There are many people who respect Jesus as simply a wise teacher or compassionate man. The people who saw Jesus while He was here on earth thought very differently of Him. Many of the religious leaders hated Jesus and conspired to kill Him. Leaders typically do not plot to kill people who are nothing more than wise, compassionate teachers.
Those who knew Jesus best when He lived saw Him as more than just a teacher; they saw Him as God. For example, after Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses, two women who were with Jesus during His earthly ministry. When they saw Him, we read that, “… Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him” (Matthew 28:8). These two women knew who He was and claimed to be. As soon as they saw Him, they fell at His feet and worshipped Him, a clear sign of them believing that He was God.
This was not a foolish act of worship because Jesus simply said to them in response, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Matthew 28:9–10). He did not reject the worship of the women. We can look at a few similar events in the Bible to get a clear picture of how significant it was that Jesus did not rebuke the women.
Paul and Barnabas
We see one such event when Paul and Barnabas were preaching about Jesus in Lystra in the book of Acts. While they were there, Paul healed a man who had never been able to walk in his life. The crowds saw the man immediately rise and they were amazed.
“And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” … But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them” (Acts 14:11,14–15).
When the crowds attempted to treat Paul and Barnabas as though they were divine, they immediately rejected their worship and pointed them instead to worship the true God. It is unheard of for someone who is a true representative of God to receive any sort of praise or recognition that only God deserves. Jesus would have said the same to the women if He were not worthy to receive their worship.
John and the Angel
Reading further into Scripture, the rejection of worship is just not something that man should do. Even angels will not receive worship that is due to only to God. The apostle John wrote at the end of his life, “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God’” (Revelation 22:8–9).
Even if Jesus was an angel – not a mere man but not God – He still would not have accepted the worship of the two women. The angel in John’s vision in Revelation would not accept John’s worship even though he had shown John many things that were to take place. Since Jesus did not rebuke the women, He was clearly showing that He was not just an angel either.
Herod Agrippa I
Finally, we can see in Scripture what happens when someone does receive worship only due to God. Acts 12 narrates the account of the death of Herod Agrippa I, the king who killed the apostle James at the start of this same chapter (Acts 12:1-2). Later, when he went to the region of Tyre and Sidon we read, “On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man!’ Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last” (Acts 12:21–23).”
It is clear from this passage that God does not take lightly those who freely receive the praise and worship only He deserves. Jesus freely received the worship of the women and there were no consequences of Him doing that. These events all point to the fact that Jesus is God and is worthy of worship.
Are there entertainers, sports teams, electronic devices, or even faithful Christian leaders that you worship through your money, time, or devotion that only God deserves? If you are unsure, seek God through prayer for Him to reveal anything you are giving undue worship. Then repent and praise God. “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created" (Revelation 4:11).