To Jehovah’s Witnesses Jesus Christ was a perfect human being, God’s son. He never sinned, was never sick, never made mistakes, and he possessed a bottomless well of patience. Well, he was patient with his disciples and most other humans. But not with the Jewish religious leaders. He used fightin’ words quite frequently within their hearing. For example, he would address them directly and call them names such as “offspring of vipers,” “whitewashed graves,” and “hypocrites” in the presence of the common people from whom the scribes and Pharisees expected reverence.
Of course, the scribes and Pharisees didn’t take this lying down. They followed him around and argued with him, trying to trip him up in his words. You can be sure they stayed up late at night, literally burning the midnight oil, thinking up questions with which to trap him. He saw through the whole thing and turned the tables on them time and again.
One time they caught Jesus healing someone on the Sabbath. They gleefully pointed out the obvious violation of Sabbath law. Jesus was doing work! Oh, goody, goody, goody! We’ve got him now, boys! Back in the day (the ancient day), working on the Sabbath was grounds for a good, old-fashioned stoning. Bring the whole family! Of course, with the Romans occupying Judea, they couldn’t exactly drag the man off to a gravel pit and have at him, but a sin like this could permanently tarnish Jesus’ reputation as a man of God.
Unfazed, Jesus refuted their claim by pointing out that if one of them discovered their sheep at the bottom of a well on the Sabbath, they’d bloody well make sure to get it out, regardless of the day. So what was wrong with Jesus freeing a person from captivity to illness on the Sabbath? They couldn’t argue with that. Curses! Foiled again!
Clearly, Jesus’ fame and acclaim were growing with every passing day, and the religious leaders were taking a huge hit in the credibility department. They could see that their position in the community as the ultimate Jewish-law authorities was threatened.
They’d have to figure out a way to get the Romans to do the deed for them. Treason! The perfect capital crime. All they needed now were a few ne’er-do-wells to accuse Jesus of trying to overturn the Roman government, and they’d be rid of this pesky holy man before you could say “Judas Iscariot.”
While the scribes and Pharisees were busy rounding up a rabble, Jesus didn’t go into hiding. He staged a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, home of his bitterest enemies, where he entered riding a young donkey. The people treat him as a conquering king, cheering and covering the rough pavement with palm branches and coats.
Then he did a little last-minute house cleaning at the temple, throwing out the money changers and other vendors (who were little more than rip-off artists). This could not have improved his popularity with the religious leaders.
In any case, they managed (through a complicated process) to trump up the charge that Jesus was styling himself “King of the Jews.” That got the Romans’ attention, although the Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, didn’t think he’d done anything deserving of death and literally washed his hands of the matter. All the same, he asks the Jews if he should release Jesus. The rabble screams for Jesus’ blood, and Pilate orders him to be crucified.
As I’ve mentioned before, in their bible, Jehovah’s Witnesses substitute the word “impale” for “crucify,” and insist that Jesus was tortured by being nailed to a stake.
Jesus is led away and made to carry his stake to a hill outside of Jerusalem where he is nailed to it, hands and feet, and cruelly tortured to death. It’s not a pretty story.
On the third day following his death, two of his female disciples approach his tomb and find the door (which is a large, heavy slab of stone) has been rolled aside and the tomb is empty. Jesus has been resurrected! Once the resurrected Jesus meets back up with his disciples (in an actual human body, mind you), who have gone into hiding, he spends 40 days with them and then ascends into heaven.
What has he been up to since then?
Not a whole lot until the early 20th century, according to JWs. That’s when he was installed as King of God’s heavenly kingdom, cast Satan and his demons out of heaven, and found Jehovah’s Witnesses busily doing the preaching work that he commanded them to do.
And thus began the “time of the end.” In the future, Jesus will act as God’s instrument in executing judgment on this wicked system of things, ultimately destroying it along with anyone who isn’t a JW (Armageddon). After that, he will rule in heaven for 1000 years while the earth is restored to a paradise, all the dead are resurrected (except for the losers who died when he destroyed the wicked), and mankind is restored to human perfection. Then he’ll hand the kingdom back over to his father.
Every time I write that whole story about Armageddon and the “new system,” it seems more and more fantastical. Gosh, how did I ever believe this stuff?
Since I’ve left JWs and their teachings, I’ve been in a quandary about what to think of the whole story of Jesus, from virgin birth to resurrection. So many other religions include a similar story attributed to some important figure in their theology, and most of those predate the account in the Bible. It was difficult for me to think that the whole story was just made up, but what do most Christians think about the stories of Buddha, Krishna, or Horus? It’s all pretty much the same to me at this point in time.
But, the Jesus character comes with a couple of very fun holidays, so I’ll just play along and enjoy the eggnog.