So I have been meeting with some JW’s for about a year now and it has had some ups and downs. Last January I agreed to study their book with them and they agreed to answer my questions it has been a fair trade so far.
There has been no overtly visible as yet, and last week I got a bit discouraged when I tried to pin them down on a few things and as my friend like to say - It was like trying to nail Jello to the wall. But I got an encouraging talk from Gary Michuta who has been on your show and he told me to keep my arguments "outside of the box."
Also I need to keep reminding myself that people convert by God’s grace, not by arguments. So when I saw our High School kids in line for going to adoration the other day - I reminded them to pray for the JW’s that I have been speaking with.
Some did happen this week.
It was interesting, the first thing that happened was in their book we read a quote from Isaiah 11 who talked about how the spirit of the Lord would rest on Jesus, the spirit of counsel, wisdom, etc…and it went on to say how Jesus wouldn’t judge people by what his eye sees or ears hear, but he would judge us in righteousness.
I said how I liked that that Jesus would judge people as they really are, not how they appear to others. They related to me a story of a man that they had met some time ago who was really immoral, loved fighting and drugs and the like. He eventually ended up in jail and decided to turn his life around. He called the JW I am speaking with and eventually became a JW. They then proceeded to tell me that it takes time to win a convert, it doesn’t happen in 5 or 10 minutes.
Now this was the Lord’s message to me - It is going to take time - so calm down.
At this point our study took a turn. They tell me to turn to Isaiah 11 and reread aloud the passages we JUST READ out of their book.
I turn there and read 11:2-4, but something catches my eye - one word in verse 10 - the word ensign. I had done a Bible tidbit on this some months ago and had forgotten where the word was in Isaiah.
I told the JW’s that this word reminded me of something that I had learned a few months ago if they wouldn’t mind the distraction.
The tidbit was about how the cross was prefigured in the Old Testament.
(Keep in mind that JW have no crosses anywhere and believe that Jesus was crucified on a pole which his hands above his head)
They agreed, and this is what I said.
Back in Exodus when Moses had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, they had to battle the Amalekites and provided that Moses kept his staff above his head the Israelite won the battle. Well he names the place "the Lord is my banner." (Moses holding his staff above his head would have possibly looked like Jesus' extended arms on the cross)
I was thinking - what does that mean, banner. So I did a word search on it and the next time that it appears is in Numbers 21:8 when God tells Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. The word pole there is the same as banner. It is also the same word "ensign" from Isaiah 11:10.
Now Jesus links this incident with Moses and the serpent on the pole with his death.
John 3:14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;
John 12:32 "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself."
I said now look again at Isaiah 11:10 In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek.
So I said to the JW’s - We see the cross as like a flag or standard of the Kingdom of God, that is why Catholics have crosses all over the place.
The JW’s said back to me -no no no, you are misreading John 12:32, when Jesus says that "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself." - He is talking about his ascension, not his death.
I said - read the next verse. - He reads John 12:33 which says John 12:33 He said this to show by what death he was to die.
I said so it is in death on the cross that he draws all men to himself.
They responded by saying - If your friend was killed while he was protecting you - lets say he was killed by a gun, would you wear a gun around your neck on a chain?
I said - no way, but my friend wasn’t put to death for the salvation of the universe. They shook their heads in agreement. I continued and said that Jesus was put to death for that very reason, and look at 1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
So the cross is the power of God and not only the power of God, but it is also the glorification of Christ.
They protestaed, we believe taht when Jesus was raised from the dead, that is when he was glorified.
I agreed and said lets look again at John 12:23 - 27
And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
John 12:27"Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? `Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.
I said Jesus isn’t proposing to ask his Father to save him from the resurrection, that doesn’t make sense. This is in reference to his death.
So all in all, it went well.
In conclusion, the entire chapter that we had been reading was about the Kingdom of God. I had studied for some time the week before in preparation for that topic. I couldn't have dreamed that our conversation would have turned toward the cross, but I am glad I was open to it. (Only by God's grace)
My wife Arica reminded me to remind folks that if you are in a dialogue with someone and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, to just persevere, and like Padre Pio says - Pray, hope, and don’t worry.