اذ قال الله ياعيسى اني متوفيك ورافعك الى ومطهرك من الذين كفروا وجاعل الذين اتبعوك فوق الذين كفروا الى يوم القيامة ثم الى مرجعكم فاحكم بينكم فيما كنتم فيه تختلفون
When Allāh said: “O Jesus, I will take you [Arabic: mutawaffīka] and raise you to Myself and purify you of those who deny. And I will make those who followed you superior to those who deny until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me will be your return, so I will judge between you in what you used to differ.” (Sūrat Ãl-‘Imrān(3)55)
Easter is the most important celebration for any follower of Jesus Christ as described in the Bible. At the heart of the festival is the remembrance of the events surrounding the cross on which Jesus the Messiah died. They are absolutely central according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-20:
… this Message on which you took your stand and by which your life has been saved … that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says; that he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest followers, and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time, most of them still around … if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke … if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever … But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, …’ [all Bible quotes are taken from the translation The Message]
That passage is taken from the Injīl, a book of God. The Prophet of Islām confirmed it to be present along with the Tawrāt in the 6th Century AD. 1 He encouraged people to follow those Scriptures that were known at that time to consist of the same books found in today’s Old and New Testament of the Bible.2. Therefore, they must have been uncorrupted. Those who assume that changes were made after the prophet’s time can simply compare a 21st century copy with one that was written at or before the 6th century. This means that all the teaching remained the same! Muslims who say that the message of the Bible is corrupted actually contradict the Qur’ān itself.
The main thing is to see that Christ’s death and resurrection are central issues, and also to see why Muslims suffer a great, unbearable loss if they deny these.
Someone once said, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!” In order to understand the significance of the cross of Jesus the Messiah, it is essential to summarize the main Bible message.
God created the world to bring Him honour and joy. He made human beings to have a relationship with Him. Adam and Eve disobeyed and as the result of one sin had to leave Eden. The rest of the Bible describes God’s plan to bring mankind back into fellowship with Him again. So we see that sin increased to the point where the creator of the world sent a flood in order to destroy everyone but Noah, his family and one pair of each kind of animal. Soon the world became corrupted again because humans kept on rebelling against their Maker. God chose Abraham and promised that He would bless all nations of the world through Abraham’s offspring. Later He selected the Jewish people. Through His dealings with the nation of Israel the world learnt who God is, what He does, and how He works. God has a relationship with His people based on His promises. At the heart lies an elaborate system of regular sacrifices centred in the temple of Jerusalem.3. Through them God promised to cleanse the people of their impurities and sins. All this was presented as a symbol of the perfect sacrifice to come.
The Jews of ancient Israel were not able to fulfil their part and be obedient to God. Consequently, the Injīl gives an account of how God’s promises were fulfilled in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. He is the final, perfect sacrifice to take away the punishment due for our sins by dying on the cross. When he returns Jesus will establish God’s kingdom forever. Until that time it is invisible to people, unless God’s Spirit opens their eyes to its existence. In the present phase, the only people in God’s Kingdom are those who believe in Jesus as the sacrifice for their sins. Out of thankfulness they will be doing God’s will in His strength (as described in the Injīl). Jesus himself confirmed that he plays the leading role in God’s plan by these words spoken to two of his followers after he rose from the dead:
Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him. (Luke 24:25-27)
Muslims are told that Jesus did not die on the cross. However, Surāt Ãl-‘Imrān(3)55, (quoted at the head of this article), uses the Arabic word ‘mutawaffīka’ to describe what happened to Jesus the Messiah. It is still used today by Arabic speakers to express a person’s physical death! The same word and its derivation are found over 25 times in the Qur’ān. In all but two places they imply death or are associated with death. In the two exceptions (al-An‘ām(6)60; az-Zumar(39)42) the context reveals that ‘mutawaffīka’ figuratively means slumber. But the verse that speaks about the death of Jesus Christ is clearly literal and not figurative. Therefore it refers not to sleep, but to death.
Muslims who deny the cross and the above mentioned events surrounding it have to answer the following questions: How is it that the Qur’ān, which supposedly confirms previous Scriptures, rejects the central message of those previous Scriptures? Since there is no certainty of forgiveness of sins outside God’s promises given in the Bible, how can you live with the constant threat of the possibility of going to hell? Why do you not accept the invitation Jesus the Messiah gives below?
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
2 The Zabūr revealed to the Jewish prophet Hazrāt Dāwūd (an-Nisā’(4)163, not mentioned in Ãl-‘Imrān(3)3 and 65) indicates its inclusion in the Tawrāt. This conclusion is supported by the ħadīŧ, Mişkāt al-Masābīħ, vol.2, p.1237: Ka’b is reported as quoting the Tawrāt with sayings that find parallels in the book of Isaiah. Jesus and his followers used the words, “law” and “prophets” interchangeably to refer to the whole Old Testament. Compare John 10:34 with Psalm 82:6, and 1 Corinthians 14:21 with Isaiah 28:11-12, etc. Various historical documents clearly show that the early Church used ‘Gospel’ (Injīl) and ‘Law’ (Tawrāt) as titles for all or part of the Bible before Islām arrived: R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament, p.99; Philip S. Schaff (ed.), A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: First Series. vol.8, p.7; B.B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, p.413; Ignatius (A.D. 115) in Pros Filadelfeis 5; Pros Smurnaious 7.
3 The Qur’ān is a witness to both temple and sacrifices: al-Isrã(17)1-7; al-Baqarah(2)67-74.