indentified because he fulfilled a number of prophecies. I gave them an illustration I learned in Bible College about how the post office needs only a few lines of information on an envelope to locate any address in the Country; name, street name and number, city, state and zip code. We usually put that information on three lines, yet there are so many more lines of evidence pointing to Jesus as the Messiah.
When we got to paragraph seven, there was a reference to Micah 5:2. The RNWT says, “And you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, The one too little to be among the thousands of Judah, From you will come out for me the one to be ruler in Israel, Whose origin is from ancient times, from the days of long ago.” I pointed out a difference between how the RNWT and my New American Standard translates it.
KW: Mine reads differently. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” JW2, do you remember how I showed you in my Bible app that I can look up the meanings of Greek and Hebrew Words?
JW2: Yeah, that’s pretty cool.
KW: When you click on this word “eternity” it shows you all the ways this word can be translated. Some of which are, “continual, eternal, eternity, everlasting, forever and permanent.” So mine is different than “days of long ago.” It says eternity.
I knew JW1 would not be happy about my observation, but I wanted to make that point because later on in the chapter there is a heading which reads, “Where did Jesus Come From?” My answer is going to be, “He is eternal.” JW2 looked at the rendering in the 1984 NWT and it says, “from the days of time indefinite.” Awkwardly stated, but I think it is more powerful than, “days of long ago.”
We sat there in silence for nearly a minute, each one of us staring at the text. JW1 finally spoke up and said;
JW1: Micah 5:2 is just one example. There are many, many more.
JW2: On page 200 of our book there is a list of a bunch of other prophecies fulfilled by Jesus.
We flipped back to that page where there are 15 different prophecies.
KW: Imagine putting all of this on an envelope.
We chuckled at that and then moved on to the next paragraph. Somehow we got to talking about the family life of Jesus and I jokingly said;
KW: I bet it was hard as one of His younger brothers growing up in that house. Imagine Mary telling you, “Why can’t you be more like your big brother Jesus?”
JW1 laughed hard. He has this weird sort of cackle when he finds something funny. JW2 added;
JW2: Why can’t you be more like Him? He never does anything wrong.
KW: He is the perfect child.
JW1: There is no comparison. You do believe that Jesus had siblings, right?
KW: Oh, yes.
JW1: Because the Catholics don’t believe that.
We talked more about Jesus’ family life and made note of the fact that Jesus entrusted his mother into the care of his disciple John and not one of His younger brothers. We imagined that his other family members were not there so Jesus chose his closest friend. I mentioned some little known facts about Jesus like the Bible never gives an example of Jesus laughing, yet we know he wasn’t boring because he was always the life of the party. Drunkards and sinners do not hang out with people who aren’t any fun.
It was a nice way to end our conversation. I’ll take any chance I get to talk about Jesus and make Him more personable in the eyes of these Jehovah’s Witnesses. Next week is going to be interesting because we are looking at paragraphs which completely disagree with what the bible teaches and what I believe as a Christian. The Watchtower teaches another Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:4). Like the quote says at the beginning of the chapter, “Just knowing the name of someone famous does not mean that you truly know him.”
Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness friends and their families.