Jehovah’s Witnesses are the only true Christians on earth today. That’s what they’ll tell you. They are the only ones practicing the Christianity that Jesus taught his followers, the only true followers of Christ.
Well, sort of.
Who is Jesus as interpreted by JWs?
As I’ve mentioned before, in his pre-human existence Jesus was known as Michael the Archangel. He was the very first creation of God. Then God brought Michael into the family business and allowed him to create the heavens and the earth (although God takes credit for it while He was sitting back in his celestial easy chair, probably chugging some celestial beer) and everything on the earth. Oh, and the other angels. That’s quite a load of responsibility. Clearly, Michael was not just a product of nepotism; he had mad skills (although one might look askance at such creations as the platypus and the mosquito).
After that, Michael was given the assignment to more or less oversee the earth and mankind. Since humans are such lowly creatures, God Himself could not communicate with them directly, so all of his chats with Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, and so on, were actually carried out by Michael. He materialized a few times for a more hands-on approach, guarding the way to the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve were evicted, competing in an ancient cage match with Jacob, and providing the fire on the burning bush, to name a few. Kind of fun stuff.
But God had a larger role in mind for Michael, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and when it was time for the Messiah to appear he transferred the life force of Michael into Mary’s womb, and 9 months later, at the most inconvenient time and place imaginable, she gave birth to a baby and called him “Jesus.”
Jesus grew up as a perfect human child who had brothers and sisters and was bookish (or scrollish, I guess), probably insufferably so, if the anecdotal evidence is accurate.
According to the Bible, when he was 12 his whole extended family went to Jerusalem for a festival, the ancient equivalent of a family vacation at Disney, but without the fun stuff to do. When it was time to go home his family suffered a “Home Alone” type of incident at the end of their first day of travel. He was nowhere to be found. Everyone had assumed he was with Uncle John or Aunt Deborah or someone else and hadn’t worried. Well, the donkeys were turned around, and there was a mad dash back to Jerusalem. Three days later – yes, I said three – they found the little egghead at the temple hanging out in the rabbis’ lounge.
His parents were totally freaking out, like any parent would in such a circumstance, but they resisted the urge to smack him upside the head. Instead, they told him they were in mental distress looking for him. Now, here’s the kicker: He says, “Why did you have to go looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in the house of my father?” I don’t know about your parents, but to my parents that unapologetic quip would have qualified as “sass,” and I would have had a hand imprint on my cheek. The Bible only says that his parents didn’t quite understand what he meant by his remark, so I guess he slipped that one by them.
We don’t see Jesus again until he is an adult, working as a carpenter. He gets the urge to get baptized, so he visits his cousin, John the Baptist (who, coincidentally enough, shares a middle name with Winnie the Pooh and Jabba the Hut) gets dunked, and then sees the heavens opened to him and the holy spirit descending. God’s voice is heard declaring, “This is my son, the beloved, and I approve this message.” Actually he said he approved of Jesus himself.
Then Jesus goes on a sort of walkabout in the Judean desert to fast while the Devil tempts him 3 times to misuse his power. Doesn’t seem like a truly effective test. I mean, if the Devil wanted to tempt me it would be with cheeseburgers, chocolate, and expensive perfume, but that’s neither here nor there.
After the walkabout he commences his ministry. In doing so he covered a lot of territory, living on handouts and the kindness of strangers. Of course, he came with an entourage to rival anything Mariah Carey could muster, consisting of 12 disciples as well as some hangers-on and women who ministered to the group as a whole. Imagine if this crowd came trouping into your quiet little village, and then plunked down in the town square (which is how you got a room in those days, Motel 6 having not been invented yet) waiting for someone to offer hospitality. Meanwhile, Jesus’ fame having preceded him, everyone drops what they’re doing and runs to the town square, dragging their ailing relatives with them. Jesus heals everyone, and then gives a moving speech. People would fall over themselves offering food, accommodations, supplies, and whatnot.
In fact, there are a number of accounts in the gospels where Jesus is eating with wealthy people at a banquet. He was the “It Guy” in Palestine in those days, and everyone wanted to be seen with him, so he got lots of invites from wealthy people to feast at their house so as to impress their friends. There are several accounts of influential men inviting Jesus and his disciples to dine with them, along with accounts that suggest that Jesus’ conduct at these lavish affairs surprised his hosts.
For example, one time a prostitute came in, threw herself at Jesus’ feet, and washed his feet with her tears, drying them with her hair, to the tut-tutting of those assembled. Then she did something truly outrageous. She cracked open an alabaster case containing a very expensive perfumed emollient and rubbed it on his feet. Now we venture beyond tut-tut and into expostulation territory.
“Why, this is expensive stuff! It could have been sold and the proceeds donated to the poor!” said one of the disciples (spoiler: Judas, the one who would betray him) indignantly. What he meant was, “Hey! The proceeds from the sale of that expensive stuff could have been donated and I could have stolen it!” News flash: Judas was a bad guy from the start, which raises the question of why the prescient Jesus didn’t treat him to the kind of private fire-and-brimstone shower his Daddy was famous for.
When we pick up again next week, Jesus is turning water into wine and feeding multitudes with the scraps from someone’s picnic basket.