Jesus is nobody’s messenger god? A strange title, but stick with me and we’ll see what we can make of it. We start with Hermes, the Greek god of translators and interpreters. More clever than all the other gods, he was the messenger of the gods. The Roman equivalent, of course, is Mercury.
God’s have messengers, other gods who run errands for them. Oberon, king of the faeries in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, sent the mischievous Puck on an errand to find a special plant with magical qualities. More prosaically, human kings have messengers, such as the character Herald, in Shakespeare’s Henry V, who passes through the battlefield unscathed because of his role as a messenger, carrying messages between the French king and England’s Henry.
When Jehovah’s Witnesses think of Jesus they put him in the same category as Hermes, Mercury, Puck, Herald…and angels. He may be greater than them all, but he is still one of them.
The God of the Bible has messengers, human prophets and apostles, but also angels. ‘Angel’ comes from the Latin angelus; Greek aggelos; from the Hebrew word for messenger Mal’ Akh, “one going” or “one sent.” These messengers from the throne-room of God play major roles at key moments in the unfolding of God’s plan and are incredible beings.
Daniel’s prayer was heard as he uttered it and an angel was sent with a message from God (Daniel 10). Zechariah, serving as a priest in the temple, saw an angel who foretold the birth of a son, announcing the preparation of a people for the Lord Jesus:
‘The angel said to [Zechariah}…your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John…And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God…to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.’ (Lk.1:13-17)
When Zechariah expressed doubt an indignant messenger said, ‘I am Gabriel, I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and bring you this good news. And behold you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words…’
You don’t take angels for granted.
That same Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce the Nativity:
‘The angel said to [Mary}, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.’ (Lk.1:30-32)
An angel appeared to her betrothed, Joseph:
‘…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sin.’ (Mt.1:20-21)
and a host of angels appeared to shepherds to announce ‘good news of great joy.’
‘And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.’ (Lk.2:10-11)
An angel appears twice at the empty tomb:
‘Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it…the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen…’ (Mt. 28:1-6)
The book of Revelation begins with the visit of an angel to John on the island of Patmos to bear witness, ‘to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ…’ (Rev.1:1-3)
More Than a Messenger
Is this Jesus an archangel, as Jehovah’s Witnesses insist? Is the one for whom such preparations were made, such announcements proclaimed, such testimony borne, merely a messenger himself? The picture painted in Scripture says not. Indeed, the book of Hebrews settles the issue for anyone with eyes to see:
‘For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’?
‘Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be my son’?
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’
But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever, the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of your kingdom.’’ (Hebrews 1:5-8)
The Message, Not the Messenger
Jesus is nobody’s Hermes, no messenger of God, but God the Son himself become a man.
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he inherited is more excellent then theirs.’ (Hebrews 1:3-4)
‘Therefore God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ (Philip.2:9-10)
Of course, if he is exalted there must be a place from which he rose to that exalted position. It’s Christmas as I write this and we are celebrating his amazing humiliation, that the creator of all should enter his creation, ‘though he was in the form of (in very nature of NIV) God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.’ (Philip.2:6,7)
Thank God for his mercies!
Do angels move and work among us today? The writer of Hebrews believes so, urging us, ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.’ (Hebrews 13:2)
If it happens to you, learn from Zechariah and don’t question an angel’s integrity and authority. But, no matter how magnificent the angel, if it is an angel you can be sure it’s a messenger and not the message.
See also, Is Jesus Michael the Archangel