The disciples of Jesus were raised in a first century Jewish culture and faith system, so they understood the universally accepted notion that God alone is worthy of our worship. This concept was central to the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20:3-6) and was repeatedly taught throughout the Jewish scripture (see Deuteronomy 4:35, 6:4, 6:13-16, and 32:39, 2 Samuel 7:22, Isaiah 8:13, and Isaiah 43:10-11). The Old Testament was clear about this truth; Yahweh was the only God the Jews were to love, fear, worship and revere. The authors of the New Testament repeated this message often. Jesus frequently quoted the Jewish scriptures, proclaiming the existence of one God we are to serve and worship (see Matthew 4:10). The New Testament provides us with a number of examples of people trying to worship something or someone other than God, and then being instructed to worship God alone (take a look at Revelation 22:8-9, Acts 10:25-26 and 14:11-15). The disciples, like other first century Jewish believers, understood that God alone was to be worshiped. To worship something or someone other than God was to be an idolater, and this violated the first commandment of God.
That’s why it is amazing that from Jesus’ very first appearance on planet earth, He was worshiped as God. The fact that Jesus was worshiped in this way (in a culture that demanded and commanded the worship of God alone) is a powerful evidence of Jesus’ Deity. We either have to believe that thousands upon thousands of eyewitnesses and early believers (all of whom were much closer to Jesus than we are today) were in dangerous rebellion to their cultural and moral law or convinced by their observations Jesus was God:
The wise men worshiped Him from the moment He was born
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. (Matthew 2:10-12)
The leper worshiped Him at his healing
And behold, a leper came to Him, and bowed down to Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” (Matthew 8:2)
The synagogue ruler worshiped Him
While He was saying these things to them, behold, there came a synagogue official, and bowed down before Him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.” (Matthew 9:18-19)
The disciples worshiped him in the boat
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:32-33)
The Canaanite woman worshiped Him
But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” (Matthew 15:25-26)
The mother of James and John worshipped Him
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him with her sons, bowing down, and making a request of Him. (Matthew 20:20-21)
The blind man worshiped Him at his healing
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:35-38)
The women worshiped Him at the empty tomb
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. (Matthew 28:8-10)
The disciples worshiped Him at the Ascension
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him (Matthew 28:16-17)
From His first days on earth to His last, Jesus was worshiped as God. Those who were in a position to see His power, hear His teaching and witness His resurrection were convinced by what they saw. Jesus claimed to be God, and then demonstrated the power and authority that belongs to God alone. The disciples responded in worship, even though their Jewish upbringing taught them the danger of worshiping anything or anyone other than God. The disciples worshiped Jesus without fear because they knew they were not breaking the commands of God. They knew they were still worshiping the only true God.
For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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