Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Mission of Jesus


Part of a Series of Program
Presented on IBN TV

About whom was Jesus referring?

Jesus was referring to someone who was not to be from the tribes of Israel, as he said to them:

The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you (O Israelites) and given to a nation bringing forth the fruit thereof. (Mt.21:43)

In another place he told them:

The stone which the builder rejected, the same is become the head of the corner, this is the Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes. (Mt.21:42)
It appears as though Jesus was indicating to the Israelites that they were no longer to be the custodians of the religion which God wanted to establish on earth; can you comment on this?

If we re-examine the prediction that Moses gave to the people about the one that was to come; he said to them:

(God spoke to him and said) I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. Deut.18:18)

The promise of God had to be fulfilled. But what we see in the saying of Jesus was that the expected one was not him and he, that is the expected one, still had to come. And it would not be from among the Israelites. That is why he told them:

The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you.

But the promised one was to come from the progeny of Abraham as everyone regarded Abraham as the father of the revealed religions.

If everyone accepts Abraham, his faith and works, why are there differences between the religions that came from the teachings of him?

First of all, there is a problem about the recognition of Ishmael as a son of Abraham in every sense of the word.

Ishmael was acknowledged as the first son of Abraham. He (Abraham) was the biological father of both Ishmael and Isaac.

Like Isaac, the Lord gave the name Ishmael to the boy that was to be born to Hagar. He told her that the meaning of the name Ishmael was "he shall be blessed". It is recorded in the Bible about the Lord's promise to the boy in the following verse:

As for Ishmael, I have heard thee. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful. (Gen.16:20)

If in the Bible Ishmael is recognized as the blessed son, then why is he not accepted by the Jews and Christians?

In order to project the superiority of the Israelites who came from the second son of Abraham through Sarah, over the Ishmaelites, the upholders teach that he is a biological son but not one through which the promise of God shall be fulfilled. In this connection Paul wrote as follows:

But he (i.e. Ishmael) of the bondwoman was born after the flesh, but he (i.e. Isaac) of the freewoman was by promise…. Nevertheless, what saith the Scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of a bondwoman shall not be the heir with the son of the freewoman. (Gal.4:22)

So the problem does not lie with what God wanted, it is based on what the Church teaches?

Paul does not believe that Ishmael must be considered to be a son in every sense of the word. As a result he says:

Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children. They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God. (Rom.9:7)

The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary, the one and the other. (Gal.5:17)

Both Ishmael and Isaac are the sons of Abraham, and both were from the prayers of the old man. When he prayed for an offspring, in the beginning, Sarah offered her handmaid Hagar to him so that he can have a offspring, and later on she also became pregnant. Up to that time Ishmael was his only hope for carrying on his mission that is why when he left them in the wilderness upon the insistence of Sarah, he prayed as follows:

O my Lord, I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O My Lord, that they may establish regular prayer; so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them. And feed them with fruits, so that they may give thanks. Qur'an 14:37)

Are we to believe that Paul regarded the progeny of Ishmael to be inferior to those from Sarah?

What Paul is saying is that Hagar and her son are not people of God, although God guided them, fed them and protected them in every way, while they were cast away in the wilderness.

Because of his position regarding the second wife of Abraham and his son they are called Gentiles, meaning: pagan and heathen.

But as we know, they were humble and submissive to God, just as Jesus and his mother Mary were humble and submissive to God. On the other hand Sarah had an attitude problem, and looked at things on the basis of reason and logic. That is why when the angel told her that she was going to have a son she laughed at the idea and questioned the rationality of it.

How was Paul able to discourage the Israelites from accepting Ishmael and his progeny?

Paul has misinformed the readers about the true status, in the sight of God, between both the wives and their children. He says:

He that is born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it was now. (Gal.4:29)

This is contrary to what happened then; and is still happening today, between the progeny of Ishmael and Isaac as some of the Israelites are slaughtering the Palestinians who are from Ishmael.

But who really did the torturing?

Hagar was tortured by Sarah while in her home. So severe was it that she ran away in the wilderness in order to escape her mistress's punishment. This is recorded in the Bible as follows:

And when Sarah dealt harshly with her, she fled from her face. ……And he (i.e. the angel of the Lord) said: Hagar, Sarai's maid whence camest thou? And whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. And the "angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. (Gen.16:6-9)

In the beginning, the persecution was because Hagar became pregnant for Abraham and Sarah could not have a child, but later on when Isaac was born, it was no longer envy, rather, Sarah did not want Abraham to give to Ishmael any of the inheritance. As a result she said to him:

Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. (Gal.4:30)

So the issue then, according to the Bible, was inheritance, and not any other matter which caused the separation.

The Israelites were from the progeny of Isaac; what about the progeny of Ishmael. Did not God tell Abraham something about them?

Abraham was righteous person, and is accepted by Jews, Christians and Muslims to be a person of high status in Paradise. In the Bible there is the indication that the righteous shall dwell in the bosom of Abraham. It says:

And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels in the bosom of Abraham. (Lk.16:22)

It means that whatever Abraham did was not evil, and so, his having a son with Hagar was not an evil act. It is because it was a thing ordained by God that He guided the woman and spoke to her and made a promise to Abraham concerning Ishmael.

According to the Bible, God said to Hagar:

And God hears the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar, out of the heavens, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? Fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand, for I will make him a great nation. (Gen.21:17-18)

Up to the time of the coming of Jesus that promise of God contained in the Bible was not yet fulfilled. So Jesus came to announce to the Israelites that God was about to fulfil that promise.

What was the promise God made to Abraham concerning Ishmael?

According to the Biblical records, God said to Abraham:

As for Ishmael, I have heard thee; behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. (Gen.17:20)

So that from Ishmael was to come a great nation; that was not yet fulfilled.

We see that Jesus was telling the Israelites two things; viz.

• The mission for the messengers was not yet complete as some one still had to come.
The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you (O Israelites) and given to a nation bringing forth the fruit thereof (Mt.21:43)

• The stone that was rejected by the Israelites was to become the corner stone. They had rejected the progeny of Ishmael calling them the children of the flesh. But God, in His wisdom was about to transfer the responsibility of upholding the laws which Moses had brought and uniting the entire humanity under one law, as one big happy human family. This is recorded in the Bible in the following verse:
Jesus saith unto them: Did ye never read in the scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner; this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes. (Mt.22:42)

Abu Huraira narrated that Prophet Muhammad (pboh) is reported to have said:

My similitude in comparison with the other prophets before me is that of a man who has built a house nicely and beautifully, except for a place of one brick, in a corner. The people go about it and wonder at its beauty, and say: Would that this brick be put in place. So I am that brick, and I am the last of the prophets. (Bukhari)

The progeny of Ishmael became the Arab people; did the Israelites recognise them at any time at all?

There were some interactions between them. For example, we have in 11 Chron. 9:11, where the kings of Arabia and governors brought gold and silver to Solomon.

Also in 17:11, the Arabians gave to Jehoshaphat flocks of goats and sheep; and he accepted them.

So they had communication, but one thing remained outstanding and that is, they were not entitled to the inheritance of anything that came from the assets of Abraham.

Had they been recognised as legitimate from the progeny of Abraham, then they would have been religiously entitled to inherit something from him.

Jesus was not speaking about inheritance of land and wealth; he was speaking about upholding the law; what was the people's reaction to what he was telling them?

Jesus tried patiently to get the Israelites to believe in God and uphold the law. But all the time they kept disobeying and were only looking for their material benefits. It pained him to see how they were behaving. Look at what he said to them:

If God were your Father you would love me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. (Jn.8:42-47)

So Jesus kept struggling to get the Israelites to listen to him and change their ways, but they never took him on. They were only interested in using him for their own benefit, as they did with all the messengers that came before him.

But did Jesus receive any help from his disciples in propagating his teachings?

Jesus had trouble with his disciples just as he had with the people. Take for example, when he was walking on the water, Peter requested Jesus to allow him to walk with him on the water too. And Jesus said come.

As Peter began walking he got scared and began to sink. Jesus took him by the hand and said to him:

O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? (Mt.14:28-31)

Again Jesus said to the people:

O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, how long shall I suffer you? (Mt.17:17)

The Israelites knew that he was a special person with special powers, did they heed his teachings?

The Israelites were troubled in their minds whenever Jesus used to condemn them for their wrongs. Take for example, he was telling them of their lack of faith in the message from God, and they decided to throw him out of the temple. This is recorded in Lk. 4:28-29. It says:

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath. And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built; that they might cast him down headlong.

On another occasion he chased them all out of the temple, as they were using it as a market place and not a place of worship. We find this recorded in the Bible as follows:

And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them. It is written, My house is the house of prayer; but you had made it a den of thieves. And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, and could not find what they might do; for all the people were very attentive to hear him. (Lk.19:41-42)

What we are seeing is that the leaders of the Israelites were opposed to the teachings of Jesus, even though the masses were listening to him.

If the leaders of the temple, the chief priests and scribes were all against his teachings, did they try to kill him?
Jesus used to teach the people in the temple during the day and in the night he used to go up in the mountain and pass it with his Lord. This is recorded in Luke 21:37 as follows:

And in the daytime he was teaching in the temple, and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the Mount of Olives. And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him.

Jesus was becoming more and more popular with the masses; and this was some cause for concern among the leaders of the Israelites.

Did the chief priests and scribes like what was going on; or were they planning against Jesus; surely, they would have become concerned about his growing popularity?

The chief priests and scribes were trying to find ways and means of killing him without the knowledge of the masses. Most of them did not really know who he was but were only hearing about him.

Jesus was becoming too popular for them. Take for example when he was entering Jerusalem, the people lined up along the pathway and a great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way….. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying: Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. (Mt.21:6-10)

They i.e. the chief priests began putting together a plot to get rid of him.

Is there any record of the plot that they were able to hatch against him?

The fame of Jesus was growing, and he was helping more and more people; he healed their sick, he fed the multitude in the desert with five loaves of bread and two fishes; again he fed the multitude with seven loaves and a few small fishes, and so he was getting the masses of Israelites to believe in what he was preaching and teaching.

Knowing that they would not be able to do him harm in front of the multitude of people the leaders tried to embarrass him by asking him all kinds of questions. For example, they came to him and demanded a sign.

But Jesus was very alert, and knowledgeable and answered them by wisely telling them of the evil that was in them. He said to them: A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah. (Mt.16:1-5)

But were they satisfied with what he was telling them?

They became more and more confused with the answers that he was giving them to their questions; as his answers were in parables which were very difficult for them to unfold.

Some of these were:

The parable of the lost sheep.
Of a brother who sins
Of the unforgiving servant.

In addition to his answers in parables he also gave advises based on the commands that God had revealed.

For example he told the rich young ruler:
Do not commit murder
Do not commit adultery
Do not steal
Do not bear false witness
Honour thy father and thy mother
Love thy neighbour as thy self
Give your wealth in charity.

Jesus continued to preach the law and the commandments directly and by examples in order that the people may take heed.

Does the Qur'an bear testimony to the preaching and teaching of Jesus?

Allah tells us in the Qur'an that Jesus said to the Israelites:

I have come to you to attest the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was before forbidden unto you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah and obey me. It is Allah Who is my Lord and your Lord; then worship Him: this is a Way that is Straight. (3:50-51)

Jesus was very pious and saintly, and did everything possible to get the people to turn to God, for guidance and sustenance; but the detractors were not happy with the impact his message was having on the people and they wanted to put an end to it.

More so as he was not consulting with the chief priests and the rulers, but went about with his mission by himself, and with the few half hearted scribes that followed him.

Was Jesus fearful about the plots that were being hatched to kill him?

Jesus informed his disciples that there was a plan to crucify him. He said to them:
And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples, Ye know that after two days is the feast of the Passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified. (Mt.26:1-2)

Jesus also informed his disciples that they were not really dedicated to the cause for which he was sent; because when the real test will come upon them they will manifest their weakness of faith. For example, he told Peter:

Jesus said unto him (i.e. Peter), Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. (Mt.26:24)

Did Jesus inform the Israelites about the coming of Prophet Muhammad (pboh)?

According to what is revealed in the Holy Qur'an, Jesus said to the Israelites the following:

O Children of Israel, of a truth I am God's Apostle to you to confirm the law which was given before me; and to give Glad Tidings of an apostle that shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad (61:6)

So Jesus was telling them that he was upholding the law and connecting himself with Prophet Muhammad (pboh) who was to follow him.

Why did Jesus tell Peter that he (Peter) will forsake Jesus?

Jesus was aware that there was plan to take hold of him and to try to get rid of him. He was also aware of the fact that while his disciples were with him all the time they were not fully dedicated to his mission and did not really learn much from him. So he said to them, after they had a meal together. All of you shall be offended because of me tonight.

Then Jesus went to worship the Lord in the garden of Gethsemane. He took with him three of them and with a heavy heart, he ordered them to sit and keep watch while he went a little further and prayed as Muslims pray.

While Jesus was in the garden worshipping Allah, what were the disciples who were with him doing?

When Jesus made his supplications to the Lord, he came back and found the three of them asleep. He was not happy with them and said to them:

What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. (Mt.26:40-41)

Then he went back again to worship, hoping that his disciples would listen to him and stay alert; but when he was finished and came back he again found them asleep. He gave up on them and went back and continued to worship Allah. He said to them:

Sleep on now, and take your rest; behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of the sinners. (Mt.26:45)

Was Jesus really betrayed by one of his disciples?

The Qur'an has not mention anything about what happened to him, from the time of his preaching, his encounter with the chief priests and scribes, his arrest and trail. All it has mentioned is about the crucifixion.

What we know about the incidents which led to his end or disappearance can be understood from what is contained in the Gospels.

For example, he was identified by Judas, who betrayed him for a fee. Upon his betrayal, he was arrested; one of his disciples resisted his arrest; but Jesus ordered him to put away his sword.

Jesus was disappointed with the way the multitude was behaving against him so he said to them:

Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. (Mt.26:55)

What happened when he was arrested?

First of all, the disciples forsook him and fled. (Mt.26:56)

He was taken to the high priest, who was with the scribes and the elders. (Mt.26:57)

Peter followed and sat among the people; and the authorities were trying to find false witnesses to accuse him of treason, so that they can kill him. They found two false witnesses and as a result they began to torture him.

What did Peter do when he saw the people humiliating Jesus?

Peter found himself in trouble, as some of the women identified him as being one from among Jesus disciples. But Peter denied ever knowing Jesus and began to curse, as if he was cursing Jesus. When he realised that Jesus had predicted that Peter will forsake him, he went out and wept for what he did.

Was Jesus tried for whatever he was accused?

He was taken before the governor; but he did not answer any of the questions that were posed to him. Instead of condemning him the governor was surprised that Jesus was able to hold his peace in spite of all the accusations that were levelled against him by the high priest and his men.

The governor realised that Jesus was just person and that he was envied. To add to his own conviction, his wife sent a message to him telling him that he should have nothing to do with the condemnation of Jesus.

When the governor questioned the multitude as to who was the one to be released from prison the chief priest and his men urged the multitude to say Barabas, and not Jesus. The multitude did not want to hear anything about justice, etc. they simply said let him be crucified. Pilate washed his hands off the matter

But he was not tried for anything?

No, the high priest and his men just wanted to get rid of Jesus and the way they selected was to crucify him. So they began torturing him and began making preparation for his crucifixion.

They then proceeded to take him to the place where he was to be crucified. But he was unable to carry the cross, so they forced Simon to take the cross and carry it for Jesus. There is no record in the Bible that Jesus took back the cross.

Also, there is no record that he was kept close to Simon. As a matter of fact, he turned around and began speaking to the ladies who were following him. This is recorded in Luke 23:28, as follows:

Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children….

It because of all the turmoil and confusion, no one knows exactly who was put on the cross.

But there were guards and soldiers, and the high priests, etc. how could they have made a mistake and crucify another person?

There are many Christian sects that believe that Jesus was not crucified. Some of these are:

• The Basilidians, in the very beginning of Christianity denied that Christ himself suffered, but asserted that it was Simon who was crucified.
• The Corinthians also are of the same view.
• The Carpocrations also are of this view.

All those who believe that it was not Jesus who was crucified believe that it was one of his disciples, or some other person.

What does the Qur'an say about his crucifixion?

Allah tells us in the Holy Qur'an, the following:

They (Jews) boastfully say: We killed the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah. But they killed him not, nor crucified him. But so it appeared to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with not certain knowledge; but only conjecture to follow; for a surety they did not kill him. (4:157)

But they would have known who was actually crucified, when they would have taken down the body?

The body of the one that was crucified was secretly taken away and buried in a private tomb. We find reference of this in Mathew. It says:

When the even had come, there came a rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus disciple. He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. (Mt. 27:57-61)

Although the chief priest and the guards were there when they opened the tomb there was no one in it. So the guards were bribed to stay quiet about the whole matter. Mathew tells us about this in the following verses:

They gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and sole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. (Mt.28:12-15)

No one could have attested to the fact that it was Jesus who was crucified, as there was no evidence that he was put in the tomb, and when they finally went to opened it, they found it opened with no one inside of it.

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