Surah Adh-Dhariyat (Surah 51 – The Winnowing Winds) describes how the Prophet Musa PBUH was sent to Pharaoh.
And in Moses (was another Sign): Behold, We sent him to Pharaoh, with authority manifest. (Surah Adh-Dhariyat 51:38)
The Prophet Musa manifested or showed his authority by miraculous powers over nature, including the parting of the Red Sea. Whenever someone claimed to be a prophet (as Musa had) he faced opposition and had to prove that he was worthy of trust as a prophet. Notice the pattern as Surah Ash-Shu’ara (Surah 26 – The Poets) describes this cycle of rejection and proof that prophets have undergone.
The people of Noah rejected the apostles.
Behold, their brother Noah said to them: “Will ye not fear (God)?
“I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust: (Surah Ash-Shu’ara 26:105-107)
The ‘Ad (people) rejected the apostles.
Behold, their brother Hud said to them: “Will ye not fear (God)?
“I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust:
“So fear God and obey me. (Surah Ash-Shu’ara 26:123-126)
The Thamud (people) rejected the apostles.
Behold, their brother Salih said to them: “Will you not fear (God)?
“I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust.
“So fear God, and obey me. (Surah Ash-Shu’ara 26:141-144)
The people of Lut rejected the apostles.
Behold, their brother Lut said to them: “Will ye not fear (God)?
“I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust.
“So fear God and obey me. (Surah Ash-Shu’ara 26:160-163)
The Companions of the Wood rejected the apostles.
Behold, Shu’aib said to them: “Will ye not fear (God)?
“I am to you an apostle worthy of all trust.
“So fear God and obey me. (Surah Ash-Shu’ara 26:176-179)
These prophets all faced rejection and it was their burden to prove that they were prophets worthy of trust. This was also true for the Prophet Isa al Masih.
The Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) had authority in teaching and healing ‘with a word’. He also had authority over nature. The Injil records 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 were filled with fear. Such authority to command made them wonder who he was. On another occasion when he was with thousands of people he showed similar authority. 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), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 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?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “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 so that five loaves and two fish could feed 5000 men and still provide left-overs they knew he was a unique prophet. They wondered if he was the Prophet that the Taurat of Musa (PBUH) had predicted long ago would come. 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 answer is repeated in the following ayat, starting with Surah An-Nahl (Surah 16 – The Bee):
For to anything which We have willed, We but say the word, “Be”, and it is. (An-Nahl 16:40)
Verily, when He intends a thing, His Command is, “be”, and it is! (Ya-sin 36: 82)
It is He Who gives Life and Death; and when He decides upon an affair, He says to it, “Be”, and it is. (Ghafir 40:68)
The prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) healed diseases and cast out evil spirits simply ‘with a word’. Now we see that he speaks a Word and the wind and waves obey. Then he Speaks and the bread multiplies. These Signs in the Taurat and Quran explain why when Isa al Masih spoke, it came to be – because he had authority. He was the Masih!
Hearts to understand
But the disciples themselves had a hard time understanding this. They did not understand the significance of multiplying the 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’. The Prophet Jeremiah (PBUH) had prophesied that a New Covenant was coming – with the Law going to be written inside our hearts. Until that Covenant has changed someone their heart is hard – even the hearts of close followers of The Prophet! And our own 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. 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 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. (Psalm 51:1-4, 10-12)
I pray this and I encourage you to do so also that the Messages of the Prophets will be understood by soft and pure hearts as we continue in the Injil.