Very often my Muslim friends tell me: “Jesus was taken to heaven by Allah before they killed him. He was not crucified. A look-alike (Shabih) was put in his place by Allah and people believed it was Jesus. Glory to God, the Almighty and only wise! ”
Think about it!
I am really surprised how the replacement of Jesus by someone else on the cross could have been the work of God and glorified Him in His Holiness and His righteousness.
Why was it necessary to wait for more than six hundred years after the death of Jesus for such a substitution to be announced?
If God had wished to protect his prophet, why didn’t he just take him up to heaven in front of everyone, so that everyone knew what happened on day one? It would have been far more extraordinary for all to see God’s direct intervention in his victory. Why would God have made a secret substitution? Why would he give the Jews somebody else? It doesn’t make any sense.
Would God deceive people into believing that it was Jesus whom they crucified, when in fact it was someone else. God does not lie! Why do it in any case?
Also, this means that God would have allowed the foundation of the Christian faith to be based on a lie based on confusion over the identity of Jesus. Something that he himself had organised. It cannot be so, God is righteous and holy, he only does what is right and true.
For me it is inconceivable that God would fabricate this myth and give Judas or someone else, the face of Jesus to deceive everyone into thinking they were still crucifying Jesus. For my Muslim friend, the fact that God could have allowed his prophet to die at the hands of his enemies seems inconceivable. That is why I would like to ask two questions for this friend to think about:
First, which of these to interventions would be the most impressive? Which of these would display the omnipotence of God?
Deceiving the world and removing Jesus without seeing death
– or –
Letting Jesus die and then raising him from the dead?
Resurrecting someone from the dead is certainly the more impressive act. Christians believe that God, by raising Jesus from the dead, has demonstrated far greater power than if he had replaced Him secretly.
Imagine this scene. Two men come to you. Both tell you the news that they had been walking along the road during a visit to Africa. Both had met a lion! The first tells you that he turned and ran. The lion chased him, but he escaped death. He outran the lion! Everyone cheers. What a great escape. What a powerful story.
The second man tells of meeting the lion, but he didn’t turn and run away. He, like the prophet David David attacked the lion! He killed it and rescued the lamb that was under threat. Jesus did not run from death, instead He entered into death and through His death and resurrection destroyed its power and is able to deliver us.
Tell me, which is the greater victory? The man who escaped the lion, or the man who defeated it? Which is the greater story of victory of Jesus: escaping death, or defeating it by dying and rising again?
Secondly, which of the following attitudes would have most honoured Jesus and glorified God?
Should Jesus kill those who came to arrest him?
Should Jesus run and hide?
– or –
What if Jesus, out of love for those misguided and sinful people, and for people like me, take their place in accepting for himself the worst of deaths that can be inflicted (death on the cross as a man accused of blasphemy), and then come out of the tomb alive as the victor over death?
Obviously, the third would make God more glorious, and that is exactly what Jesus did, the Bible tells us the story.
But let us return to the scene of the cross and ask those who witnessed the crucifixion with their own eyes:
- Why did the person whom God put in the place of Jesus not protest during his trial to say that he was not Jesus, that there had been a terrible mistake, they had got the wrong person?
- At Jesus’ death, the apostle John was so close to the cross that he told us that he saw blood and water coming out of his side pierced by the lance of a soldier (The Injil, John 19: 33-37). John knew Jesus well not to confuse him with anyone else.
- Like John, those who witnessed this all testified to the reality of the crucifixion of Christ. Is it right to accept the testimony of someone who wasn’t there, who didn’t live until more than six centuries later and to conclude from a single Koranic verse, which is subject to several interpretations, that Jesus never died?
- Would God allow Mary (Myriam) and the beloved disciple of Jesus to have witnessed his agony when in fact it was someone else? Would God deliberately deceive them and allow His mother and disciples to endure such a painful experience?
- The Roman officer in charge, soon after the crucifixion, confessed his faith in Jesus, so impressed by the great dignity that Jesus had shown. An evil traitor like Judas, (whom some Muslims think he was the look-alike,) could never have left such an impression in dying that people were impressed by his kindness, that they repented and put their trust in the person they thought was the dying Jesus.
- The Gospels (the Injil) bring back to us the seven last words of Jesus, which he said while on the cross. He alone could have uttered such beautiful words. For example, who other than Jesus (suffering atrociously) could have prayed for his tormentors: “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”? Do you think that such words, full of mercy and compassion, could have come out of the mouth of the double-crossing traitor Judas?
- If the crucified person had not been Jesus, but just another sinner among others, the thief crucified by his side would never have prayed for the salvation of his soul.
- There is another problem that Muslim commentators have never been able to provide a satisfactory answer concerning the body of Jesus. They assert that the one who took the place of Jesus (Shabih) only resembled his face and that his body had not been changed. They Say that “the face was indeed that of Jesus, but that the body was not his”. If this statement proves to be correct, why is it that Mary could not tell the difference between her son’s body and that of a crucified double? What about Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, members of the Sanhedrin (religious tribunal) and secret disciples of Jesus who had obtained official permission of Governor Pontius Pilate to take the body of Jesus? When they transported him, quickly embalmed and deposited it in the tomb, they could not possibly have confused the body of Jesus with that of another, that is unless Judas had the same height, weight, colour of skin, and the same hair colour, style and length as Jesus!
- Finally, we learn that on the evening of his resurrection Jesus came among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you,” and he showed them his hands so that they could see the place of the nails and its side that had been pierced by the lance of the Roman soldier (L’Injil, John 20: 19-20). He proved to them that he was indeed the one who had been crucified, and not someone else who had taken his place.
What would you have thought if, for centuries, God had promised in the Scriptures that Saviour would come and die with their sins, and then, at the last moment, God changed the plan and instead taken him alive to heaven, leaving a look-alike in his place?
What we ought rather to be asking is this: why did Jesus have to die? Why did the former prophets describe the promised Messiah as one who would come and die in the place of sinners?
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