When Jesus was dying on the cross, he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matt. 27:46)? After Jesus resurrection from the dead, he appears to Mary Magdalene, and she immediately clings to Him. In response Jesus says to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ (John 20:17; cf. Rev. 3:2, 12). In each case, Jesus explicitly calls the Father “my God.” Jehovah’s Witnesses conclude from these passages (and others like them) that Jesus cannot possibly be God.
According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus cannot have a God if He is God! Implicit in this kind of assertion is the assumption of unitarianism. Unitarianism is the belief that God is only one person. Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are all unitarians. By contrast, trinitarians believe that God is three distinct persons.
To a Jehovah’s Witness, who has already presupposed unitarianism, these passages can only mean one thing: Jesus is not God. Think about it. If person A calls person B “my God,” then logically speaking person A cannot be God. Of course, this argument only works if unitarianism is true. But what if God isn’t one person? What if God is three persons? Notice how the force of the logical argument collapses.
If the Son and the Father are both distinct members of the Godhead, which is the overwhelming testimony of Scripture, then there is nothing logically incoherent about God the Son calling God the Father “my God.”
Even though it’s not logically contradictory, it might still sound strange to some. Why would Jesus, who is God, call the Father “my God?”
Here are two points to think about. First, Jesus isn’t merely God. Unlike the Father, He is truly God and truly man. He is the God-man. As the God-man, He is a perfect man, who worships, honors, obeys and prays to God the Father. In fact, the incarnate Son is dependent on the Father (John 5:30). How could the Son be dependent if He is God? The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us a glimpse into the Son’s humiliation:
“Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8).
In the incarnation, the Son sets aside His independent authority and heavenly glory. Instead, He humbled Himself by taking on a human nature. It is within this context that one must read the Jesus’ “my God” statements.
Second, the Father and the Son have different roles within the economy of the Trinity. There is equality in nature, but subordination in their personal roles. For instance, the Son submits to the Father, but not vice versa. Therefore, when God the Son calls God the Father “my God,” He is affirming His relationally subordinate role without denying His full deity.