Was Jesus the image of God?
As Jesus was preparing his disciples for his upcoming death on the cross and departure, Thomas wanted to know where he was going and the way there. Jesus answered Thomas:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is. From now on you know him and have seen him.” (John 14:5-9)
They were confused. Philip then speaks up, asking Jesus to “show us the Father.” Jesus’ answers Philip with these shocking words:
“Philip, don’t you even yet know who I am, even after all the time I have been with you? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!”
In effect Jesus was saying, “Philip if you want to see the Father, look at me!” In John 17 Jesus reveals that this oneness with his Father had existed in eternity past, “before the world began.” According to Jesus, there has never been a time when he did not share God’s very glory and essence.
It wasn’t just Jesus’ enemies who were astounded at his jaw-dropping words. John Piper writes,
Jesus’ friends and enemies were staggered again and again by what he said and did. He would be walking down the road, seemingly like any other man, then turn and say something like, ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’ Or, ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.’ Or, very calmly, after being accused of blasphemy, he would say, ‘The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ To the dead he might simply say, ‘Come forth,’ or, ‘Rise up.’ And they would obey. To the storms on the sea he would say, ‘Be still.’ And to a loaf of bread he would say, ‘Become a thousand meals.’ And it was done immediately.”
Why did Jesus accept worship?
Nothing is more fundamental to the Hebrew Scriptures than the fact that God alone is to be worshiped. In fact, the first of the sacred Ten Commandments is,
“Do not worship any other gods besides me” (Exodus 20:3 NLT).
The most terrible sin a Jew could commit was to either worship another creature as God, or to receive worship. So if Jesus is not God, it would be blasphemy for him to receive worship. That is why the words of his disciple, Thomas, are so significant.
After Jesus’ resurrection, the other disciples told Thomas they had seen the Lord alive (John 20:24-29). The skeptical Thomas scoffed, telling them he would only believe if he could put his fingers on the nail wounds of Jesus’ hands and into his pierced side.
Eight days later the disciples were all together in a locked room when Jesus suddenly appeared in front of them. Jesus looked at Thomas and told him to “Put your finger here and see my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side.”
Thomas needed no more proof. He instantly believed, exclaiming to Jesus:
“My Lord and my God!”
Thomas could have simply called him, “Lord.” However, he further called Jesus “God,” and worshiped him. If Jesus is not God, he certainly should have reprimanded Thomas right there. But instead of reprimanding Thomas for worshiping him as God, Jesus commended him, saying:
You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway”
Jesus accepted worship on nine recorded occasions. In context of Jewish belief, Jesus’ acceptance of worship speaks volumes about his claim to divinity. But it wasn’t until after Jesus ascended to heaven that his disciples fully understood. Before Jesus left earth, he told his apostles to “baptize new disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19), putting both the Holy Spirit and himself on the same level as the Father.