Conversation with Muslims about Christ -- Booklet 7
THE STUMBLING BLOCK OF THE CROSS EXPLAINED TO MUSLIMS
How can we bring the redemption of Jesus Christ to Muslims?
The third and last main dogmatic hindrance for a Muslim in becoming a Christian is their belief that Christ was not really killed but that it only looked as though he was crucified. How is it possible to share the Gospel of the crucified Son of God with a Muslim in spite of this counter-belief? Find out by reading our suggestions as to how this is possible on the basis of the Old Testament, the New Testament, rational thinking, the Koran and your personal testimony.
The rejection of the expiatory death of Christ in Islam
I. Promises about the expiatory death of the Messiah in the Old Testament
II. The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the New Testament
III. Secular sources on the Crucifixion of Jesus
IV. Helpful verses in the Qur'an which make the death of Jesus imaginable
V. The special grace of acknowledging sin
VI. The Lamb of God
VII. The witness out of experience
The Stumbling Block of the Cross Explained to Muslims
How can we bring the redemption of Jesus Christ to Muslims?
The rejection of the expiatory death of Christ in Islam
Anyone who talks to a Muslim about Jesus and the salvation he accomplished can reach a point in his conversation where the Muslim no longer answers, but silently smiles. Asked about the reason for his humor, he may answer:
● You Christians follow a mirage! You are already deluded! (Sura al-Fatiha 1:7) The Son of Mary was neither killed nor did He die on a cross (Sura al-Nisa' 4:157), on the contrary, Allah lifted Him up to himself (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:55; al-Nisa' 4:158). His crucifixion never took place.
● Other Muslims claim that Allah is just. He therefore saved the innocent Christ from the tortures of the cross. Instead he let Judas, the betrayer, be crucified (Sura al-Nisa' 4:157). Even today Muslims are still convinced of the truth of this position.
● Whoever deepens his knowledge of the reasons for the rejection of Christ's crucifixion in the Qur'an, will find a third argument out of the bag of tricks of the father of lies: No human being, according to the Qur'an, is entitled to carry the sins of another before the judgement of Allah (Suras al-An'am 6:154; al-Isra' 17:15; al-Fatir 35:18; al-Zumar 39:3; al-Najm 53:38), for everybody has to ask for his own forgiveness from the Holy One. According to Islam, any substitutionary sacrifice is impossible.
● The fourth argument against the possibility of the crucifixion of Christ, according to the Qur'an, is: Allah does not need a mediator, nor bloody sacrifices, lambs and substitutes to forgive sins. He is sovereign, he forgives whomever he wants and misleads whomever he wants (Suras al-An'am 6:39; al-Ra'd 13:27; Ibrahim 14:4; al-Nahl 16:93; al-Fatir 35:8; al-Muddathir 74:31). If Allah seduces someone, no one can ever help him anymore (Suras al-Nisa' 4:88,143; al-A'raf 7:178,186; al-Ra'd 13:33; al-Isra' 17:97; al-Kahf 18:7; al-Zumar 39:23,36; Ghafir 40:33; al-Shura 42:44,46).
● The fifth argument, out of inventions from the underworld, against the necessity of the expiatory death of Jesus is the most persistent one. Many Muslims consider themselves good enough to achieve justification by their own efforts. They believe that their good deeds expel their bad deeds (Sura Hud 11:114). They hope to be saved, if they fulfill all duties commanded by their law (Shari'a). Therefore, they think that they do not need a redeemer nor a cross. This Islamic belief is an indirect inheritance from Jewish Pharisaism.
● Religious jurists among Muslims claim that Allah has determined the destiny of every human being in advance, when each individual was still in the mother's womb, and that it would be impossible to reverse Allah's determination. They believe that nothing happens in a man's life except what has been written about him in the original book in heaven. They see no need for someone on the cross and his sacrificial death for others.
● Most Muslims are not aware of these different arguments. However, as a summary of these points, there is a cultural consensus in Islamic society, in that the cross of Christ is taboo to all Muslims. They think that the cross is a cover for all kinds of political and religious crusaders who want to destroy the power and culture of Islamic states. The hatred towards the cross of our redeemer has its roots deep in a collective bondage, which cannot be overcome by logic alone. It will not help much to prove the fact or the meaning of the cross of Christ intellectually. We should pray for them, that they realize the truth and believe it. This anti-Christian spirit has to be overcome and driven out in the name of Jesus and the love of God!
If we consider the rejection of the crucifixion and the complex twists and lies including the collective hatred against the Saviour Jesus, one may easily despair of bringing the salvation accomplished by Christ to the Muslims. However, anyone who recognizes the promises in the Old Testament as a divine preparation for salvation, and does not depart from the realities in the New Testament, and if he takes secular sources or contradicting verses in the Qur'an pointing to Christ's crucifixion, such a person can testify with the apostle Paul with confidence and assurance:
"Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1)
These five sources of truth are stronger than the seven denials of the Muslims. Let us prayerfully proclaim the victory of Christ on the cross even over worldwide Islam.
I. Promises about the expiatory death of the Messiah in the Old Testament
Many Muslims believe in the predestination of all things. Anyone who can show them the fact that according to the Torah, the Psalms and the Prophets the promised redeemer had to die on the cross in our place, confessing the precise fulfillment of these prophecies in the life of Christ, can help Muslims to believe in Jesus dying on the cross. We should study the 333 promises in the Old Testament and their fulfillment in the New Testament in order to adjust ourselves to the Muslims' belief in predetermination. Jesus Himself overcame Satan and the doubts of His disciples several times with the words: "It is written!" (Matthew 4:4,6-7; Luke 18:31; 21:22; 24:46; John 5:46 and others).
Moses lifting up the snake
Jesus explained the unavoidable necessity and the purpose of His dying on the cross to Nicodemus, a God-fearing member of the Jewish religious court (Sanhedrin), by pointing to a report in the Torah: Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. (John 3:15)
With this example Jesus referred to the iron snake that Moses had to set up according to God's order and which he then put up on a pole. Everyone of the horrified people who looked at this "symbol of evil" were healed immediately even though bitten by a snake.
Why did Jesus compare Himself with the snake, which has always been considered the epitome of all evil (Genesis 3:1-15)? In His love, Jesus absorbed the sins of all sinners, so that He appeared to be like the Evil One yet remaining holy, as Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians: God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Jesus emphasized that there is no other possibility of salvation for those who were led astray by the Evil One, except His dying in their place. He wanted to and had to suffer for the sins of all sinners on the cross as our substitute.
Jesus - the Passover lamb
Our Lord exercised the traditional Passover celebrations with his disciples to reveal that He Himself was the God-given Passover lamb. He extended the liturgy of the meal and explained to His followers that the promises of the Passover will be fulfilled by His imminent death (Matthew 26:26).
● Just as, after its slaughter, the blood of the first Passover lamb was painted on the doorframe of every house of Israelite slaves in Egypt, so that God's wrath and judgement would pass them by, in the same way every man who will put himself and his family under the protection of the blood of Christ will be saved from God's wrath and judgement. Muslims have a vague grasp of this secret, for they believe that the blood of slaughtered animals could protect them (Exodus 12:7,13,22-23; Act 16:31).
● Just as Jacob's children had to eat the roasted meat of the Passover lamb as families in their houses, in order to get strength for their exodus from slavery, in the same way Jesus Christ, the true Passover lamb, wants to abide in those who follow Him strengthening them to flee from the slavery of sin and Satan (Exodus 12:3-6, 8-11, 43-48; Matthew 26:26; John 6:35, 48-59).
● As there is no forgiveness without bloodshed (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22) one of the goals of the eternal Passover lamb Jesus remains the total atonement for the sins of all those who open themselves to the purification through His blood, if they trust in His sacrifice and thank him for the power of His blood (Hebrews 10:14).
● Jesus called the blood He shed the blood of the covenant (Genesis 24:4-8; Matthew 26:27-28), in which He bound himself to His church forever. Whoever enters into this blood-sealed relationship in faith should be holy, as God is holy (Leviticus 11:44). He should love as Jesus loved (John 13:34) and forgive everyone as God forgave him (Matthew 6:12, 14-15).
We should help the Muslims understand that the Lord's Supper is the fulfillment of the Passover meal in the Old Testament. Whoever believes in the Lamb of God will be purified from all his sins and can experience Jesus living in him.
The psalm of suffering
Psalm 22 is a detailed prophecy describing the suffering of Christ on the cross. These verses were inspired to David about 1000 BC. Its predictions and their precise fulfilling show that there is a divine purpose and an inevitable necessity behind the crucifixion of Jesus.
There are more than ten prophecies about the suffering of Christ on the cross in this psalm. Anyone who is willing can find guidance to understand and believe by comparing these verses and their fulfillment in the death of Jesus on the cross:
|Psalm 22||Mt 27||Mk 15||Lk 23||Jn 19|
|6: I am scorned by men and despised by the people||33, 41-44||29||36-37||-|
|7a: all who see me mock me||33, 41-44||29||36-37||-|
|7b: they hurl insults, shaking their heads||39||29||-||-|
|8: He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue Him, let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him||43||-||-||-|
|11: there is no one to help||42||30-31||37||-|
|15: my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth||-||-||-||28|
|16a: a band of evil men has encircled me||41-43||31-32||-||-|
|16b: they have pierced my hands and my feet||-||24||33||19:18, 20:20|
|17: people stare and gloat over me||-||-||35||-|
|18a: they divide my garments among them||35||24||34||23|
|18b: and cast lots for my clothing||35||24||-||24|
|1: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?||46||31||-||-|
Whoever considers these Old Testament prophecies of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross will understand:
● How must the loving and sensitive soul of Jesus have suffered when His own people did not recognize Him, but despised Him and mocked Him! In the Middle East being despised is often considered to be worse than death!
● How must His body have almost been torn to pieces in the agony of pain, but he did not wail.
● How must His Spirit have suffered when God His Father left Him for our sins' sake! We cannot fathom the depths of His cry: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:2)
It seems unthinkable to some commentators, that God truly left His only beloved son! But Jesus does not lie. He said: "You have forsaken me!"
Human logic protests: If God left Him, this would be a sign that Jesus had sinned!
The Bible counters: He who was without sin carried our sins. The sin of the whole world was weighing down on Him. Because of our sins God left Him.
Some try to compromise and say, the father only hid His face from the Son and appeared as a judge to Him because of our sins.
However the Bible says: He really left Him! The Unity of the Holy Trinity was divided and broken. This means hell! It is the beginning of the end and an entering into darkness. Matthew and Mark report only this one of the seven words of Jesus on the cross. This cry remains a stumbling block to the church. However, this word expresses, more than any other words of Jesus, that our salvation has been completed!
Jesus confessed first: "My God! My God!" Jacob struggled with the Lord at the Jabbok River, and the Lord wanted to leave him. But Jacob did not let the Lord go despite the fact that he was extremely guilty. He shouted, "I will not let you go unless you bless me!" Through His faith Jacob overcame the judging Lord and received His blessing (Genesis 32:23-32). On a higher level, Jesus did not let the God who judges go. He clung to His Father, although His Father had already left Him. But by faith He did not let His Father go. He shouted and prayed, "My God! You remain my God, even though I can no longer see you. I will not let you go - unless you save my followers!" The faith of the Son in His Father's love and faithfulness overcame the judging God. His faith is the victory that overcame the world (1 John 5:4). Through His faith we have been saved (John 16:33)!
After His struggle with the almighty Lord, Jacob received a new name: Israel! This name says: he has struggled with God and has overcome. Jesus is the true and real Israel! He struggled with God for the salvation of mankind and won through His faith! He held fast to His Father, even in despair when He was far away from Him. He prayed in the minute before His death: "Father, into your hands, I commit my Spirit!" (Luke 23:46), although He could no longer see the Father.
If you ponder these promises in the Old Testament and see their fulfillment in the New Testament, you can realize that the Old Testament already includes the New Testament.
The Suffering Slave of God
The probably most important promise regarding the substitutionary death of Jesus in the Old Testament was revealed to Isaiah, the prophet of redemption. We suggest to all readers of this booklet to memorize the unique text of this revelation. From it you can gain great strength for your soul, an everlasting comfort and find a perfect answer to the Islamic rejection of the cross.
Surely He took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered Him stricken by God,
smitten by Him, and afflicted.
But He was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
and by His wounds we were healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
These three verses are the core of the whole chapter. A Muslim student in Casablanca was encouraged to read this passage before his fellows and then was asked what he thought about the person about whom this passage speaks. He answered, after a thoughtful pause: "If this story is true, then this man must have had great love!" The young Muslim grasped the secret of the gospel!
Why did this Muslim not reject this distilled description of the suffering of Jesus and his death? The reason is that he did not stumble over the words "cross" and "son of God"! They are not written in this text. That is why he could understand what actually happened on the cross. Isaiah 53 speaks of Yahweh's slave who suffered and died in the judgment of God as a substitute for His sinful people. Philippians 2:7 confirms this testimony, reflecting to the confession of Jesus, who called Himself the servant of all (Matthew 10:28; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Hebrews 2:14,17).
What can Isaiah 53 tell us and all Muslims?
Jesus deeply humbled Himself and took on Him our sickness, misdeeds, sins, crimes, our egoism, and endured our punishment in the judgement of God. The Lord Himself cast all our sins on Him. Because of our sins, He was beaten, tortured, wounded, and finally crushed and killed.
In return, we were granted peace with God and the healing of all our wounds because He took them all on Himself. His substitutionary self-sacrifice is completed, guaranteed, secure and valid forever.
The tortured Lamb of God will have many descendants and will complete God's plan of salvation - also among Muslims and Jews. He will save many of them from their sins and can overwhelm even the strong ones.
If you memorize the whole 53rd chapter of Isaiah, from verse one to twelve, you will have a strong tool to proclaim the victory of Jesus over Islam! This text should be distributed, neatly presented and printed as a poster (without a cross and without the phrase "Son of God"). In this way it can outflank, from within, the denial of Christ's crucifixion.
Other verses about the crucifixion of the Messiah in the Old Testament
Looking for other promises and prophecies about the death of Jesus in the Torah, the psalms and the prophetic books, you can find several verses and their fulfillment in the New Testament:
God slew animals and shed their blood in paradise to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21).
The son of Eve will crush the head of the snake with his bare foot and will be poisoned by it (Genesis 3:21, Revelation 12:4,5,15-17).
The one hung on a tree is under God's curse (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23; Acts 5:30)!
They gave Him vinegar to drink (Psalms 69:22; Matthew 27:33; John 19:29).
Into your hands I commit my Spirit (Psalms 31:6; Luke 23:46).
The curtain of the temple was torn (Exodus 26:31-33; Matthew 27:51).
No single one of His bones was broken (Exodus 12:46; John 19:33-34).
They will look on me, the one they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:37; Revelation 1:7).
The thirty silver coins in the Old Testament
In the last prophetic book, there is a peculiar description of the thirty silver coins that Judas accepted when he betrayed his Lord (Matthew 26:14-16).
I told them, "If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it." So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, "Throw it to the potter" - the handsome price at which they priced Me! (Zechariah 11:12-13)
In this text, Yahweh, the Lord of the covenant, says, "The thirty silver coins are the price at which they priced Me!" Is Jesus Yahweh? Did the Lord of the covenant become a man in Jesus Christ (Isaiah 40:3-5; 60:1-2; Luke 2:11 and others)?! His betrayal through Judas for thirty coins of silver was revealed to Zechariah long before it happened!
An everlasting truth is hidden in the texts of the Old Testament and in the corresponding verses in the New Testament, which witness to the death of Jesus on the cross. Anyone who really wants to learn will be able to understand. The special call in the last book of the Bible is also directed to Muslims and Jews: "He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the church!" (Revelation 2:7 and others)
II. The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the New Testament
Unfortunately many Muslims hesitate to accept the reports of the suffering Christ and His death on the cross as historical truth. They smile and think: poor Christians! They mean well, but they are lost in the desert of their imaginations and in their delusions. They see three Gods instead of one and imagine that one of them was crucified! Most Muslims are convinced that Christ was not crucified.
However, not all Muslims think so radically. Some are ready to listen to the reports of the crucifixion of Jesus or to watch them enacted in a movie. Two Muslims saw the Campus Crusade film on the life of Jesus. Afterwards one said to the other: "Why do our sheiks always claim that Christ has not been crucified? With my own eyes I saw Him hanging on the cross and dying!" Whenever possible, we should open one of the four accounts of the crucifixion of Christ and put the book in the hands of the interested Muslim, so that he may read it himself out loud and meet Jesus in these words.
Jesus introduces Himself: \\ The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 18:11; 20:28; 26:63-64) About 80 times in the four gospels Jesus called Himself the "Son of Man". Although He, by this expression, appeared as Lord and judge of the world according to Daniel 7:13-14, He emphasized His humanity and His incarnation as a humble servant at the same time. By doing so He turned the standards of all cultures upside down: The first should consider himself last and the last is promised to be first. The greatest shall bow down and be the lowest and the sufferer will be lifted up by God's love (Matthew 20:26-27; 23:11-12; Mark 9:35; 10:44; Luke 22:26-27).
Anyone who follows Jesus will become a servant, not a master! This is a new avenue of thought, the complete opposite of Islamic thinking. Our God is a humble God, but Allah is proud (Sura al-Hashr 59:23). The Islamic line continually exalts itself, the line of Christ and of His followers constantly abases itself. The cross of Christ requires a change in our attitude, otherwise it will make us stumble.
In Islam, a terrorist who is ready to sacrifice his life to liberate his country often calls himself a "redeemer" (fida'i). Christ is the true redeemer (faadi) who sacrificed His life to free all, who follow Him, from God's judgement, from the power of sin, from Satan's cunning tricks, and from eternal death. Jesus bought our freedom from all negative powers that bind us. He is a servant of the despised and the redeemer of the slaves of Satan. Christ's love and humility are the key to understanding His death on the cross.
The absolute necessity for Christ to suffer
Some passages in the gospel that reflect a criticism of the cross can be a help to critical Muslims!
After the testimony of Peter (Matthew 16:16) Jesus honored the spokesman of His disciples but wanted to deepen his view of a reigning Messiah to the reality of the suffering servant of God. He revealed to him that He had to go up to Jerusalem, to suffer, and to die there in order to be raised on the third day (Matthew 16:21).
Peter, however, was horrified. He thought Jesus was suffering from depression, and encouraged Him: "May God protect you from such evil! This shall never happen to you!" (Matthew 16:22). Jesus looked at him sternly and called him Satan(!) and said, "Get behind me Satan!... You are an offence to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men" (Matthew 16:23).
How could it come to this sudden change in the conversation between Jesus and the spokesman of His disciples? Peter tried to thwart the crucifixion of Jesus, the goal and purpose for which He had become a man. Jesus at once distinguished the voice of Satan in the obviously well-meant words of the apostle, because Satan hates nothing more than the cross of the son of God, the place of his complete defeat.
The same revealing words of rebuke could also be directed at Muhammad, who let Allah do anything to save the Son of Mary from His crucifixion.
Jesus explained three times to His disciples that the reason for His coming was to carry out His unavoidable suffering and death (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-18): We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life (Matthew 20:18-19)!
The further Jesus approached Jerusalem, the more He became aware of the details of His suffering and death, including His resurrection. He was more than a prophet. He was the word of God in person. He always talked to His Father in heaven, who revealed to Him future events precisely.
A normal, thinking man may object: "If Jesus knew all this, why did He not flee abroad or emigrate, like Muhammad did from Mecca to Medina? Why did not Jesus hide or disguise Himself?" A divine necessity drove Him! He knew that there would be no salvation for mankind without His vicarious death. He obeyed the will of His Father in heaven to the very death! This necessity appears strange and repulsive to Muslims!
Jesus in Gethsemane
Jesus hesitated, mourned bitterly and was deeply troubled by His coming death, when He prayed in the olive garden under the walls of Jerusalem. His disciples slept, and could not help Him with their supplications. He, however, prayed: "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39)
The man Jesus with His soul and body shrank from the judgement of God that was to take place in His death. But the Son of God in Him overcame the will of the flesh and yielded faithfully to the will of the One, who loved Him. The cross of Jesus was not a picnic, nor a management ploy, but a fight of heaven versus hell. Jesus accepted the infinite will of His Father and prayed a second and third time: "My father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." (Matthew 26:42)
True "Islam" or total surrender became visible in this prayer-fight of Jesus. Nobody forced Him to surrender to the will of His Father; He was impelled by unwavering love trusting in the perfect spiritual guidance of His Father.
The disciples' failure and Jesus' patience
The disciples had passed through the best Bible college in the world with practical training in the presence of the best teacher ever. When the test came, as Jesus was arrested, they all failed the final examination. They fled into the darkness of the night! Peter struck the ear of a soldier with His sword, and denied knowing His Master and Lord even with an oath (Matthew 26:56,69-75).
How did Jesus react? How did He remedy the failure of His beloved ones? He prayed for them while hanging on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) He completed the salvation of the world alone and cried at the end of His agony: "It is finished!" (John 19:30)
At this moment He also settled the justification of His fallen disciples without them knowing it. He saved the whole world, including all Jews and all Muslims, with His salvation. Jesus does not have to die again for Muslims or for Jews! He loved and loves all, including those who hate Him. He waits for them to.
The responsible Roman officer wanted to be sure that the "King of the Jews" was definitely dead and struck a lance under the ribs right into His heart. This lance thrust would have been enough to kill Jesus. However the torture of the cross had already accomplished its aim. The lance thrust served as proof of the true death of Jesus. How can Muhammad then say, "They did not kill him! They did not crucify him! He only appeared so to them" (Sura al-Nisa' 4:157)?
When Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared in His spiritual body to His hidden and fearful disciples behind locked doors, He did not rebuke them for their flight, but greeted them, "Peace be with you!" (John 20:19) When they did not grasp that it was really Him, He showed them the wounds in His pierced hands and feet, and the wound in His side (John 20:20). Then they recognized that the crucified and buried Jesus was really alive, standing in their midst!
Afterwards the risen Lord again started to teach them the plan of salvation in the Old Testament. During these 40 days, He showed them from the Torah, the Psalms, and the Prophets that Christ had to suffer in order to enter His glory (Luke 24:26-27). He opened their minds, so that they could understand the Scripture and assured them, "This is what is written: The Christ must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day." (Luke 24:46)
Jesus Himself guides us to the right method for serving Him among Muslims. When Muslim seekers, after a time of real interest in the message about Christ, run away and do not rest in their faith, just as the first disciples of Jesus did: Then our task is to gather them again and start the Bible lessons anew, just as Jesus did with His disciples!
The great breakthrough
After Jesus had prepared His Apostles to be anointed with the Holy Spirit as the result of His sacrificial death on the cross, the disciples asked Him, "Lord, will you establish the kingdom of God as the Messiah of Israel in the next days?" They were still aiming at a religio-political kingdom! They had not understood the message of Jesus about a spiritual kingdom. After 40 days of special training by the risen Lord Himself, they failed the exam again! They were still thinking in worldly terms, politically and humanly. However, the moment they received the power of the Holy Spirit, their vision and their preaching changed radically. They gained the courage to express the truth in love. They declared to the horrified audience that they all were killers, that with the help of the occupying Roman soldiers they had nailed Jesus, the Messiah, to the cross (Act 2:23).
What did the shocked crowd of Jews answer? Nothing! Not a single word! No one out of the crowd shouted: "Shut up! Be quiet! We did not kill Him, we did not crucify Him!" rather they were silent. The silence of the Jews is a proof for the historical fact that Jesus was crucified. If they had the slightest chance to deny the guilt of this crucifixion, they would have cried out and protested loudly. Yet, they remained all silent. They themselves had shouted, "Crucify, crucify Him!" (Matthew 27:22-26; John 19:15).
Peter and the Apostles repeated their call for repentance on several occasions and witnessed to the striking truth of the crucified Messiah before the crowd in the temple, after the healing of a lame man, and before the Sanhedrin. None of the high priests and teachers of the law could disprove their testimony, for they had all participated in the crucifixion of Jesus as active eye-witnesses (Acts 2:36; 3:13-15; 4:10; 5:30; 7:52 and others).
Whoever understands the consequences of the Apostles' testimony in these seven verses of Acts and grasps the dumbfoundedness of these Jews can find strong evidence there for the reality of the crucifixion of Jesus. Muslims understand that no man will let himself be called a murderer unless he is clearly convicted of murder! These seven verses thus prove the fact of the crucifixion of Christ.
We should also recognize that the apostles were not able to testify to the crucifixion of Jesus and to His resurrection as the great victory of God except after the Holy Spirit had entered their hearts. They would have remained silent, unable to understand what had happened, for a long time.
When witnessing to Muslims our explaining and teaching will be of little use until the Holy Spirit enlightens their minds, just as Dr. Martin Luther wrote, "I believe that I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him by my own logic or willpower, but the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, purified me, and kept me in the right faith, just as He calls and gathers all Christian believers on earth and keeps them in the right united faith."
Prayer for the preparation and opening of the minds of the Muslims and the renewing of their hearts through the Holy Spirit is as important as a wise testimony about the risen Saviour, especially prepared to meet the Muslim context.
III. Secular sources on the Crucifixion of Jesus
Many Muslims are unwilling to listen to the testimony of the Bible because they were taught that the Bible has been falsified. For such misguided friends, especially if they are intellectuals, we should do our best to find hints on the crucifixion of Christ in secular sources, which have nothing or little to do with Christian teaching.
Two famous ancient historians reported the death of Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth. One of them is Tacitus in his book, Annals, and the other is Flavius Josephus in his book, The Jewish War. Josephus reports in detail about Jesus and his crucifixion under Pilate in volume VIII, chapter 3:3. Both historical works are internationally recognized and can help upright Muslims to rethink the reality of the death of Jesus.
The same is true for the Belgian Talmud. Jews lived for some time in Belgium among Christians and had to give answers when blamed on the crucifixion of Jesus. They wrote down that Jesus, the son of Joseph, just died. This note in the Talmud stands in contrast to the rejection of Jesus by orthodox fanatics who decided that "His name shall be forgotten and deleted from all memories. Never again may his name be mentioned among our people!"
A derisive note on Jesus was found inscribed in the basement of the Palladium in Rome. A big cross was engraved on a wall and a man with the head of a donkey hanging on it. Under the cross a Roman soldier can be seen kneeling and worshipping the crucified one while other Roman soldiers make fun of Him. This picture of Jesus clearly shows that the crucifixion of Jesus was already known among secular Romans and discussed publicly, since Roman soldiers has started to believe in the Saviour they had executed.
There are further indications to the historical fact of the crucifixion of Jesus that can make every Muslim think. During the reign of Jamal Abd al-Nasser in Egypt the late Pope John XXIII tried to clear the Jews living today from the blame of having murdered Jesus. The Egyptian president, however, reacted furiously, and answered the Pope on TV and other media: "We have understood your plan! You want to justify all Jews and Israel! We will never permit this! We know who killed Christ: The Jews crucified Him and nobody else!" Muslim leaders, Christian bishops, priests, pastors and other responsible persons smiled. It was obvious that, in order to condemn Israel, Jamal Abd al-Nasser was ready to admit that the Qur'an was mistaken!
According to the law of the Shari'a the theological jurists of the al-Azhar University in Cairo or of other Islamic centers should have protested and corrected Nasser's statement within one month, otherwise it would receive general validity. However, the scholars feared the dictator or, maybe, they did not want Israel to be justified. The important point is that the Islamic dignitaries remained silent, and thus, by the principles of the Shari'a, indirectly admitted that they knew that Christ was indeed crucified. Yet, they could not admit this frankly, because it would contradict the well known verse in the Qur'an. Anyway, in order to condemn Israel, they accepted the lesser evil!
Today liberal and moderate Jews, who dissociate themselves from the fanaticism of the orthodox Jews, live in the state of Israel. Many of them tried to explore the Jesus phenomenon in order to bring back this great, lost brother to His people. They confirmed the birth of Jesus in "Nazareth", wondered, however, if it might be a case of rape by a soldier of the occupying Roman power. They discussed His teachings and miracles. But what did they write about His death? Did they deny His crucifixion like Muhammad? What was their answer to this awkward question? They describe the execution of Jesus as a legal error! They do not question the fact of his crucifixion. All Jews with one voice would deny the crucifixion of Jesus to free themselves of the 2000 year burden in their history, if there was only the slightest possibility. But they know that historical facts cannot be changed and will speak for themselves.
IV. Helpful verses in the Qur'an which make the death of Jesus imaginable
If you study the different statements of Muhammad about the death of 'Isa in the Qur'an, you can find contradictions and a progressive hardening in his attitude towards the corss. It starts with a tolerating acceptance of his death and goes to an ambivalent but consequent denial of Jesus' death. However there are certain weaknesses in these verses as well as possible hints to the cross of Jesus, which we present here for your witness to Muslims.
The execution of prophets by the sons of Israel is presented and condemned ten times in the Qur'an (Suras al-Baqara 2:61,87,91; Āl 'Imran 3:21,112,181,183; al-Nisa' 4:155,157; al-Ma'ida 5:70). One of these references says:
"We gave 'Isa, the Son of Mary the clear signs and strengthened him with the Spirit of holiness. Will you then, every time a messenger comes to you with something you don't like, proudly call some of them liars and others you kill?" (Sura al-Baqara 2:87)
Such verses were written during Muhammad's time in Medina. He did not deny the repeated execution of prophets in the Old Testament, but presented them as charges against the Jews. Yet, he could not imagine that the Son of Mary was stoned as well, although he linked Him to the executed prophets directly (Suras al-Baqara 2:87; al-Nisa' 4:157). The logic of the Qur'an thus seems to require the death of Jesus as well.
Jesus' death in the Qur'an
There is a peculiar verse in Sura Maryam that could almost be understood to be a Christian testimony in the Qur'an. In this verse 'Isa introduces himself in the Qur'an and summarizes his life in one sentence:
"Peace is upon me the day I was born, the day I will die and the day I will be sent alive." (Sura Maryam 19:33)
Muhammad revealed this admission of 'Isa in order to justify his mother Mary and to show that her son was not an illegitimate child. His birth was under Allah's favor and his peace. Here, the incarnation of the Word of God and His Spirit in Christ shines through in the Qur'an (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:45; al-Nisa' 4:171; Maryam 19:20; al-Anbiya' 21:91; al-Tahrim 66:12 and others). It is also an echo of the angels' song in the fields of Bethlehem (Luke 2:14).
Christ appears in the Qur'an as a man of peace. He did not sin (Sura Maryam 19:19), He was not a violent evildoer (Sura Maryam 19:32). He did not take part in wars, murder or hostile speeches. Christ was a peacemaker, which is the literal meaning of the word Muslim. He is the only true Muslim, the Prince of peace.
This verse (Sura Maryam 19:33) also reveals a clear and definite statement about the death of Christ. These words have always proved a stumbling block to Muslim commentators. They twisted its meaning and wrote that, no doubt, 'Isa would have to die, but not in His first earthly life, but only after His second coming. He would return to destroy first the Antichrist, then kill all pigs and eliminate all crosses. Afterwards He would marry, have children and would convert all men (including all Christians) to Islam. Only then would He die! His death would be the "knowledge of the final hour" (Sura al-Hujurat 49:61). After His burial next to Muhammad in Medina, Allah himself would appear on the day of judgement, raise Muhammad and Christ from the dead and put them on thrones so that they should participate in the judgement of the world.
A grammatical insight can help you to overcome this cunning twist. Verse 23 does not contain the word "saufa" which alone would transfer 'Isa's death into the far future, but instead it speaks of his near, natural death, in a natural sequence of birth, death and resurrection. All other interpretations are dreams or lies to veil the reality of Jesus' death.
There is a similar verse in Sura Maryam about John the Baptist (Yahya), which should degrade 'Isa to Yahya's level. Here, Jibril, Allah's messenger says, "Peace will be on him the day he will be born and the day he will die and the day he will be sent forth alive." (Sura Maryam 19:15)
John is known to have been beheaded and buried. This fact was described in the same context of events as 'Isa's: firstly birth, then death, and finally resurrection. However, in 'Isa's case the commentators purposely twisted this order to erase the possibility of a death on the cross.
Maybe Muhammad presented 'Isa and Yahya together in order to show that 'Isa would not be of divine nature. But in spite of this he let 'Isa introduce himself as if he was giving a heavenly "revelation", whereas Yahya was only introduced by Jibril. In the Qur'an 'Isa stands higher than Yahya. The Son of Mary appears as a spirit of Allah in the flesh and as his word, that has become incarnate, whereas Yahya was only a child normally born from parents who were known.
According to the Qur'an 'Isa lived without sin (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:45; al-Nisa' 4:171; Maryam 19:19 and others). Therefore He did not have to die for his own guilt. This allows the interpretation that he took the sins of all people on himself and died in their place, reconciling the Creator and the world through His expiatory death. In the Qur'an 'Isa confirms that the peace of Allah will rest on him even at the day of his death!
The most deceiving one
Another verse that shows the development of the attitude of Muhammad towards the death of Christ can be found in Sura Āl 'Imran:
"They deceived, and Allah deceived, and Allah is the best of all deceivers, because he said: O 'Isa, I will let you pass away (die) and lift you up to me." (Sura Āl 'Imran 3:54-55)
According to the Qur'an the cunning people were the Jews. They tried secretly to kill 'Isa, but Allah saw through their plan of murder in advance. However Allah was more cunning than all of them, He let 'Isa pass away peacefully and then lifted him up to heaven into his presence.
What was this "greatest of all tricks" that is here attributed to Allah by the Qur'an itself? He saved Christ from a violent death by stoning or crucifixion! In this way Muhammad stealthily tried to abolish the cross of Christ by simply not mentioning it. Three expressions related to this "philanthropic trick" stand out from the rest of the words in this verse.
To abolish the cross of Christ Muhammad called Allah the craftiest of all! The Bible uses this horrible phrase only for "the snake" in paradise (Genesis 3:1)! Faced with the cross, the spirit of Islam had to confess who he really was and is! Allah had to reveal himself before the cross as "the best of all deceivers" (khair-ul-maakirin)! We should grasp the far reaching consequences of this Qur'anic statement for ourselves and our friends. In Ephesians 6:11-20, Paul commands all servants of Christ not to try to break collective demonic bindings by their own power and wisdom, but to pray, believe and serve solely in the name of Jesus Christ and in the power of His Spirit. Where the cross of Christ is cunningly denied, we leave the sphere of logic and enter into the area of spirits and demons. The blood of Christ remains our only protection (1 John 1:5-2:2), and His Spirit is our only power (Act 1:8).
The other word in this text is "mutawaffika". Allah says, "I will let you pass". This word has several meanings. It also expresses the sense of "falling asleep gently" or of "finishing one's life successfully". Muhammad used this complex word to satisfy Christians as well as Muslims. To the first He had died, to others He had not. In their opinion 'Isa had been raptured into heaven without pain. Muhammad was clever. He spoke not only in two, but, if necessary, even in three senses, using only one word!
The Turkish and Indonesian translations use for this word of the Qur'an the equivalent of "I will let you die in peace", because that is the meaning closest to the root of this word. Some other translators, however, struggle with this expression, to please Islamic commentators.
Muhammad used to say, "War is deception!" Holy War, which includes arguing with Christians and Jews, is therefore full of deceit and tricks. We should change our approach and become wise! Not everything they say in Islam is meant as it is said!
After Muhammad had stated that the cross of Christ had been avoided and eradicated through the "wiliest trick" of Allah, he breathed a sigh of relief and tried to satisfy the delegation of Christians from northern Yemen, who (according to the biography of Muhammad by Ibn Hisham) had come to discuss matters of faith with him in Medina. He made Allah lift 'Isa up to himself! This is a sensational statement in the Qur'an. Christ is alive! Muhammad is dead! According to the Qur'an 'Isa today lives with Allah and talks to him (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:55; al-Nisa' 4:158; al-Ma'ida 5:110-111,116-118; al-Anbiya' 21:28 and others). Muhammad, however, waits in an intermediate stage (Barzakh) for the resurrection of the dead and the day of judgement. This is why all Muslims have to pray for him, that he may have peace, every time they pronounce Muhammad's name (Sura al-Ahzab 33:56).
The spirit behind Islam can tolerate a living and returning Christ, and integrate it into its Muslim system of faith, but it can never accept His cross and His deity! Thus, the warnings of Paul and John apply to Islam, too (Galatians 1:8-9; 1 John 2:21-27; 4:1-5). Every missionary dialogue with Muslims should, therefore, not only make friends, but include prayers for their release from their collective bondage. Muhammad knew why he warned his followers of any kind of friendship with people of other faiths, especially Christians (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:28; al-Nisa' 4:89; al-Anfal 8:73; al-Mumtahana 60:1,9). We should not fear contacts with Muslims, because the blessing of Christ is stronger than the curse of Muhammad (Matthew 5:44-45; Suras Āl 'Imran 3:61; al-Tawba 9:29 and others)!
The specific word that includes the meaning "falling asleep gently" is used for the death of Christ a second time in the Qur'an (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:117). There, the Son of Mary speaks to Allah personally in direct conversation, after His ascension and confirms that the Almighty had let Him pass away and had taken over the responsibility for His disciples in His place. Christ's gentle death is presented in the Qur'an in two ways, once as still approaching, in the near future tense and once as completed, in the past perfect tense, so that the reader of the Qur'an should be sure that Christ was never crucified, but was painlessly transported to Allah himself!
The final denial of the crucifixion of Christ
The only verse in the Qur'an that denies the crucifixion of 'Isa directly (Sura al-Nisa' 4:157) represents the end of Muhammad’s development in his attitude to the death of Christ. This verse abrogates and nullifies all previous "revelations", if these permitted the possibility of the crucifixion of the Son of Mary. This rejection of a painful execution of Christ was expressed in an ambiguous way, though, so that it leaves space for doubts and contrary interpretations. In Sura al-Nisa' we read:
"The Jews said, 'We have killed the Messiah, 'Isa, the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah!' – They have not killed him, they have not crucified him, he only was made to appear so to them! Truly those who are in disagreement about him, are in doubt about him. They do not know (the reality) about him, but follow assumptions. They have not crucified him for sure, but Allah lifted him up to himself. Allah is mighty and wise." (Sura al-Nisa' 4:157-158)
This text contains several traps:
● It is unlikely that the Jews in Medina confessed in public that the Son of Mary was the true Messiah and Allah's messenger! They neither believed in the virgin birth of Jesus, nor in His incarnation. They rejected Him completely as Messiah and called Him Beelzebub's ally, the highest of the devils (Matthew 12:22; Mark 3:22-27; Luke 11:14-23). This statement in the Qur'an cannot have originated with the Jews, because they did not recognize Jesus as the messenger of God, but concealed and dropped His name completely.
It is however conceivable that the Jews wanted to warn Muhammad that he should no longer bother and threaten them, otherwise they would kill him, just as they had killed his "Qur’anic" Messiah 'Isa. It is possible that they ironically used the title of the Messiah as a derisive threat.
● Muhammad was threatened several times by the Jews in Medina, and also by the merchants of Mecca. But he calmed himself down by saying, "Allah is faithful. It is impossible that he would give the faithful 'Isa into the hands of the Jews. Otherwise it would be conceivable that I, too, could fall into their hands." For the sake of Allah's faithfulness and his own security, he rejected their threat and furiously replied, "They did not kill him! They did not crucify Him!"
● Muhammad nowhere said that Jesus was not at all killed and crucified. He only stressed that it was not the Jews who executed the Christ! Maybe he had heard that the Jews usually did to crucify their enemies, but that they stoned them. Under the occupying Roman power they did not even have the right to sentence anybody to death or execute him. Therefore Muhammad in a sense is right! The Jews did not kill or crucify Jesus! This statement of the Qur'an, in this sense, is right and our agreement to it can decrease the tension between Christians and Muslims.
All over the world it is known that the Romans crucified thousands of rebellious slaves and foreign criminals. Thus, this verse in the Qur'an grants the possibility that it was the Romans who actually crucified Jesus. Today liberal Muslims, who want to build a bridge to Christianity, frankly confess this syncretistic possibility of interpreting the Qur'an.
● Muhammad used a rare passive form to explain that Christ was made "similar" to a crucified one in the eyes of the Jews (shubbiha lahum). He denied the crucifixion of Christ as a historical fact, but claimed instead that he only was made to appear as a "crucified one", just like a phantom.
Muhammad may have heard of a Christian sect in the Nile valley which figured out that it was unthinkable that the great God had become human and had to fulfil all human needs. They believed that God only appeared as a man, but was never really incarnate. They also taught that Christ, as true God, could not have died or have been crucified, but only appeared to be! When Muhammad heard this heresy he immediately saw his chance and said, "Poor Christians! They think and believe that Christ died for them on the cross, but He only appeared so to them. He was never crucified!" Muhammad several times was influenced or mislead by Christian sects.
Muslim commentators have put a great deal of fantasy into interpreting this passive form "he was made to appear so to them". The following unrealistic stories still circulate in certain countries among Muslims today:
- Some say: Simon of Cyrene was forced by the Roman soldiers to carry the cross for the flogged and weakened Jesus. When they reached the place for the crucifixion, they mistakenly crucified Simon instead of Christ. The Son of Mary walked away freely.
- Others say: Allah is just! He put the likeness of Jesus onto the face of Judas, so that Judas was crucified. 'Isa, however, who was made to look like Judas, went away unharmed. When an orthodox Christian heard this story, he objected to the Muslims saying: "Do you think that Mary, the mother of Jesus, standing under the cross of Jesus, was not able to distinguish her son from Judas hanging above her? Or do you think that Allah would fool the best of all women in this world and the next (Sura Al 'Imran 3:42) and deceive her so that she would mourn for hours for the dying traitor, while her own son had already escaped? Both theories are unthinkable".
- Others claim: Christ was truly crucified. Then an eclipse brought darkness over the land, and most people hid out of fear of demons. Then the strong earthquake followed and shook them all, even the Roman soldiers looked for shelter. When everybody had left, Christ hung on the cross on Golgotha all alone, so he climbed down from His cross and - as the Ahmadiyya Muslims say - walked to Kashmir, and there died a natural death. Yet, at the mausoleum for 'Isa in Srinagar, we saw with our own eyes, that not Christ the Son of Mary was buried, but the grandfather of a noble Kashmiri family, a Muslim sheikh named 'Isa, and that his grave was wrongly attributed to 'Isa the Christ by the Ahmadiyya sect.
V. The special grace of acknowledging sin
Trying to convince Muslims about the crucifixion of Jesus as a historical fact is of little use as long as they themselves do not ask for explanation. The biggest problem in the ministry among Muslims is their conviction that they do not need a redeemer, mediator or an expiatory sacrifice. They are not conscious of their deep sinfulness. They think that they can balance their bad deeds with good ones (Suras Hud 11:114; al-'Ankabut 29:7; al-Fatir 35:29-30). It is of no help to explain the crucifixion of Christ to them, as long as they think that they do not need a substitute or saviour. They are convinced that they are good enough in themselves!
Making them realize how lost and condemned they are, like all mankind, is sometimes even more important than their understanding of an available justification by the death of Christ on the cross. They should first learn that without God's intervention they will all go to hell!
The psalms of repentance offer much help in underlining this reality (Psalms 6:2-10, 32:1-11, 38:2-32, 51:3-19 and others). We recommend letting Muslims memorize Psalm 51, so that their whole subconscious would be filled with the spirit of repentance. The faith of a Muslim often does not penetrate from head to heart, but in the opposite way, from the heart into the head. This is a hidden reality.
When a former Islamic sheikh was asked to recite Psalm 51 for a radio program, in a similar way to the recitation of the Qur'an, tears suddenly rolled down his cheeks. He had not only read the text carefully, but had prayed it and recognized himself as a sinner. Psalm 51 is a school of repentance to all of us. It shows us who we are. These verses contain profound guidance to all self-satisfied people:
Ps 51:3 The sinner in Psalm 51 asks for mercy and grace. David understood that he has no right to expect forgiveness. He asks that the Lord would wipe out all his sins, not only some of his mistakes, and that according to the unlimited mercy of God.
Ps 51:4 He felt dirty in his body, soul and spirit, and asked for a complete cleansing from his disgusting sins.
Ps 51:5 He painfully realized his great sin. It raged in him. The Holy Spirit did not give him rest. He could neither think normally nor sleep peacefully!
Ps 51:6 He understood: Sin means rebellion against God, the creator and judge. He acknowledged that a sin is not only a mistake or a wrong action, but an offence on the dignity and holiness of God. He confessed: "You are right, no matter how you judge me. I have become incredibly guilty and lost my rights."
Ps 51:7 I am completely polluted. Already when my mother conceived me, I inherited the sinful flesh and spirit of my ancestors. I have been spoilt from my youth on. My flesh, my spirit, my heart, my will, everything is very evil.
Ps 51:8 Lord, you want to hear the truth. I confess all my hidden sins. You have shown me who I really am.
Ps 51:9 If hyssop, a plant used for desinfection in the past, would be of help, wash me inside and outside with it. Wash me completely from my sins, then I shall become whiter than snow.
Ps 51:10 Give me back my joy, for despair is not the final solution with you. You have destroyed my pride, but you can, as well, comfort me in my deepest inner being.
Ps 51:11 Do not hide from me, speak only one word to me. Forgive, delete and erase all my misdeeds!
Ps 51:12 I am a hopeless case! Only a new re-creation can save me:
12 Create in me a clean heat, oh God, and renew a steadfast Spirit within me.
13 Do not cast me from your presence. Do not take your Holy Spirit from me.
14 Restore to me again the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You.
We should ask for the grace of God to help the Muslims realize their sinfulness in this or any other way, just as we for ourselves need to repent with them. This psalm can lead every praying person to repentance, until he or she finally realizes that only a broken spirit and a contrite heart can please God.
Other servants of Christ use the Ten Commandments, the Fall of Adam (Genesis 3:1-4,16) and especially the vision of Isaiah 6:1-8 for breaking the pride of self-satisfied Muslims. When Isaiah realized the holiness of God, the noble priest and prophet exclaimed horrified: "Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the king, the Lord of hosts." (Isaiah 6:5)
We should ask Jesus to reveal Himself to self-centered Muslims, so that they break down and understand the great love and holiness of the Lord to beg for mercy. Without acknowledging sin there will hardly be repentance or forgiveness. That is why we should explain the meaning of sinfulness to a Muslim, before we speak about the cross. This realization, however, remains a gift of grace from our Saviour (Romans 2:4). We should pray for it.
Will all Muslims go to hell?
There is a cruel verse in the Qur'an that claims that all Muslims must go to hell! The fire is their inevitable destination. In Sura Maryam Muhammad shocks all Muslims:
There is no one of you who will not enter it (hell).
This is a predestined decree upon your Lord.
Afterwards we will save (let escape out of it) the god-fearing and keep the unjust in it on their knees. (Sura Maryam 19:71-72)
Some servants of the Lord discovered that these verses brought several Muslims to their senses as a kind of shock therapy. The Islamic hope for redemption from the inevitable fire is, however, based on fulfilling the Shari'a, the Islamic law. Only Jesus went through the hell of the wrath of God in our place, so that we may not be judged and condemned (John 3:18-23; 5:24 and others). His love reveals our egoism, pride and sin, so that we may gratefully accept His completed salvation and his everlasting life.
VI. The Lamb of God
As soon as Jesus grants a Muslim the grace to realize his own sins and condemnation, we should point him to the Lamb of God as the only cure, because He carried away the sin of the world, including the guilt of all Muslims (John 1:29-34; 1 John 2:1-2 and others).
On their Feast of Adha, at the end of their pilgrimage to Mecca, and simultaneously in all Islamic countries, Muslims slaughter lambs, sheep, rams or camels, one for each family, to make sure that the blessing of Allah will remain on them. However, they do not know the meaning of the blood offerings in the Old Testament, nor the possibility of these as substitution for our sins, and reconciliation by their shed blood. Therefore it can be helpful to some Muslims to teach them the laws for sin and burnt offerings in the Old Testament (Leviticus 4:4,14,24,33 and others), or about the scapegoat on the great day of reconciliation (Leviticus 16:6-10). Thus they can draw closer to the true and holy God, and understand the purpose of previous animal sacrifices in the Old Testament much better.
A meditation on the Passover lamb as Jesus enacted it with His disciples in introducing the Lord's Supper may lead to the realization of the completed reconciliation with God through the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
The most important passage for recognizing and believing in the Lamb of God remains the Old Testament revelation of the "Servant of the Lord": Isaiah 53:4-12. This gospel in the Old Testament has become an everlasting comfort and helped many seekers to grasp justification by grace, when tortured by their consciences. The instant faith of the treasurer of Queen Candace from Ethiopia is a clear sign of this (Act 8:26-39).
In addition you can use the Qur'anic echo to the command of God to Abraham not to sacrifice his own son Isaac. There Allah says to him:
"And we have redeemed him with a great (slaughtered) sacrifice." (Sura al-Saffat 37:107)
This decisive sentence negates all efforts of Muhammad in the Qur'an to do away with any reconciliation with Allah. This so called "revelation" admits the possibility of a divine reconciliation through a slain offering! The completed redemption of Isaac was not accomplished by his faith or his good works, but only by grace! We need to make the Muslims aware of this important verse in the Qur'an, as it speaks of a "tremendous" sacrifice, that had already been achieved before the slaying of the vicarious ram. Still today Muslims try to find out who or what is this over-dimensional divine sacrifice of reconciliation for the salvation of Isaac. We know this secret: Jesus Christ is the true Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He also saved all of the children of Abraham.
Some Muslims may object that Abraham tried to sacrifice Ishmael, and not Isaac, in order to transfer the blessings from this act onto the Arabs and Muslims (Sura al-Saffat 37:8-14). Yet, the Qur'an does not mention the name of Abraham's son who was to be slain. Until the time of al-Tabari, Islamic interpreters named Isaac as the one to be sacrificed. Only later did they alter their interpretation to Ishmael.
Obstinate Muslims will, further, object that the Qur'an records five times a critical statement (Suras al-An'am 6:164; al-Isra' 17:15; Fatir 35:18 al-Zumar 39:7; al-Najm 53:38):
"There is no one burdened (with sin) who can carry the (sin-)burden of another." (Sura al-An'am 6:164)
This verse claims indirectly that no substitute who is burdened with sin himself, can intervene and bear another man's sins. To answer this we must notice that the Qur'an several times witnesses that Christ remained without sin; this was finally confirmed in His ascension (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:44,45; al-Nisa' 4:158,171; Maryam 19:19; al-Anbiya' 21:91; al-Tahrim 66:12 and others). Owing to the holiness of Christ all five Qur'anic verses that speak against the possibility of a substitute can be used to prove the opposite: "The substitute who is without sin, can bear other people's burden of guilt!"
Jesus and His self-sacrifice out of love for all sinners is the only helpful answer to hopeless Islam. The name of Jesus remains His program: "He will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21) His substitutionary death established the privilege of mercy for us all. Christ's promise is definite: "Cheer up, son, daughter! Your sins are forgiven!" (Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:50 and others)
Muhammad could not utter such a sentence. He never thought of dying in the place of Muslims. His death would also have been in vain, because Allah commanded him several times to ask for the forgiveness of his own sins (Suras Ghafir 40:55; Muhammad 47:19; al-Fath 48:2; al-Masad 110:3).
VII. The witness out of experience
After the Holy Spirit had been poured out, as the outcome of Christ's expiatory sacrifice, the Apostles grasped and spoke of their redemption through the death of Jesus with fervent love. The apostle Peter confessed: "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (1 Peter 1:18-19)
The apostle John confirms this message: "If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:7-9)
The apostle Paul writes: "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.... We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24)
Rev. Iskandar Jadeed confessed, "As a young man I suffered from the four wives my father had and the vicious arguments between our four families living under one roof. In a comforting, striking moment I suddenly understood what John writes: "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
In India a mother who was neither able to write or read and had given birth to a dozen children asked for baptism, after her Muslim husband had become a Christian. The pastor was skeptical about baptizing her, as he thought she only wanted to do it to please her husband. When he asked her why she as a Muslim woman constantly asked for baptism, she answered wide-eyed, "Jesus Christ forgave all my sins on the cross and put eternal life right into my heart."
What is your personal testimony?
Which Bible verse expresses your faith most clearly? What can you share about the One who died on the cross for you? We should take time to think and pray about our testimony to Muslims in our home countries. Their number is constantly growing. Is there no impulse in your hearts to bring the message of salvation that has been accomplished for them clearly so that they can understand?
Q U I Z
If you have studied this booklet carefully, you can easily answer the following questions. Whoever answers 90% of all questions in the eight booklets of this series correctly, can obtain a certificate from our center on
in helpful ways for conducting conversations with Muslims about Jesus Christ
as an encouragement for your future services for Christ.
1. Why do the majority of Muslims think that the crucifixion of Christ is an illusion?
2. Why do some Muslims imagine that Judas was crucified instead of Christ?
3. How often does the Qur'an repeat that "No one can carry the sin of someone else"?
4. Why do Muslims claim that Allah can forgive whomever he wants, whenever he wants and that he does not need sacrifices or a substitute?
5. Why do Muslims hope (in vain) that their good deeds will drive away their bad deeds?
6. To what extent does the Islamic belief in predestination oppose faith in salvation through Christ?
7. Why does the cross remain a "taboo" for all Muslims, even if they are ignorant of the Qur'an and the Shari'a?
8. What is the spiritual implication of the fact that Muslims are collectively bound by a spirit that opposes the cross?
9. Why did Jesus refer to the metal snake lifted up by Moses in the desert to explain that there will be no salvation except if he be lifted up on the cross? Did the crucified Jesus symbolize all evil like the snake?
10. What did the Passover lamb bring the Hebrew slaves in Egypt and why is Jesus our Passover lamb? From which great danger will He protect us and why should we eat His flesh?
11. How many prophecies can you find in Psalm 22 fulfilled by Jesus according to the Gospels? Which of these prophecies could in your opinion convince Muslims that Christ was truly crucified?
12. Why did Jesus pray, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?" Did His Father really leave Him? Was the Unity of the Holy Trinity divided by Christ's crucifixion? What does this prayer mean?
13. Why do the words of Isaiah 53:4-7 contain the most convincing promise in the Old Testament explaining in detail that Jesus is our substitute? Have you learned this text by heart?
14. What did the 30 pieces of silver mean in the revelation to the prophet Zechariah and how was his prophecy fulfilled in the New Testament? Is Jesus Yahweh, the LORD?
15. Why is the message in Matthew 20:28 extremely important and able to change all cultures and customs in every society?
16. Why did Jesus not hide or escape or emigrate to Lebanon or Syria knowing in detail what was waiting for Him in Jerusalem?
17. What is the essential difference between the first and the second prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane?
18. Why did Jesus after His resurrection again gather His disciples that had deserted Him to teach them the inevitable necessity of His vicarious death from the Old Testament?
19. After they had received the power of the Holy Spirit how did Peter and the other apostles challenge the Jews? What does the "silence" of the Jews to the repeated accusation of the apostles mean?
20. Why is it nearly impossible for Muslims out of themselves to believe in the historical fact of the cross of Jesus and in the salvation completed for them? What should we earnestly ask our heavenly Father for them?
21. Why are the historical reports of Tacitus and Flavius about Jesus and His death on the cross important for Muslims?
22. What proof comes from the graffiti (graphical depictions on a wall) of a person hanging on the cross with the head of a donkey in the basement of the Palladium in Rome?
23. Why did Jamal Abd al-Nasser confirm through various media channels that Muslims know who really crucified Christ? What is the legal consequence of his confession?
24. How do modern Jewish books relate the crucifixion of Christ?
25. How often does the Qur'an report the killing of prophets by Jews? Why then did Muhammad, contrary to his own logic, refuse the death of Christ?
26. According to the fake testimony in Sura Maryam 19:33 what does Christ state about His birth and death? Which biblical meanings can we put into this important Qur'anic verse?
27. What similarities and differences can you find between the testimony of Christ (Sura Maryam 19:33) and the report by Djibril about Yahya (Sura Maryam 19:15)?
28. Why is Allah called "the greatest of all deceivers" in the context of the gentle passing away of Christ? How does the Bible comment this expression?
29. What was the greatest deception of Allah in relation to the Jews and Christ?
30. How was Muhammad able to please Christians and Muslims simultaneously using only one phrase to describe the death of Christ? What are the three possible meanings of this word?
31. Why does the Qur'an confirm the ascension of Christ to Allah but at the same time deny His brutal execution?
32. What, according to Islam, does it mean that Christ is alive but Muhammad is dead?
33. Why is the statement of the Jews in Sura al-Nisa' 4:157 questionable and actually wrong?
34. Why does the stern denial of Muhammad that "they did not kill him (and) they did not crucify him" give us a unique chance to prove that the Son of Mary was actually crucified?
35. How do Muslim commentators explain the statement of the Qur'an that Christ was not crucified but only was made to appear as a crucified one?
36. Why is it often useless to try to prove the historicity of the cross of Christ to a Muslim if he himself does not demand such proof?
37. How can we guide a Muslim to understand that he is a lost condemned sinner?
38. How does the Qur'an state that all Muslims must enter hell?
39. In the Qur'anic description of Abraham sacrificing his son to the Highest, why does Allah's call to Abraham there give us a unique chance to explain to Muslims the vicarious nature of the death of Christ?
40. Why can we prove to Muslims the exact opposite of the Qur'anic statement that "No one burdened (with sin) can carry the (sin-)burden of another person"?
41. Did Christ the Lamb of God also atone for all sins of all Muslims when he died on the cross, or must Jesus die for Muslims again in a special way? If their atonement by God has been completed, why then do Christians not inform Muslims of their heavenly rights?
42. According to your experience, which Gospel report about the suffering and death of Christ is accepted by Muslims most often?
Every participant in this quiz is allowed to use any book at his disposition and to ask any trustworthy person known to him/her when answering these questions. We wait for your written answers including your full address on the papers or in your e-mail. We pray for you to Jesus, the living Lord, that He will enlighten, send, guide, strengthen, protect and be with you every day of your life!
Yours in His service,
Abd al-Masih and his brothers in the Lord
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