Isa al Masih (PBUH) offers ‘Living Water’

Previously we learned how the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught how we should treat those we consider to be our enemies. In our present-day world where we have conflict between Sunni and Shiite, supporters and opponents of Assad in Syria, Palestinians and Israelis … in Iraq … in Ukraine – no matter what country you may find yourself in there is most likely conflict between different groups where people hate and kill each other. This has turned our world into hellish misery. Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught in this Parable that our entry into Paradise was dependant on how we treated our enemies!   We should carefully consider this if we want entry into Paradise.

But it is easy to teach one thing, yet act quite differently. Even many imams and other religious teachers have taught one thing but lived quite another. What about the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH)? On one occasion he had an encounter with a Samaritan. (Remember that in his day there was enmity between Jews and Samaritans that is similar to that between Palestinians and Israelis today). Here is how the Injil records the encounter.

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

17 “I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

33 Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”  (John 4:1-42)

Notice how the Samaritan woman was surprised that the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) would even initiate a conversation with her – there was considerable enmity between Jews and Samaritans in that day. Isa started by asking to drink some of the water she was drawing from the well. He did this for two reasons. First, as it says, he was thirsty and wanted a drink. But he (being a prophet) also knew that she was thirsty in an entirely different way. She was thirsty for joy and satisfaction in her life. She thought she could satisfy this thirst by having unlawful relations with men. So she had had several husbands and even as she was speaking to the prophet she was living with a man who was not her husband. Everyone viewed her as immoral. This is probably why she had gone alone to get water at noon since the other women in the village did not want her to be with them when they went to the well in the cool of the morning. This woman had had many men, and her shame alienated her from the women in the village.

We saw in the Zabur how the prophets wrote how sin is from a deep thirst in our lives – a thirst that must be quenched. Many today, whatever their religion, live in sinful ways because of this thirst.

But the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) did not avoid this sinful woman.  Instead he told her that he could give her ‘living water’ that would quench her thirst. But he was not speaking of physical water (which as he said if you drank once you would be thirsty again later) but a change in her heart, a change from the inside. The prophets of the Zabur had prophesied that this Covenant of a new heart was coming. Isa al Masih (PBUH) offered her this new covenant of a changed heart ‘welling up to eternal life’.

To Believe – Confessing in truth

But this offer of ‘living water’ threw the woman into a crisis. When Isa told her to get her husband he was purposefully causing her to recognize and admit her sin – to confess it. This is something we avoid at all costs! We prefer to hide our sins, hoping no one will see. Or we rationalize, making excuses for our sin.   Adam & Eve had done this in the Garden and still today we prefer to hide or excuse our sin. But if we want to experience the Mercy of God leading to ‘eternal life’ then we must be honest and admit our sin, because the Injil promises that:

If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

For this reason, when the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) told the Samaritan woman that

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth...

By ‘truth’ he meant being truthful and authentic about ourselves, not trying to hide or excuse our wrong. The wonderful news is that Allah ‘seeks’ and will not turn away worshipers who come with honesty like this.

But it was too difficult for her to admit her sin. A common way to hide our shame is to change the subject from our sin to that of a religious dispute. Today the world is full of religious disputes. In that day there was a religious dispute between the Samaritans and the Jews regarding the proper place of worship. The Jews stated that worship should be done in Jerusalem and Samaritans held that it should be on a mountain further north called Mount Gerizim. By switching to this religious dispute she was hoping to divert the conversation from her sin. She could now hide her sin behind this religious dispute.

How easily and naturally we do the same thing – especially if we are religious. Then we can judge how others are wrong or how we are correct – all the while ignoring our need to confess our sin.

The prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) did not enter into this dispute with her. He insisted that it was not so much the place of worship, but her honesty about herself in worship that mattered. She could come before Allah anywhere (since He is Spirit), but she needed to come in truth about herself before she could receive this ‘living water’.

She now had an important decision to make. She could continue trying to hide behind a religious dispute or perhaps just leave. But she finally chose to admit her sin – to confess – so much so that she went back to the village to tell others how this prophet knew her and what she had done. She did not hide anymore. In doing this she became a ‘believer’. She had been religious before, as many of us are, but now she – and many in her village – became ‘believers’.

To become a believer is not simply about mentally asserting correct teaching – important though that is. It is also about believing that His promise of mercy can be trusted, and therefore there is no longer a need to cover up sin. This is what the Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) had done so long ago to obtain righteousness – he trusted a promise.

Do you excuse or hide your sin? Do you hide it with devout religious practice or religious dispute? Or do you confess your sin? Why not come before Allah our Creator and truthfully confess sin causing guilt and shame? Then you can rejoice that He ‘seeks’ your worship and will ‘purify’ you from all unrighteousness. For sure we need to continue in the Injil to understand how He will do this and how we should live. We see from the conversation that this woman’s understanding of the prophet Isa (PBUH) as the ‘Messiah’ (= ‘Christ’ = ‘Masih’) was important and that after the prophet Isa (PBUH) had stayed and taught them for two days they understood him as ‘the Saviour of the world’.  Perhaps we do not fully understand what this all means.  But as the Prophet Yahya (PBUH) had prepared the people to understand, to confess our sin will prepare us to receive Mercy from Him. This is indeed a step on the Straight Way.

‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

Isa al Masih (PBUH) teaches on … entering paradise

Do you hope to enter heaven (paradise) one day? What is required for you and me to enter heaven? Isa al Masih (PBUH) was once asked this question by a Jewish ‘expert’ educated in the interpretation of all aspects of the sharia law of the prophet Musa (PBUH). Isa al Masih (PBUH) gave him an unexpected answer. Below is the conversation recorded in the Injil.  To appreciate the effect of Isa’s parable on this expert you must understand that ‘Samaritans’ were despised by the Jews in that day. They were considered unclean. In return the Samaritans hated the Jews. The hatred between Samaritans and Jews back then would be similar today to maybe that between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, or between Sunnis and Shiites, or supporters and opponents of Assad in Syria.

Parable of Eternal Life and the Good Neighbour

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”  (Luke 10:25-37)

When the expert in the Law answered ‘Love the Lord your God’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ he was quoting from the Sharia Law of Musa (PBUH). Isa indicated that he had answered correctly but this raised the question of who was his neighbour. So Isa al Masih (PBUH) told the parable of the Good Neighbour.

In the parable we expect that the religious people (the priest and the Levite) would help the man who had been beaten, but they ignore him and leave him in his helpless state. Their religion has not made them Good Neighbours. Instead, the person we least expect, the one we assume is his enemy – he is the one who helps the man who had been beaten.

With this parable, Isa al Masih (PBUH) commands to “go and do likewise”. I do not know about you, but my first reaction to this parable was that I must have misunderstood it, and then I was tempted to just ignore it and pretend I never read it.

But think of all the fighting, killing, heartache and misery which is happening all around because the great majority of people do ignore this command. If we lived like this Samaritan then our cities and countries would be peaceful rather than full of fighting. And we would also have an assurance of entering paradise. As it stands, very few people have an assurance that they have eternal life – even if they live very religiously like the expert in the Law did who was talking with Isa (PBUH).

Do you have assurance of eternal life?

But is becoming this kind of Neighbour even possible? How can we do this? If we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that being a Neighbour like he commanded is too difficult to do.

And here we may see a glimmer of hope because when see that we cannot do it we become ‘poor in spirit’ – which Isa al Masih (PBUH) had also taught was necessary to enter the ‘Kingdom of God’

Perhaps instead of just ignoring this parable, or excusing it away, we should use it to examine ourselves and acknowledge that we cannot do it – it is too difficult. Then, in our helplessness, we can ask Allah for help. As Isa al Masih (PBUH) had promised in the Sermon on the Mount

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  (Matthew 7:7-11)

So we have the Masih’s permission to ask for help – and help is promised.  Perhaps pray to Allah something like this:

Father in Heaven. You have sent the prophets to teach us the straight way. Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught that I need to love and help even those who consider themselves my enemy, and without doing this I cannot get eternal life. But I find that this is impossible for me to do. Please help me and change me so that I can follow this path and get eternal life. Be Merciful to me who is a Sinner.

By Masih’s encouragement and permission I pray to you God

(The specific words are not important – it is that we confess our need and ask for mercy)

The injil also records a time when Isa al Masih (PBUH) encountered a Samaritan. How would the prophet treat a person who was considered a hated enemy of his people (the jews)?  What happened in his encounter with the Samaritan, and what we may learn to help us become the kind of Neighbour we need to be, we will look at next.

Isa al Masih (PBUH) teaches – with Parables

We have seen how Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught with unique authority. He also taught using stories that illustrated true principles. For example, we saw how he taught about the Kingdom of God using the story of a Great Banquet, and how he taught about forgiveness through the story of the Unmerciful Servant. These stories are called parables, and Isa al Masih (PBUH) is unique among prophets and teachers in how much he used parables to teach, and how striking his parables are. His disciples asked him on one occasion why he taught by using parables. The Injil records his explanation:

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” (Matthew 13:10-13)

His last sentence was a recitation of the prophet Isaiah (PBUH) who lived 700 BC and had warned against a hardening of our hearts. In other words, sometimes we do not understand something because we missed the explanation or it was too complex to comprehend. In such a situation a clear explanation dispels the confusion. But there are other times when we do not understand because deep down inside our hearts we do not want to. We may not admit this, so we keep asking questions as if a lack of mental comprehension is our block. But if the confusion is in our hearts and not in our minds then no explanation will be sufficient. The problem then is that we are unwilling to submit, not that we cannot mentally understand.

When the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught in parables, the effect on the crowd that he was teaching was dramatic. Those that simply did not understand with their minds would become curious from the story and inquire further, gaining understanding, while those who were unwilling to submit would treat the story with contempt and disinterest and they would get no further understanding. Using parables was a way for the master teacher to separate people as the farmer separates wheat from chaff by winnowing. Those who were willing to submit were separated from those who were not willing. Those people unwilling to submit would find the parable confusing since their hearts were unwilling to submit to its truth. Though seeing, they would not see the point.

Parable of the Sower and the Four Soils

When the disciples were asking the prophet Isa (PBUH) the question about his teaching in parables, he had been teaching a group of parables on the Kingdom of God and its effect on people. Here is the first:

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)

So what did this parable mean? We do not have to guess, since those who had hearts willing to submit were intrigued by the parable and asked for its meaning, which he gave:

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:18-23)

We can see that there are four responses to the message about the Kingdom of God. The first has no ‘understanding’ and so the devil (Iblis) takes the message away from their hearts. The remaining three responses are all initially very positive and they receive the message with joy. But this message must grow in our hearts through difficult times. It is not just to be acknowledged in our minds to then continue living our lives as we want. So two of these responses, though they initially received the message, did not allow it to grow in their heart. Only the fourth heart, who ‘hears the word and understands it’ would truly submit in the way that Allah was looking for.

One point of this parable is to make us ask the question; ‘which of these persons am I?’  Only those who truly ‘understand’ will become a good crop. One way to strengthen understanding is to clearly see what the previous prophets, beginning with Adam, revealed about the will and plan of God through the Taurat and Zabur. This is why we began with these first prophets. After Adam, important Signs in the Taurat come from the promise to Ibrahim (PBUH) and his sacrifice, Musa (PBUH), the Ten Commandments, Harun (PBUH). In the Zabur, understanding the origin of ‘Masih’, and the revelations of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Daniel and Malachi will also prepare us to understand the ‘message of the Kingdom of God’.

The Parable of the Weeds

After the explanation of this parable the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught the parable about weeds.

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Here is the explanation he gave

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast

The prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) also taught some very brief parables.

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

In other words, the Kingdom of God would start small and insignificant in this world but would then grow throughout the world like yeast working through the dough and like a small seed growing into a large plant. It does not happen by force, or all at once, its growth is invisible but everywhere and unstoppable.

Parables of the Hidden Treasure and Pearl of Great Value

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13: 44-46)

These parables focus on the value of the Kingdom of God. Think of a treasure which is hidden in a field. Since it is hidden everyone passing by the field thinks the field is of little value and thus they have no interest in it. But someone realizes there is a treasure there making the field very valuable – valuable enough to sell everything in order to buy it and get the treasure. So it is with the Kingdom of God – a value unnoticed by most, but the few that see its worth will gain great value.

The Parable of the Net

47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The Kingdom of God will separate people. This separation will be fully revealed on the Day of Judgment – when hearts are laid bare.

We can see that the Kingdom of God grows mysteriously, like yeast in dough, that it has great value which is hidden from most, and that it causes different responses among people. It also separates people between those that understand and those that do not. After teaching these parables the prophet Isa al Masih then asked his listeners an important question.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” they replied.

What about you?

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?