Isa al Masih teaches on forgiveness

As I watch the world news it seems that bloodshed and violence are increasing all around.  Bombings in Afghanistan, fighting across Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, violence in Egypt, killings in Pakistan, riots in Turkey, school kidnappings in Nigeria, war with Palestine and Israel, towns massacred in Kenya – and these are just what I have heard without looking hard to find the bad news.  On top of this are the multitude of sins, hurts and grievances we have inflicted on each other that do not make news headlines – but which hurt us nonetheless.  In this day of vengeance and retribution, the teaching of Isa al Masih on forgiveness is of utmost importance.  One day his disciples asked him how many times they should forgive.  Here is the account straight from the Injil

The Story of the unmerciful Servant – Matthew 18: 21-35

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

The point of his story is that if we have accepted His mercy, Allah (the King) forgives us so very much.  This was symbolized by the ten thousand bags of gold that was owed him by the servant.  The servant had declared that he needed more time to pay it back.  But that is an amount far too great to ever pay back, so the King just cancelled the entire debt.  This is what Allah does for us if we receive His mercy.

But then this same servant found another servant that owed him one hundred silver coins. He demanded payment in full and would not give the other servant more time.  When we sin against each other there are real hurts and damage, but compared to how our sin has grieved and hurt Allah it is insignificant – like 100 silver pieces compared to ten thousand bags of gold.

So the King (Allah) then sends the servant to jail to pay back everything.  In the teaching of Isa al Masih, to not forgive the real sins and grievances that people have done to us is to forfeit the forgiveness of Allah and condemn ourselves to hell.  This is very serious.

The challenge of course is to do this.  When someone has hurt us the desire for retribution can be very great.  So how can we obtain this spirit that can forgive?  We need to continue exploring the Injil.

The Masih teaches about Inner Cleanliness

We have seen how the words of Isa al Masih (PBUH) had power teach with authority, to heal people, and even to control nature.   He also directed his words to expose the condition of our hearts – to cause us to examine our inner person as well as the outer.  We are all very familiar with outer cleanliness, which is why wudu before prayers is performed and why eating halal meat is practiced.  The prophet Muhammad (PBUH), according to hadith said that

“Cleanliness is half of faith…” (Muslim Ch. 1 Book 002, Number 0432)

But the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) wanted us to also think about the other half – that of our inner cleanliness.  This is especially important because though we humans can see the outside cleanliness or uncleanliness of other people, for Allah it is different – He sees the inner.  When one of the kings of Judah who outwardly kept all the religious obligations, but did not keep his inner heart clean the prophet of that time came with a message that stated:

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  (2 Chronicles 16:9 of Zabur)

As that message declared, inner cleanliness has to do with our ‘hearts’ – the ‘you’ that thinks, feels, decides, submits or disobeys, and controls the tongue.  The prophets of Zabur had declared that it was the thirst of our hearts that was at the root of our sin.  Our hearts are so important that Isa al Masih (PBUH) emphasized this in his teaching by contrasting it with our outer cleanliness.  Here is how the Injil records the different times that he taught about inner cleanliness or purity:

Clean the Inside as well as the Outside

(In the following discourse ‘Pharisees’ are mentioned.  They were the Jewish teachers in that day, very similar to imams of today.  Isa (PBUH) mentions giving a ‘tenth’ to God.  This was the required Jewish Zakat.)

37 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.

39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.

44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.” (Luke 11: 37-44)

Touching a dead body made a Jew unclean according to the Law.  When Isa (PBUH) said that people walk over ‘unmarked graves’ he is saying that they are becoming unclean without them even ‘knowing it’ because they are neglecting the inner cleanliness.  It is an easy trap for a believer to only be concerned about outer cleanliness and forget the inner – and so become as unclean as the unbeliever who has no regard for any obligation.

The heart defiles the religiously clean person

In the following teaching, Isa al Masih (PBUH) quotes from the prophet Isaiah (PBUH) who lived 750 BC and wrote in the Zabur.  (see link here for historical timeline of Isaiah)

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”…

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”  (Matthew 15:1-20)

In this encounter with the teachers of Jewish law, Isa al Masih (PBUH) pointed out that we are quick to build our religious obligations from ‘human traditions’ rather than from the message of God. At the time of Isa al Masih (PBUH), the Jewish leaders ignored their obligation before Allah to care for their aged parents by giving their money to religious causes instead of helping their parents. The religious cause were really only man-made traditions.  Today it is much the same.  One scholar declares that a certain thing is haram while another says it is halal and we do not look to the message of the prophets in that matter.  But Allah is very concerned with the uncleanness coming from our hearts.  This uncleanness will result in our condemnation on the Day of Judgment much quicker than breaking human traditions.

Beautiful on the Outside but on the Inside full of wickedness

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  (Matthew 23: 25-28)

In this discourse, Isa al Masih (PBUH) is stating what we all have seen.  Following outward cleanliness can be quite common amongst believers in God, but many of us believers are still full of greed and indulgence on the inside – even the people of religious importance.  Obtaining inner cleanliness is necessary – but it is much harder.  Allah will judge our inner cleanliness very carefully.  So the issue raises itself:  How do we clean our hearts so that we can enter the Kingdom of God on the Day of Judgment?  We continue in the Injil to find an answer.

The Kingdom of God: Many are Invited but…

We have seen how the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) had a Word of Authority such that diseases and even nature obeyed his command.  He also spoke at length on the Kingdom of God.  Remember that several of the prophets of Zabur had written about a coming Kingdom of God.  Isa built on their prophecies to teach that the Kingdom was ‘near’.

At first he taught the Sermon on the Mount, showing how future citizens of this Kingdom of God were expected to behave and treat each other.  He taught a radical principle of loving even your ‘enemy’.  Think about how much misery, death, injustice and horror is experienced today (just listen to the news to be reminded) because so many do not listen to his teaching about love.  If life in the Kingdom of God is to be different than the sometimes hellish life we have in this world then we need to treat each other differently – with love.

Parable of the Great Banquet

Since so few live in the way that the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught you would think that very few would be wanted or invited into the Kingdom of God.  But this is not so.  The prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught a parable of a great banquet to illustrate how wide and far the invitation to come into the Kingdom goes.  The Injil recounts his teaching:

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”  (Luke 14:15-24)

Our accepted understandings are turned upside down – many times – in this teaching.  In the first place we might assume that Allah will not invite many into His Kingdom (which is the Banquet in the House) because he does not find many worthy people, but that assumption is shown to be wrong.  The invitation to come to the Banquet goes to many, many people.  The Master (who is Allah in this parable) wants the Banquet to be full.  That is encouraging.

But we soon learn there is another unexpected twist in His teaching.  Very few of the guests actually wanted to come, instead they made excuses so they would not have to go!  And look at how unreasonable the excuses are!  Who would buy oxen without trying them out for a test before he bought them?  Who would buy a field without already looking it over first?  No, these excuses revealed the true intentions of the hearts of the guests – they were not interested in entering the Kingdom of God but had other interests instead.

Just when we think that perhaps the will of the Master will be frustrated with none or few attending the banquet there is yet another twist.  Now the ‘unlikely’ people, those who we all dismiss in our minds as being unworthy of being invited to a great celebration, those who are in “streets and alleys” and far-away “roads and country lanes”, who are “poor, crippled, blind and lame” – the very people we often stay away from – they get invitations to the banquet.   The invitations to this banquet go much further, and cover more people than you and I would have thought possible.  The Master of the Banquet wants people there and will even invite those we ourselves would not invite into our house.

And these people come!  They have no other competing interests like fields or oxen to distract their love so they come to the banquet.  The Kingdom of God is full and the Master’s will is accomplished!

The prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) told this parable to get us to ask a question: “Would I accept an invitation to the Kingdom of God if I got one?”  Or would a competing interest or love cause you to make an excuse to turn down the invitation?  The truth is that you are invited to this Kingdom Banquet, but the sober reality is that most of us will decline the invitation for one reason or another.  We would never say ‘no’ directly so we offer excuses to cover our rejection. Deep down inside we have other ‘loves’ that are at the roots of our rejection.  In this parable the root of the rejection was love of other things.  Those who were first invited loved the things of this world (which was represented by the ‘field’, ‘oxen’ and ‘marriage’) more than the Kingdom of God.

Parable of the Unjustified Religious Teacher

Some of us love things in this world more than the Kingdom of God and so we will refuse this invitation.  Others of us love or trust our own righteous merit.  The prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) also taught about this in another story:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18: 9-14)

Here we meet a Pharisee (a religious teacher like an imam) who seemed to be perfect in his religious effort and merit.  His fasting and zakat was even more than required.  But he placed his confidence in his own righteousness.  This was not what the prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) had shown so long before when he had obtained righteousness simply by humble trust in the promise of Allah.  In fact the tax collector (an immoral profession at that time) humbly asked for mercy, and trusting that he had freely been given this mercy he went home ‘justified’ – right with God – while the Pharisee, who we assume is ‘right with God’ has his sins still counted against him.

So the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) speaking again with authority, asks you and me if we really desire the Kingdom of God, or if it is just an interest among lots of other interests.  He also asks us what we are trusting in – our merit or God’s mercy.

It is important to honestly ask ourselves these questions because otherwise we will not recognize his teaching which we look at next – that we need Inner Cleanliness.

Prophet Isa al Masih’s (PBUH) Word of Authority over Nature

In our last two articles we saw how the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught with authority and even had such authority that he could heal diseases and evil spirits (jinn) ‘with a word’.  But what was even more astounding was that he also had authority over nature.  The Injil records once how he crossed the lake with his disciples in such a way that filled them with ‘fear and amazement’.  Here is the account:

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”  (Luke 8:22-25)

The word of Isa al Masih (PBUH) commanded even the wind and the waves!  No wonder the disciples who were there with him witnessing this event were filled with fear.  That authority to command made them wonder who he was.  There was also another occasion when they were with thousands of people and he had such authority that the people again asked who he was.  But this time he did not command wind and wave – but food.  Here is the account

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.  (John 6:1-15)

When the people saw that Isa al Masih (PBUH) could multiply food many times over so that five loaves and two fish could feed 5000 men and still provide left-overs they knew he was a unique prophet.  So they wondered if he was the Prophet that the Taurat of Musa (PBUH) had predicted long ago would come.  In fact we know that Isa al Masih (PBUH) was indeed this Prophet because the Taurat had said of this Prophet that

I (Allah) will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that The Prophet speaks in my name. (Deuteronomy 18: 18-19)

The Sign of this Prophet was that Allah would put His very ‘words in the mouth’ of this Prophet.  What separates the Words of Allah from that of men?  The best description is that found in Surah YA-SIN

Verily, when He intends a thing, His Command is, “be”, and it is! (Ya-sin 36: 82)

We saw in the last article that the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) healed diseases and cast out evil spirits simply ‘with a word’  Here we see that he speaks a Word and the wind and waves obey.  And then later he speaks and the bread multiplies.  These Signs fit the description given in the Taurat for this Prophet where the words of Allah were put in his mouth because when Isa al Masih spoke – it came to be!

But it is so interesting that the disciples themselves, at this point, had a hard time understanding all this.  They did not understand the significance of multiplying the loaves of bread.  We know this because the Injil records that right after the feeding of the 5000 that:

45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.  (Mark 6:45-56)

Again, the prophet Isa al Masih spoke a Word of Authority and it came to ‘be’. But the disciples did ‘not understand’.  The reason that they did not understand was not that they were not intelligent; it was not because they were not there; not because they were bad disciples; nor was it because they were unbelievers.  No, it says that their ‘hearts were hardened’.  Remember how the Prophet Jeremiah (PBUH) had prophesied that a New Covenant was coming – where the Law was going to be written inside our hearts.  Until that Covenant has changed a person their heart is hard – even the hearts of close followers of The Prophet!  And our hard hearts keep us also from understanding the spiritual truth revealed by the prophets.

This is why the preparing work of the Prophet Yahya (PBUH) is so important.  We saw that he called people to repent by confessing their sin instead of trying to hide it.  If the disciples of Isa al Masih had hard hearts that needed repenting and confessing of sin, how much more you and me!  Perhaps you will join with me in praying silently in your heart to Allah (He knows even our thoughts so we can pray simply by thinking) in the form of confession given by Dawud (PBUH):

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my sins.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me and lead me to understand your Revelation.

This is a prayer I pray and I encourage you to do this also so that the Messages of the Prophets will be understood by soft and pure hearts as we continue to learn from the Injil.

The Prophet Isa (PBUH) heals: by Word of Authority

In our previous article we saw that the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) had taught with great authority, using the authority that only the Masih could rightfully have.  Right after he finished teaching the Sermon on the Mount, the Injil records that:

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”  (Matthew 8:1-5)

So we see that the Prophet Isa (PBUH) now shows his authority by healing a man with leprosy.  He simply said ‘Be clean’ and he was both cleansed and healed.  His words had authority to heal as well as to teach.

But then it records that Isa (PBUH) had an encounter with an ‘enemy’.  The Romans were the hated occupiers of Jewish land at that time.  If you see how some Palestinians feel towards the Israelis today – that would be comparable to how the Jews viewed the Romans at that time.  The worst of them (for the Jewish people) were the Roman soldiers who often abused their power by extorting people.  Worse still were the Roman officers – the ‘centurions’ who commanded these soldiers under them.  Isa (PBUH) now encounters such a ‘hated’ person.  Here is what happened when they met:

Isa al Masih (PBUH) and a Centurion

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.  (Matthew 8:5-13)

The words of the Masih had such authority that he simply had to say the command (from a long distance) and it happened!  But what amazed Isa (PBUH) was that only this pagan ‘enemy’ had the faith to recognize the power of his Word – that the Masih had authority to  Say and it would Become.  The man we expect to have no faith (because he was from the ‘wrong’ people and the ‘wrong’ religion), by the words of Isa (PBUH), would one day join in the feast of paradise with Abraham and the other righteous, while those from the ‘correct’ religion and the ‘correct’ people would be “thrown outside into the darkness”.  We need to be very careful in what we choose to place our faith in, and Isa (PBUH) warns us that it is not religion nor heritage that guarantees paradise.

Jesus raises the dead daughter of a synagogue leader

But this does not mean that Isa al Masih (PBUH) did not heal Jewish leaders.  In fact, one of his most powerful miracles was when he raised the dead daughter of a synagogue leader.  The Injil records it in this manner:

40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

As Jesus was on his way … someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”

53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.  (Luke 8:40-56)

Once again, simply by a Word of Command, Jesus raised a young girl from death.  It is not religion or lack of religion, being Jewish or not, that kept Isa al Masih (PBUH) from doing miracles to heal people.  Wherever he found faith, regardless of their sex, race or religion he would use authority to heal.

Isa al Masih (PBUH) Heals Many, including Friends

The Injil also records that Isa (PBUH) went to the house of Peter, who would later become the chief speaker among his 12 disciples (companions).  And when he got there he saw a need and served.  As it is written:

14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”  (Matthew 8:14-17)

Notice how he had authority over evil spirits which he cast out from people simply ‘with a word’.  The Injil then reminds us that the Zabur had predicted that the miraculous healings would be a sign of the Masih’s arrival.  In fact the prophet Isaiah (PBUH) had also prophesied in another passage by speaking on behalf of the coming Masih that:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me (Note ‘anointed’ = ‘Masih’ so this passage is about the Masih) to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  (Isaiah 61: 1-3)

The Prophet Isaiah had predicted (750 B.C.) that the Masih would bring ‘good news’ (= ‘gospel’ = ‘injil’) to the poor and to comfort, free and release people.  Teaching, healing the sick, and raising the dead were the ways that the prophet Isa (PBUH) fulfilled this prophecy.  And he did all these things simply by speaking a Word of authority to people, to disease, to evil spirits and even to death itself.  This is why the Qur’an calls him:

Behold the angels said: “Oh Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of those nearest to Allah”   Surat 3:45 (Al-Imran)

And the Injil, likewise says of Isa (PBUH) that

… and his name is the Word of God. (Revelation 19: 13)

The prophet Isa (PBUH), as the Masih, had such authority of speech that he was also called ‘Word from God’ and ‘Word of God’.  Since this is what he is called in the Holy Books, we are wise to respect his authority and listen to his teachings.

The Masih Revealed – by Teaching with Authority

After Isa al Masih (PBUH) was tempted by Shaytan (Iblis) he started to minister as a prophet with a unique teaching. This is especially seen in what is now called his Sermon on the Mount recorded in the Injil. You can read the complete Sermon on the Mount here. I summarize some highlights, and then we make a startling connection from what the Prophet Musa predicted in the Taurat. Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught the following:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Adultery

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Divorce

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Oaths

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Eye for Eye

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Masih and the Sermon on the Mount

You can see that Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught with the form “You have heard that it was said … But I tell you … ”. In this structure he usually quotes first from the Taurat, and then extends the scope of the command to motives, thoughts and words to a degree that is astonishing.  Isa al Masih taught by taking strict commands given through the Prophet Musa (PBUH) and made them even much more difficult to do!

But what is also remarkable is the reason that he extends the commands of the Taurat. He does so based on his own authority. He says simply ‘But I tell you…’ and with that he increases the scope of the command. This is one thing that was very unique about Isa al Masih. As the Injil states when he had finished this Sermon

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:28-29)

Indeed, Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught as one who had great authority. Most prophets were only messengers that passed on a message from Allah, but here it was different. Why could Isa al Masih do this? As the ‘Masih’ which we saw here was a title given in the Zabur of a coming one, he had great authority. Psalm 2 of Zabur, where the Title of ‘Masih’ was first given described Allah speaking to the Masih in the following way

and I (Allah) will make the nations your (Masih’s) inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. (Psalm 2:8)

The Masih was given authority over the nations, even to the end of the earth. So as the Masih, Isa had the authority to teach in the way he did.

The Prophet and the Sermon on the Mount

In fact, as we saw here, in the Taurat, the prophet Musa (PBUH) had predicted the coming of ‘the Prophet’, who would be noted in the way he taught. Musa had written

I (Allah) will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that The Prophet speaks in my name. (Deuteronomy 18: 18-19)

In teaching the way he did, Isa was exercising his authority as the Masih and fulfilling the prophecy of Musa of The Prophet who would teach with great authority. He was both Masih AND The Prophet.

You & me and the Sermon on the Mount

If you study carefully this Sermon on the Mount to see how you should live then you are probably confused. How can anyone live these kinds of commands that lay bare our hearts and our motives? What was Isa al Masih’s intent in giving this Sermon?  We can see the answer from his concluding sentence.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Notice that this is a command, not a suggestion. His requirement is that we be perfect! Why? Because God is perfect and if we are to be with Him in Paradise nothing less than perfect will do. We often think that perhaps simply more good than bad deeds – that will be sufficient. But if that were the case, and Allah let us enter his Paradise, we would destroy the perfection of Paradise and turn it into the mess that we have in this world. It is our lust, greed, anger that destroys our lives here today. If we go to Paradise still holding onto that lust, greed and anger than that Paradise will quickly become like this world – full of problems made by ourselves.

In fact, much of Isa al Masih’s teaching focused on our inner hearts rather than outward ceremony.  Consider how, in another teaching, he focuses on our inward hearts.

He (Isa) went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”  (Mark 7:20-23)

So what is going on inside us is very important and the required standard is perfection.  Allah will only let the ‘perfect’ into his perfect paradise. But though that may sound fine in theory it raises a huge problem: How will we get into this Paradise if we are not perfect? The utter impossibility of us being perfect enough could cause us to despair. And that is what he wants! When we despair of ever being good enough, when we stop trusting in our own possible merits then we become ‘poor in spirit’. And Isa al Masih, in starting this whole Sermon, said:

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)

The beginning of wisdom for us is not to dismiss these teachings as not applying to us. They do! The standard is to ‘Be perfect’. As we let that standard sink into us, and realize that we are not capable of that, then we are starting down the Straight Way. We start down this Straight Way because, recognizing our inadequacy, we may be more ready to accept help than if we thought we could do it by our own merits.

The Masih tested by Shaytan

We have seen how the prophet Yahya (PBUH) came to prepare the people for the coming of the Masih. His simple but powerful message was that everyone needed to repent. The Injil goes on to recount that the prophet Isa (PBUH) was then baptized by Yahya (PBUH). This declared that the public ministry of Isa (PBUH) as the Masih was to start. But before it could start the prophet Isa (PBUH) had to first be tested and tempted by the great enemy of us all – by Shaytan (or Satan or devil or Iblis) himself.

The Injil describes this testing in some detail by telling of three specific temptations that Shaytan brought to Isa (PBUH). Let us look at each in turn. (In the temptations you will notice that Shaytan addresses Isa with that difficult title ‘Son of God’. To understand what that means please see my article here).

The Temptation of bread

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-4)

Here we see a parallel to when Shaytan tempted Adam and Eve in Paradise. You may recall that in that temptation the forbidden fruit was ‘… good for food…’ and that was one reason why it was so tempting. In this case, with Isa (PBUH) having fasted (and this fast had no stop – no iftar – or breaking of the fast each evening) for such a long period the thought of bread was understandably tempting. But this outcome was different from Adam since the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) resisted the temptation while Adam did not.

But why was he not allowed to eat during these 40 days? The injil does not tell us specifically, but the Zabur had predicted that the coming Servant would be a representative for the Jewish nation of Israel. The nation of Israel, under the prophet Musa (PBUH), had wandered for 40 years in the desert eating only food (called manna) from heaven. The 40 days of fasting and meditating on the Word of God as spiritual food was a symbolic re-enactment of that time in the desert as the promised Servant.

The Temptation to Test God.

The second temptation was equally difficult. The Injil tells us that

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4: 5-7)

Here Shaytan quotes from the Zabur to tempt Isa (PBUH). It is obvious therefore that in his opposition to Allah, he has studied the sacred writings so he could devise ways to oppose them. He knows the books very well and is an expert on twisting them.

I reproduce the complete passage of the Zabur from which Shaytan had quoted only a small part. (I underlined the part he quotes).

10 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. (Psalm 91:10-14)

You can see that here in Zabur it is about a ‘he’, which Shaytan believed referred to the Masih. But this passage does not say directly ‘The Masih’ or ‘Christ’, so how did Shaytan know this?

You will notice the ‘he’ will ‘trample’ the ‘great lion’ and ‘the serpent’ (v.13 – I put it in red). The ‘lion’ is a reference to the tribe of Judah of the Israelites since the prophet Yakub (PBUH) had prophesied in the Taurat that:

9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah;you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down,like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?

10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. (Genesis 49:8-10)

Yakub (PBUH) as a prophet, had stated long ago in the Taurat (i.e. about 1700 BC) that the tribe of Judah was like a lion from which a ‘he’ would come that ‘he’ would rule. The Zabur  continued this prophecy.  By declaring that ‘he’ would trample the ‘lion’, the Zabur said this ‘he’ would be the ruler of Judah.

The passage of the Zabur that Shaytan spoke from also stated that the ‘he’ would ‘trample the serpent’. This is a direct reference to the First Promise made by Allah in the Sign of Adam that the ‘offspring of the woman’ would crush the serpent. Here it is again with the diagram explaining the characters and the actions in this First Promise:

So the Lord God said to the serpent…

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

the offspring diagram for temptation of isa

This promise had been first given in Sign of Adam, but the details were not clear then.  Now we know that ‘The Woman’ is Mary because she is the only person who had an offspring without a man – she was a virgin.  And therefore her offspring, the ‘he’ that was promised we now know to be Isa al Masih (PBUH).  So I have included these names in this diagram.  As you can see in this diagram, the ancient promise had said that Isa al Masih (the ‘he’) would crush the serpent.  The prophecy in Zabur that Shaytan quoted had reiterated this when it said

“you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” (v13)

So Shaytan quoted from the Zabur which in turn referred to these two earlier prophecies from the Taurat that a ‘he’ was coming that would command obedience and crush Shaytan (the serpent).  So Shaytan knew that the verses he quoted in the Zabur referred to the Masih even though they did not say ‘Masih’.  Shaytan’s temptation was to try to fulfill this in the wrong way.  These prophecies from Zabur and Taurat would be fulfilled, but not by Isa (PBUH) jumping off the temple to draw attention to himself, but by following the plan, without deviation, revealed in the Taurat and Zabur by Allah.

The Temptation to Worship

Shaytan then tempted Isa with everything he had – all the kingdoms of the world. The Injil states that:

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:8-11)

‘Masih’ means ‘anointed’ to rule so Masih had a right to rule. Shaytan tempted Isa (PBUH) with what was rightfully his, but Shaytan tempted him to take a wrong shortcut to his rule, and he was tempting Isa (PBUH) to worship him to get it – which is shirk. Isa resisted Shaytan’s temptation, by (once again) quoting from the Taurat. Isa al Masih (PBUH) saw the Taurat as a very important book and obviously knew it very well and trusted it.

Isa – someone who understands us

This period of temptation of Isa (PBUH) is very important for us. The injil states about Isa:

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)

And

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4: 15-16)

Remember Harun (PBUH) as High Priest brought sacrifices so the Israelites could receive forgiveness. Now Isa (PBUH) in a similar way is considered a High Priest that can sympathize and understand us – even helping us in our temptations, precisely because he himself was tempted – yet without sin.  And so we can have confidence before Allah with Isa (PBUH) acting as our High Priest because he underwent the most difficult temptations but he never gave in and sinned. He is someone who understands us and can help us with our own temptations and sins. The question is: Will we let him?

The Prophet Yahya (PBUH) Prepares the Way

We previously saw that the Zabur was completed and closed by the Prophet Malachi (PBUH) who prophesied that someone would come to ‘prepare the way’ (Malachi 3:1).  We then saw how the Injil opened with the announcement by the angel Jibril (Gabriel) of the births of the prophet Yahya (PBUH) and of the Masih (and he from a virgin).

The Prophet Yahya (PBUH) – in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah

The Injil (Gospel) then records that after his birth Yahya (also known as John the Baptist – PBUH):

And the child [i.e. Yahya or John the Baptist] grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel. (Luke 1:80)

While he lived in solitude in the wilderness the Gospel records that:

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)

Yahya’s (PBUH) strong spirit led him to dress in a rugged manner and eat wild food out of the wilderness.  But this not just because of his spirit – it was also an important sign.  We saw at the close of the Zabur that the Preparer who was promised to come would come in the ‘spirit of Elijah’.  Elijah had been an early prophet of the Zabur who also had lived and ate in the wilderness and had been dressed with a:

garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.” (2 Kings 1:8)

So when Yahha (PBUH) lived and dressed in the way that he did, it was to point out that he was the coming Preparer who had been prophesied to come in the Spirit of Elijah.  His dress, and his living and eating in the wilderness were signs to show that he came in the plan foretold by Allah.

The Injil – placed firmly in history

Then the Injil tells us that:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.  (Luke 3:1-2)

This statement commences the prophetic ministry of Yahya (PBUH) and it is very important since it marks the start of his ministry by placing it next to many well-known rulers in history.  Notice this extensive reference to rulers of that time.  This allows us to historically check much of the accuracy of the accounts in the Gospels.   If you do so, you will find that Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, Annas and Caiaphas are all people who are known from secular Roman and Jewish historians.  Even the different titles that are given to the different rulers (eg. ‘governor’ for Pontius Pilate, ‘tetrarch’ for Herod, etc.) have been verified as historically correct and accurate.  This allows us to make the assessment that from a purely historical point-of-view this was reliably recorded.

Tiberius Caesar ascended the throne of the Roman Empire in 14 AD.  So this being the 15th year of his reign means that Yahya received messages starting in the year 29 AD.

The message of Yahya – Repent and Confess

So what was his message?  Like his life-style, his message was simple, but direct and powerful.  The Injil says that:

John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:1-2)

So part of his message was the pronouncement of a fact – that the Kingdom of Heaven was ‘near’.  We have seen how the prophets of the Zabur had long before prophesied the coming of the ‘Kingdom of God’.  Yahya (PBUH) was now saying that it was ‘near’ at hand.

But the people would not be prepared for the Kingdom unless they ‘repented’.  In fact, if they did not ‘repent’ they would miss this Kingdom.  Repent comes from the Greek word “metanoeo” which means “to change your mind; reconsider; or, to think differently.”  But what were they to think differently about?  By looking at two responses of the people to Yahya’s (PBUH) message we can learn what it was that he was commanding that they should repent from.  The Injil records that the people responded to his message by:

Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. (Matthew 3:6)

You may remember in the Books for the Sign of Adam, how after they ate the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve:

‘hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.’ Genesis 3:8

Ever since, this tendency to hide our sins and pretend that we have not done them is very natural to us.  Confessing and repenting of our sins is almost impossible for us to do.  We saw in the Sign of the Virgin’s Son that Dawud (PBUH) and Muhammad (PBUH) would confess their sins.  This is very difficult for us to do because it exposes us to guilt and shame – we would prefer to do anything else but this.   But this is what Yahya (PBUH) preached that the people needed to do to prepare themselves for the coming Kingdom of God.

Warning to the religious leaders who would not repent

And some did indeed do this, but not all honestly admitted and confessed their sins.  The Injil says that:

But when he [Yahya] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  (Matthew 3: 7-10)

The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the teachers of the Law of Musa.  They were the most religious and worked hard at keeping all the observances (prayers, fasting, sacrifices etc.) commanded by the Law.  Everyone thought that these leaders, with all their religious learning and effort were the ones who for sure were approved by Allah.  But the prophet Yahya (PBUH) called them a ‘brood of vipers’ and warned them about the coming Judgment of fire!  Why?  Because by not ‘producing fruit in keeping with repentance’ this showed that they had not really repented.  They had not confessed their sin but were using their religious observances to hide their sins.  And their religious heritage from the prophet Ibrahim (PBUH), good though it was, had made them proud rather than repent.

Dawud’s confession as our example

So we can see from the warnings of Yahya that repentance and confession of sin is vitally important.  In fact without it we will not enter the Kingdom of God.  And from those warnings to the Pharisees and Sadducees of that day we can see how easy and natural it is to hide our sin in religion.  So what about you and me?  This is recorded here as a warning for us that we also do not stubbornly refuse to repent.  Instead of making excuses for our sins, pretending that we do not commit sins, or hiding them we should follow the example of Dawud (PBUH) who when he was confronted with his sin prayed in the Zabur the following confession:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  (Psalm 51: 1-12)

Fruit of Repentance

With confession and repentance came an expectation of living differently.  The people asked Yahya (PBUH) how they should demonstrate the fruit of their repentance and this is how the Injil records this discussion:

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:10-14)

Was Yahya the Masih?

Because of the strength of his message, many people wondered if he was also the Masih.  This is how the Injil records this discussion:

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.  (Luke 3:15-18)

Conclusion

The Prophet Yahya (PBUH) came to prepare people so that they would be ready for the Kingdom of God.  But he did not prepare them by giving them more Law, but rather by calling them to repent from their sins and to confess their sins.  In fact this is harder to do than to follow more guidelines since it exposes our shame and guilt.  And it was the religious leaders of that day who could not bring themselves to repent and confess their sins.  Instead they used their religion to hide their sins.  But because of the choice they made they were unprepared to receive the Masih and understand the Kingdom of God when he came with his message.  This warning of Yahya (PBUH) is just as relevant to us today.  He demands that we repent from our sins and confess them.  Will we?

Birth of al Masih: foretold by prophets, announced by Jibril

We have completed our survey through the Taurat & Zabur, the books of the prophets from ancient Israel.  We saw in our close of the Zabur that there was a pattern of anticipating a fulfillment of future-looking promises.

But over four hundred years have passed since the Zabur closed.  We saw that many political and religious events occurred in the history of the Israelites while they waited for a fulfillment of the promises, but no new messages from any prophets were given.  The Israelites, however, through the rule of Herod the Great, had continued development of the Temple until it had become a magnificent structure, attracting people from all over the Roman world to its worship, sacrifices, and prayers.  However, the hearts of the people, though very religious and now shunning the idolatry that had so ensnared them in the time of the earlier prophets, had become hard and externally focused.  Just like many of us today, in the midst of religious activities and prayers, the hearts of the people needed to change.  So, towards the end of the rule of Herod the Great, around 5 BC, a unique messenger was sent to make a great announcement.

Jibril announces the coming of John the Baptist (Yahya – PBUH)

This messenger was Jibril, also known in al kitab (Bible) as the archangel Gabriel.  Up until this time he had only been sent to the prophet Daniel (PBUH) regarding the message (see here) as to when the Masih would come.   Now Jibril (or Gabriel) came to a priest named Zechariah (or Zakary PBUH) while he was leading prayers in the Temple.  He and his wife Elizabeth were both old and had no children.  But Jibril appeared to him with the following message as recorded in the Injil (Gospel):

13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” (Luke 1:13-20)

The Zabur had closed with the promise that the Preparer would come who would be like Elijah (PBUH).   Jibril recalls this specific promise by saying that the son of Zechariah (or Zakary – PBUH) would come ‘in the spirit and power of Elijah’.  He was coming to ‘make ready a people prepared for the LORD’.   This announcement meant that the promise of the Preparer was not forgotten – it would be fulfilled in the birth and life of this coming son of Zechariah (or Zakary) and Elizabeth.  However, since Zechariah did not believe the message he was stricken with muteness.

Jibril announces the coming birth from a virgin.

The coming of The Preparer meant that the one people were being prepared for – the Masih or Christ or Messiah – would also come shortly.  Sure enough, a few months later, Jibril (or Gabriel) was again sent to a young virgin woman named Mary with the following announcement recorded in the Injil (Gospel).

28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:28-38)

In the announcement from Jibril himself we see this puzzling title ‘Son of God’.  I discuss it further in my article on it here.  In this article we continue with the account of the births.

The birth of the prophet Yahya (John the Baptist – PBUH)

Events were moving exactly as had been foretold by the prophets of the Zabur.  The prophet Malachi had predicted a Preparer coming in the power of Elijah and now Jibril had announced his birth.  The Injil continues with

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” (Luke 1:57-66)

 The birth of Isa al Masih (Jesus Christ – PBUH)

The prophet Isaiah (PBUH) had foretold the unique prophecy (explained fully here) that

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

Now the archangel Jibril had announced his coming birth to Mary, even as she remained a virgin woman – in direct fulfillment of this prophecy given so long ago.  This is how the Injil (Gospel) records the birth of Isa al Masih (Jesus – PBUH).

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them…. 21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. (Luke 2:4-21)

The coming roles of these two great prophets

Two great prophets were born within months of each other, both in fulfillment of specific prophecies given hundreds of years earlier!  What would their lives and messages be?  Zakary (or Zechariah – PBUH), the father of John the Baptist (Yahya) – PBUH) prophesied about both sons that:

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73     the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:67-79)

Zechariah (PBUH), receiving an inspired recitation, connected the birth of Isa (Jesus) to a promise given to Dawud (PBUH – see the promise here) as well as Ibrahim (PBUH – see the promise here).  The plan of God, foretold and growing for centuries, was now reaching its climax.  But what would this plan involve?  Was it salvation from the enemy Romans?  Was it a new law to replace that of the prophet Musa (PBUH)?  Was it a new religion or political system?  None of these (which is what we humans would be looking to bring about) is mentioned.  Instead the plan specified is ‘enabling us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness’ with ‘salvation through the forgiveness of their sins’ motivated by the ‘tender mercy of our God’ for those of us ‘living … in the shadow of death’ to ‘guide our feet in the path of peace’.  Ever since Adam we have been condemned to enmity and death trying to attain righteousness and the forgiveness of our sins.  And in front of Adam, Eve and Shaytan, Allah had pronounced a plan that centered on an ‘offspring’ from ‘the woman’. Surely this kind of plan is better than any plan for wars and systems of thought and conduct that we look for.  This plan will meet our deepest needs, not our surface needs.  But how will this plan for the Preparer and the Masih unfold?  We look for answers as we continue to learn about the Good News of the Injil.

Zabur Closes – with Promise of the Coming Preparer

The coming of the Prophet Yahya (PBUH) Foretold

We saw in the Sign of the Servant that the Servant was promised to come. But the whole promise of his coming balanced on an important question. Isaiah 53 began with the question:

Who has believed our message …? (Isaiah 53:1a)

Isaiah (PBUH) was predicting that this Servant would not be readily believed, and the problem was not with the message or the Signs of the Servant because they would be precise in timing by cycles of ‘Sevens’ as well as by name and specifying that he would be ‘cut off’. The problem was not that there were not enough signs. No, the problem was that the hearts of people were hard. So someone needed to come before the Servant came to prepare people for his coming. Therefore the prophet Isaiah (PBUH) gave this message about the one who would prepare the way for the Servant. He wrote this message in his book of the Zabur in the following way

A voice of one calling:

“In the wilderness prepare

the way for the LORD;

make straight in the desert

a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be raised up,

every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level,

the rugged places a plain.

And the glory of the LORD will be revealed” Isaiah 40:3-5

Isaiah (PBUH) wrote about someone who would come ‘In the wilderness’ to ‘prepare the way for the LORD’. This person would smooth out the obstacles so that the ‘glory of the LORD will be revealed’. But Isaiah did not specify in what way this would be done.

The Prophet Malachi – Last Prophet of Zabur

The Prophets Isaiah, Malachi and Elijah (PBUT) shown in historical timeline
The Prophets Isaiah, Malachi and Elijah (PBUT) shown in historical timeline

About 300 years after Isaiah came Malachi (PBUH) who wrote the last book of the Zabur. In this last book Malachi (PBUH) elaborates on what Isaiah had said about a coming Preparer. He wrote:

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:1)

Here again the messenger who would ‘prepare the way’ is predicted. After this Preparer comes then ‘the messenger of the covenant’ will come. What covenant is Malachi (PBUH) referring to? Remember that the prophet Jeremiah (PBUH) had predicted that Allah would make a new covenant by writing it in our hearts. Only then would we be able to quench our thirst which always leads us to sin. This is the same covenant that Malachi (PBUH) is referring to. The giving of that covenant will be signaled by the coming of the Preparer.

Malachi (PBUH) then closes the entire Zabur with the last paragraph of his book. In that last paragraph he again looks to the future and writes:

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” Malachi 4:5-6

What did Malachi (PBUH) mean by ‘Elijah’ would come before the great day of the LORD? Who was Elijah? He was another prophet whom we have not looked at (we cannot look at all prophets of Zabur since it would make this too long but see him in timeline above). Elijah (PBUH) lived around 850 BC. He was famous for living in the wilderness and wearing garments of animal hair and eating wild food. He probably looked quite peculiar. Malachi (PBUH) wrote that in some way The Preparer who comes before the New Covenant will be like Elijah (PBUH).

And with that statement, the Zabur was completed. This is the last message in the Zabur and was written about 450 BC. The Taurat and the Zabur were full of promises of things to come. Let us review some.

Reviewing the Promises of Taurat & Zabur that were still unfulfilled

So with the close of the Zabur in 450 BC the Jewish people lived in anticipation of the fulfillment of these wonderful promises. And they kept waiting and waiting. One generation replaced another and then still others would come – with no fulfillment of these promises.

What happened after the Zabur was completed

As we saw in the History of the Israelites, Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world in 330 BC and from these conquests the peoples and civilizations of the world adopted the Greek language. As English today has become a universal language for business, education and literature, in that time Greek was similarly dominant. Jewish teachers translated the Taurat and Zabur from Hebrew into Greek around 250 BC. This translation was called the Septuagint. As we saw here, this is where the word ‘Christ’ comes from and we saw here that this was where the name ‘Jesus’ also comes from.

The Prophets Isaiah, Malachi and Elijah (PBUT) shown in historical timeline
The Prophets Isaiah, Malachi and Elijah (PBUT) shown in historical timeline

During this time (300 – 100 BC which is the blue period shown in the timeline) there was an ongoing military rivalry between Egypt and Syria and with the Israelites dwelling right between these two empires they were regularly caught up in the battles. Some specific Syrian kings sought to impose the Greek religion (a religion of idol worship) on the Israelites and to eradicate their worship of One God. Certain Jewish leaders led an uprising to defend their monotheism and restore the purity of worship instituted by the Prophet Musa (PBUH). Were these religious leaders the fulfillments of these promises that the Jews awaited? These men, though faithful followers of worship as instructed in the Taurat and Zabur, did not fit the Prophetic Signs. In fact they themselves did not even claim to be prophets, just pious Jews defending their worship against idolatry.

Historical books about this period, describing these struggles that preserved the purity of worship were written. These books provide historical and religious insight and are very valuable. But the Jewish people did not regard them as being written by prophets and so these books were not included in the Zabur. They were good books, written by religious men, but they were not written by prophets. These books were known as the Apocrypha.

But because these books were useful they were often included alongside the Taurat and Zabur to give a complete history of the Jewish people. After the Injil and the message of Isa al Masih (PBUH) was written the books of Taurat, Zabur and Injil were combined into one book – al kitab or Bible. Some Bibles today will even include these books of Apocrypha, though they are not part of Taurat, Zabur or Injil.

But the promises given in Taurat and Zabur were still fulfillment. Following the Greek influences the powerful Roman Empire expanded and replaced the Greeks to rule over the Jews (this is the yellow period that comes after the blue in the timeline above). The Romans ruled efficiently but harshly. Taxes were high and the Romans tolerated no dissent. The Jewish people longed ever more for the fulfillment of the promises given in Taurat and Zabur, though in their long wait their worship became very rigid and they developed many extra rules not from the prophets but from traditions. These extra ‘commands’ seemed like good ideas when they were first suggested but they quickly replaced the original commands of the Taurat and Zabur in the hearts and minds of the Jewish teachers.

And then finally when it looked like perhaps the promises were long forgotten by Allah, the mighty angel Gabriel (Jabril) came to announce the long awaited birth of the Preparer.  We know him today as the Prophet Yahya (or John the Baptist – PBUH) . But that is the beginning of the Injil, which we look at next.