Christian History Jesus (as)

Jesus Exonerated

18 JESUS EXONERATED (Abdullah Nasir Boateng) It cannot be a gainsay that some people find it difficult to reason on the subject of religion. Such people are strongly convinced that theirs is the right religion and therefore no more discussion is needed-.-Such people are fanatics. Islam does not encourage fanaticism in matters of religion since a fanatid usually ignores the good qualities of other religions and all the bad qualities of his own. It is a well-known fact that the purpose of the author(s) of a religious book is, first and foremost, to make clear to their readers the meaning and message of his / their writings, notwithstanding the use of parables, similes and metaphors. The authors of the Bible might also have had the same purpose in mind. BIBLICAL TEXT The Bible is a volume of miscellaneous characters. It was written by many authors, some of whose names are known and others unknown. Each part of the Bible must therefore be interpreted in its context and that means its immediate context of time, place and human, situation to which it belongs. The Biblical narratives cover the whole span of Near Eastern civilization from the ancient times until C.E 100, a period of several millennia within which a succession of sweeping changes took place. It is therefore important to relate the various phases of the Biblical narratives to their proper historical context if we are to understand them right. We should, for instance, know the background history of Antiochus Epepnanes, The lost sheep of the’House of Israel, ‘The Jews of the Dispersion’ and so on. We should also not underestimate the influence exercised by climate and terrain on a peoples’ outlook and way of life, including its culture and religion. To understand the ‘Bible well, the everyday life of the people concerned, their loves and hates, their hopes and fears, their social relations and so forth should be borne in mind. PUNISHMENT In the remote past the Jewish people used to crucify criminals either by nailing or tying them to a cross and leaving them to die of exposure. Adulterers and adulteresses and those who blasphemed the Name of God were put to death by stoning. For example, anybody who claimed to be God Almighty was immediately charged with blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16). REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 19 Confirmed false prophets or impostors were also to be killed (Deut. 13: 1-5; 18:20) At another place we read: And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death by hanging him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree but you should bury him the same day for.a hanged man is accursed by God, you shall not defile your land which the Lord your God gives- you for art inheritance. (Deut. 21: 22,23) Jesus, on whom be peace, was put on the cross because the Jews of his time thought that he was guilty of blasphemy (John 10:33; Matt 36:65) and of imposture for falsely claiming to be the then awaited Jewish Messiah or Christ (John 7:40-52). MISINTERPRETATION It is very strange that those people who claim to be the true followers of Jesus, on whom be peace, have agreed with those Jews who out of bigotry and envy preferred false charges against Jesus before Pilate (Matt 2 7: 17—18). The accusers of Jesus before Pilate interpreted the scriptures out of their context. They completely ignored the use of metaphor and other figures of speech. Those Christians who agree with the Jews for condeming Jesus also entertain the cherished hope that the selfsame Jesus after preparing a place for them in Heaven would return to send them thither. They usually cite the following in support of this hope: Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, and believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms: If it were not so, I would have told you. I will come again and receive you unto myself and where I am there you may be also (John 14:1—3). The above verses are very clear in meaning. Jesus asked his disciples to stand firm in their belief in himself as one sent by God (John 17:3). Jesus then affirmed the fact that there was adequate accommodation for the true worshippers of God Almighty in Heaven and if that were not the case he himself would have volunteered to go there and prepare accommodation for those who had followed him in sincerity and had thus forsaken the world. But as there was indeed adequate accommodation in Heaven already, what was the need for Jesus to go and find a place for anybody? This is the reason why Jesus said elsewhere: I go to the Father, and you will see me no more (John 16:10) 20 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS THE WELL OF GOD Time and again the Prophets or Messengers of God have warned men that true Salvation depends on submission to the will of Almighty God. Jesus, on whom be peace, also made several references to the importance of the submission of one’s will to the will of God Almighty; Not every one who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 7:21) I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me (John 5:30). For I have come down from Heaven not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me (John 6:38). Submission to the will of God is called Islam and the one who has submitted to the will of Almighty God is a Muslim in the Arabic language. Those humble people who have sincerely submitted to the will of the Creator of the heavens and the earth have been addressed as follows in the Holy Quran: Proclaim: We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us and in what was revealed to Abraham, Ishamel, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and in what was given to Moses and Jesus and other Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them and to Him we submit. And whoso seeks a religion other than Islam it shall not be accepted of him, and in tha hereafter he shall be among the losers. (Al-Imran 3:85-86). According to the Quran the religion which provided true realization of God and prescribes His true worship is Islam (3:20). Islam is inherent in man’s nature (30:30—31) and that is one of the reasons why Jesus, on whom be peace, said: My food is to do the will of him who sent me (John 4:34). The Quran further asks: Do they seek religion other than Allah’s while to Him submits whosoever is in the heavens and earth, willingly or unwillingly and to Him shall they all be returned? (3:84). Thus the true religion belongs to God alone. On the eve of his arrest, we are told that Jesus, on whom be peace, REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 21 became very sad and prayed submissively to Amighty God for deliverance. la the state of prostration, Jesus prayed thus: Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt, (Mark 14: 34—36) God’s will in this repect was to save His humble servant from the accursed death because Jesus was neither guilty of blasphemy nor imposture. CHARGES Jesus, on whom be peace, said: I and the Father are one. The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them: I have shown you many good words from the Father; for which of these do you stone me? The Jews answered him; We stone you for no good work butfor blasphemy; because you being a man make yourself God. Jesus answered them; Is it not written in your law; I said, you are gods? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and the scripture cannot be broken) do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, you are blaspheming because I said I am the Son of God? (John 10:30—36) Here it is evident the the Jews in accordance with their law of blasphemy (Lev. 24:16), and taking the literal meaning of the statement I and the Father are one. had wanted to stone him to death on the spot. Jesus, however, went to the extent of explaining what he meant by quoting Psalm 82 6-9, where the former Prophets as of God (i.e. those who received the word of God) have been metaphorically called Gods’, a title which is much higher than Son of God! Hence there was no question of a breach of the law of blasphemy by Jesus, these titles God and Son of God have been used metaphorically in the Old Testament. A few examples can be cited here: Moses was made ‘God’ before Pharaoh and his brother Aaron was his ‘Prophet’ (Exodus 7:1). Jacob or Israel was called ‘The first born son of God’ . (4:22) King Solomon was also-referred to as the ‘Son of God’. (2—Samuel 7:14). The charge of blasphemy against Jesus by the Jews is therefore not justifiable. This is because Jesus himself admitted that these titles God and Son of God have been used mataphorically by himself. 22 REVIEW OF REIIGIONS In the light of the fore-^oing, is it right for a Christian still to maintain that the sonship of Jesus should be taken literally and not metaphorically? If it is true that the sonship of Jesus is to be taken literally, then why did Jesus not face his Jewish accusers squarely with a-positive answer to the effect that he was God but rather resorted to that sort of explanation? PROBLEM Soon after Jesus had indicated that he was the much awaited Jewish Messiah, a serious problem cropped up. This was so because the Jewish divines knew perfectly well that the advent of the awaited Messiah was linked up with the prophecy relating to the second advent of Elijah the Prophet. Elijah, we are told, went up by a whirlwind into-Heaven (2 Kings 2:11). The prophecy about his second advent reads; I wiH send Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, (Malachi 4:5) Prophet Elijah was therefore expected to be the forerunner of the Messiah. The Jews had not as yet seen Prophet Elij ah descend from the sky but Jesus had put forth his claim to the Messiahship. Jesus was therefore confronted with this difficulty, namely: Why then say the Scribes that Elijah must first came? (Matt 17:10). Jesus replied: Elijah has already come but they did not know him Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. (Matt.l7:ll-13) Because, as further explained, John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah. (Luke 1:17; Matt. 11:11). MOSAIC LAW The Jews who could not find their way clear of this explanation rejected Jesus’s claim to the Messiahship and charged him with imposture. Both charges of blasphemy and imposture carried the death penalty in the Mosaic Law. Now, dear readers, do you agree with the Jews that Jesus, on whom be peace, was guilty of both charges? Whatever it is, from the facts of the case, Jesus cannot be adjudeged guilty of the charges. Hence he did not die an accursed death in order to save anybody. He was completely innocent and therefore: In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to Him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. (Hebrews 5:7)

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