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Bible Correspondence Course

9. Isa al-Masih: Crucified?

The Bible tells us that Sayyidna Isa Kalimatu'llah (his peace be upon us) did not come only to teach and to heal, but His main mission was to open the door of forgiveness for all humankind by giving His life to save sinners.

It may seem hard to understand why such a godly prophet who taught with such authority and wisdom should die a horrible death on a cross. After all, crucifixion was a method of execution used for the most common of criminals. One of Sayyidna’s disciples, Peter, was very distressed when he heard Sayyidna Isa predicting His own death on the cross. However, Peter later realised that this was God's sovereign plan. All this had been prophesied by Hazrat Isaiah centuries before Isa al-Masih, as we saw in Lesson 4.[1]

About a quarter of each Gospel is devoted to the final week of Sayyidna Isa’s earthly life; His arrest, trial, and particularly His crucifixion; showing just how important these events were.

1) The Plot

Although some of the Jews did believe in Sayyidna Isa Ruh-u'llah and put their faith in Him, others were violently opposed to Him. These were mostly the religious leaders of the day who regarded Sayyidna Isa al-Masih as a threat to their status and power. So, just before the annual Passover festival, they arrested Him and accused Him of blasphemy. They handed Him over to the Roman authorities, changing the grounds of His arrest to ‘sedition’, which means speaking against Caesar.

2) Sayyidna Isa Al-Masih’s Trial, Death, and Resurrection

Pilate, the Roman governor, sentenced Sayyidna Isa al-Masih to death in spite of declaring Him completely innocent, three times, in a court of law.[2] He was crucified and after six hours hanging on the cross, He died.

However, if Sayyidna Isa al-Masih had only died on the cross and remained in the grave, it would have meant that He was not the Messiah or Al-Masih - the promised one. However, Sayyidna Isa rose again on the third day, after being dead and buried.[3] For some forty days, the living Sayyidna Isa Al-Masih was seen by various people and later He was taken into heaven before their eyes.[4]

3) Objections

The Bible claims that, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”[5] Nonetheless, many different groups disagree with the Bible on this point. The Jews deny that Sayyidna Isa al-Masih was the Messiah. They say that Isa may have died on the cross but it would be unbelievable to think He rose from the dead. Orthodox Islam, on the other hand, goes further and denies that Sayyidna Isa was even crucified[6], yet believes in Him as the Messiah, accepting that His body went to God in Heaven and He will return one day. The Ahmadiyya sect, on the other hand, accepts that Sayyidna Isa al-Masih was crucified, but says He merely swooned on the cross, revived in the tomb and eventually died in Kashmir at the age of 120.

4) The Heart of the Matter

In a number of previous lessons we have considered the problem humankind has in coming into a real living relationship with God. God is holy, but men and women are sinful. How can the death of Sayyidna Isa Kaffara'tu'llah help solve this problem?

You will remember reading Isaiah chapter 53 in Lesson 4.

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone stray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

These verses, along with many others in the New Testament, show us why Sayyidna died.[7] He did not die as punishment for His own sin, but because of your sin and mine. He carried all our wrongdoing.[8] He took our punishment, receiving the bodily penalty for the many wrong things we have done.

A mighty exchange took place on the cross. Try to imagine all your guilt, disobedience and evil being taken from you and put upon Sayyidna Isa al-Masih; this is indeed the work of the Messiah. He received the wrath of God for us. Read Isaiah 53:4-6 again with this in mind and ask God to show you the truth that Sayyidna Isa al-Masih has ransomed you from death and sin.

“For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:8-11)

Perhaps now you can understand how this solves the greatest problem that humankind has, enabling us to come into a personal friendship with God? The solution was not that we should try to reach Him by our good deeds; our good deeds hopefully outweighing our bad deeds on God's scales. For, Sayyidna Isa Kaffara'tu'llah has completely removed everything on the bad side of the scales, taking upon Himself all the evil we have done and will do. God, being just, has to punish wrongdoing and rebellious hearts, but His punishment fell upon Isa al-Masih rather than upon you and me. Sayyidna Isa Shafi'u'llah, in perfect mercy and compassion, received what we deserve - that is, the punishment for sin.[9]

When Sayyidna Isa al-Masih died, God was reaching down to deal with a problem which humankind could not and cannot solve. “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son.”[10] If we deny the crucifixion, it means that Sayyidna Isa Kalimatu'llah was a deceiver, for He spoke about His death many times beforehand. He told His followers that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed and raised again on the third day.[11] On another occasion He said that He had come to give His life as a ransom for many.[12]

We see that, according to the prophecies of the Scriptures, Isa Shafi'u'llah is the only Saviour. The Bible declares, “Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”[13]

The Substitution Theory

Many Muslims maintain that it is an awful disgrace for a prophet to be killed. Thus, for Sayyidna Isa al-Masih to have been crucified would be intolerable. Yet, in the Qur'an and the Bible it is recorded that the Jews killed several innocent prophets.[14] Both the uniqueness and purpose of Sayyidna’s death is that He conquered death and rose again (see next lesson).

Some Muslims argue that someone else must have been crucified as a substitute. “It was not Jesus who was executed but another, who was miraculously substituted… for him.”[15] Some claim that Judas Iscariot was executed in His place; others say that it was Simon of Cyrene. However, we know that the Qur'an does not mention any name. If we say that it was Judas Iscariot on the cross and that God made his face look like that of Isa bin Maryam to mislead people, would this not be a deception that God is incapable of in His perfect holiness? God is not a fraud that He should engage in such a charade.

What about Simon of Cyrene? Some say that, since he was carrying Isa bin Maryam’s cross people confused Simon with Him and so he was crucified by mistake. But again we have to ask ourselves this question: How could Sayyidna Isa Ruh-u'llah, the true Prophet of God, have allowed such a terrible error? Both these ideas are unthinkable in that they challenge God and His infinite goodness.

The Swoon Theory

The Ahmadiyya Movement teaches that Sayyidna Isa al-Masih was crucified, but survived the cross, was taken down in a swoon, and presumed to be dead. In the coolness of the grave He recovered and later went to India, where He preached until His death at the age of 120.

Nevertheless, Sayyidna Isa bin Maryam preached in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for only three and a half years and performed many miracles there. History books contain information about this and of course, the strongest evidence we have is that of the Disciples’ testimonies found in the Injil. However, there is no evidence for Isa bin Maryam being in India at all, let alone for a period of eighty to ninety years. Historical research indicates that the supposed grave of Sayyidna Isa is actually that of Prince Yuz Asef.

References:

  1. [1] Isaiah 52:13-53:12
  2. [2] John 18:28-19:25
  3. [3] Matthew 27 & 28
  4. [4] Acts 1:1-9
  5. [5] 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
  6. [6] Qur'an 4:157-158
  7. [7] Mark 10:45, 1 Cor 5:21, 1 Peter 2:21-25, Romans 3:21-31
  8. [8] Another meaning of the text is ‘shouldered’, as if He literally put our sin on His back.
  9. [9] Ezekiel 18:20
  10. [10] John 3:16
  11. [11] Matthew 16:21
  12. [12] Matthew 20:28
  13. [13] Acts 4:12
  14. [14] Qur’an 4:155
  15. [15] Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, Holy Qur’an (Karachi, Taj Co. Ltd, 1970) Vol 1, p.96.

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