“Far More than a Prophet, Mr. Rahman!”
By “Awake!” correspondent in Liberia
“THE BIBLE—no! I do not wish to discuss it. As a Moslem, I have my own holy book, the Koran. Besides, Christians are the most warlike people on earth.”
The missionary kindly replied: “It is true, Mr. Rahman,* Christendom is warlike and wayward, so different from early Christianity. It is easy to understand your disgust.”
“Really, I do not want to hear anything from the Bible. You can never convince me that Jesus is God.”
“Mr. Rahman, you may be surprised to know that the Bible does not teach that Jesus is God Almighty. Rather, it portrays Jesus as praying to God, calling him, at John 17:3, ‘the only true God.’ The Bible also says Jesus was ‘sent’ by God, and that he is the mediator between God and men.”—John 5:30; 1 Tim. 2:5, 6.
“That is just what our Koran also teaches. Jesus was a good man. We call him ‘Nabi,’ that is a prophet.”
“It is true, Mr. Rahman, Jesus was indeed a prophet. In fact, he was the prophet whose coming was foretold by Moses, the one you Moslems call ‘Nabi Musa.’ Let me read you Moses’ words as recorded at Deuteronomy 18:15: ‘A prophet from your own midst, from your brothers, like me, is what Jehovah your God will raise up for you.’”
Why Greater than Moses
“Jesus was like Moses in many ways. Both Moses and Jesus were anointed by God’s spirit or active force, both performed miracles, and both mediated a covenant between God and his people. Mr. Rahman, do you know the purpose of the covenant that God made with Israel through Moses?”
“Well, I think they were to obey God and be his people.”
“Quite right, and even more. If they obeyed God they would become ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ (Ex. 19:5, 6) God would give them the privilege of serving as priests in behalf of the human family.”
“But the people of Israel were unfaithful, weren’t they? Isn’t that why God rejected them?”
“Yes, and when he did, the covenant mediated through Moses came to an end. But God still wanted ‘a nation of priests.’ To produce such a ‘nation’ God made a new covenant through a new mediator.”
“And you say Jesus was that new mediator. But why Jesus? Why not another prophet, like Mohammed?”
“Because the penalty of death that resulted from the first man’s sin could not be removed through a sinful mediator, not even a man as great as ‘Nabi Musa.’ In fact, Moses as mediator could only act out in advance what the one greater than he would fulfill.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“When Moses acted as mediator, he simply offered sound animal sacrifices to illustrate the principle of equal justice stated in God’s law at Deuteronomy 19:21, that is, ‘Soul will be for soul.’”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, let’s put it this way. What does justice require when a man murders his fellowman?”
“The life of the murderer, I would say.”
“Quite right, Mr. Rahman. The life of the murderer will be taken for the life of his victim. Now let us apply this to the human race, which has inherited death from Adam. By his disobedience to God, Adam forfeited not only his own right to life but also that of all his future offspring. He thereby brought on all of them the condemnation of death.
“Now, God cannot simply set aside his requirement of justice that calls for our death due to inherited sin. But he can accept as satisfaction of justice the death of a sound victim, a perfect human, because that human life would correspond to the originally perfect man, Adam.”
“And you say that perfect human was the prophet Jesus?”
“Yes, Mr. Rahman. Jesus was more than just a prophet; he was conceived by an act of the divine will, even as your Koran recognizes, and so was a perfect human.”
“But the death penalty upon the human race involves millions of people. How could one life satisfy justice for so many?”
“Well, consider: The whole human race was yet unborn in Adam’s loins at the time he sinned. And so all of us as his offspring inherit from him sin and its penalty death. Now, at the time the perfect man Jesus died, he too had a possible race of humans unborn in his loins. But Jesus gave up his right to father a human family in the normal way, through a human woman. So God has accepted his unborn human offspring as a counterbalance of the human race that Adam has produced till now. In this way, one perfect man, Jesus Christ, was able to die for all mankind.”
“Hmm. Very interesting.”
“So you see, Mr. Rahman, that explains why imperfect Moses could do no more than act out the role of mediator. He did not have in his loins a perfect race, since he had inherited imperfection from Adam. But the death of the greater mediator, Jesus, did provide the justice-satisfying ransom for each one of us, because he was without sin.
“Furthermore, Mr. Rahman, the justice of God in this case could not be satisfied simply by prayer—not even all the fervent prayers of all the prophets of God put together. Thus we must approach God in the name of the true mediator, Jesus Christ, and on the basis of his ransom.”
Why “Son of Man”?
“It’s hard for me to believe that Jesus was a man without sin. If he really came from heaven, then why does the Bible call him the ‘Son of man’?”
“That title, Mr. Rahman, is used in the Bible to emphasize that he was not only the one foretold by the prophet Daniel (7:13, 14) but also the great Kinsman of mankind. Let me illustrate it this way. At one time angels in materialized fleshly bodies visited Abraham and talked with him. Now, would you say that those angels had become members of the human race?”
“Well, no. They were really angels.”
“Quite so. And an angel, being a superior type of creature with a spirit body, is just not the equivalent of man. To redeem us, the justice of God required a ‘corresponding ransom’ to counterbalance perfectly the human life that Adam lost. Also, only a perfect human would have in his loins offspring to counterbalance the perfect human race that Adam originally was capable of fathering.
“So to meet these requirements, Mr. Rahman, God provided a perfect man born of flesh and blood, and hence a true son of the human race. Jesus had existed in heaven as a powerful angel, but God transferred his life force to the womb of a virgin girl, and he was thus born completely human and yet free from sin. In this way he corresponded to Adam (when perfect) in the fullest sense of the word. As an actual member of the human race, Jesus alone was suitable to redeem us, and this is implied by the title ‘Son of man.’”
Quick Death of Jesus Impossible?
“Your explanations are impressive, sir. But I can’t help regarding it all as rather unreal. For example, I’m suspicious that Christians have forced the circumstances of Jesus’ death to fit their theory of salvation.”
“What do you mean, Mr. Rahman?”
“Well, a robust man like Jesus could not possibly have died after just six hours hanging on the tree. It takes at least twenty-four hours for death to come unless hastened by breaking the legs. And I believe the Bible admits that Jesus’ legs were not broken.”
“You are right, Mr. Rahman. And this was fitting, for his perfect sacrifice was thus like the ancient Passover lamb whose bones were not to be broken.”
“But why are you so certain that Jesus died that day? Six hours is just too short a time for a strong man to die under those circumstances, don’t you agree?”
“But this was the will of God, Mr. Rahman. According to the Bible prophecy, ‘Jehovah himself took delight in crushing him.’ (Isa. 53:10) So it was really God who did not allow Jesus to suffer long on the stake, but permitted his death before the soldiers could break his legs.
“Furthermore, Mr. Rahman, soldiers would not be careless in letting a condemned man escape death. The Bible says they even jabbed Jesus in the side with a spear, and that ‘blood and water’ came out. This helps us to understand the manner of his death.”
“Really? How is that?”
“Well, Jesus had been under severe strain. The evening before, he was in such an agony that his sweat was like drops of blood. He had also been brutally flogged. Some suggest that, under the intense mental and physical pressure, his heart or one of the larger arteries ruptured, causing blood to pour into his pericardium, the membrane that loosely encases the heart and which contains fluid. When the spear was jabbed into his side, the blood and pericardial fluid released would appear as ‘blood and water.’ Whatever the case, Jesus was certainly dead.”
Was “Yus Asaf” Jesus?
“Yet there is the opinion that Jesus later revived, and traveled to India. In fact, there’s a tomb that has been discovered in Kashmir with the inscription ‘Yus Asaf,’ meaning ‘Jesus the Gatherer.’ Who can say this was not Jesus, who somehow survived his ordeal and went to India?”
“I am familiar with the Kashmir legends, and their claim that Jesus went to India seeking the so-called ‘lost tribes of Israel.’ But the idea that Yus Asaf was Jesus is pure speculation. There is a complete absence of accounts by eyewitnesses and no testimony by Yus (or Jus) himself as to his origin. No solid basis exists for faith in Yus Asaf as being Jesus, particularly in view of the great amount of evidence that Jesus did die at Jerusalem.”
“Well, I don’t know. You hear different ideas and opinions. Is there really proof that Jesus died at Jerusalem?”
“Yes, Mr. Rahman, the evidence that he did is overwhelming.”
Evidence Regarding Jesus’ Death
“To begin with, the Hebrew prophets foretold details about Jesus’ death. Isaiah, for instance, testified that Jesus would pour out ‘his soul to the very death’ as he ‘carried the very sin of many people.’ (Isa. 53:12) The Messiah’s death, the prophet Daniel indicated, would occur in the fourth year of his ministry. (Dan. 9:26, 27) And Jesus himself told his disciples in advance that he would die at Jerusalem.—Luke 13:33.
“Also, the Bible record shows that the Romans took precaution against allowing a living Jesus to be taken off the execution stake. According to Mark 15:44, 45, when approached by Joseph of Arimathea, ‘Pilate wondered whether Jesus was already dead, and, summoning the army officer, he asked him whether he had already died. So after making certain from the army officer, he granted the corpse to Joseph.’ This is what the Bible record says.”
“But perhaps, sir, the records were amended down through the centuries to make them read as they now do.”
“We have proof, though, Mr. Rahman, that the records have not been changed. The discovery and critical study of very old Bible manuscripts and fragments establishes this beyond question. And even if there were some question about the reliability of the Bible records, we still have the testimony of non-Christian historians such as the first-century historian Tacitus, who wrote in his Annals that Jesus ‘suffered the extreme penalty’ at the hand of Pontius Pilate.
“Another thing to consider, Mr. Rahman, is that for Jesus’ followers to put faith in and preach about Jesus’ resurrection meant official persecution. Do you think they would endure vicious beatings and even death to perpetrate a lie?”
“Well, I don’t know. I must say the evidence does appear rather strong.”
“The fact is, Jesus’ death was so vivid in the minds of his disciples who saw him die that it afterward took a number of appearances of Jesus fully to convince them that he really had been raised from the dead. History abounds with references to their zeal and the rapid growth of Christianity all because of their conviction regarding his death and resurrection. Indeed, Mr. Rahman, as one scholar observed, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ ‘must be reckoned among the best established facts of history.’”
“Well, sir, you have given me something to think about. However, to comprehend fully the things you have mentioned about Jesus Christ will take time for a Moslem like myself.”
“You do believe that Jesus was a prophet of God, Mr. Rahman?”
“Oh, certainly. He was, as you said, like Nabi Musa.”
“Why not, then, read for yourself the record of his life and teachings directly from the Bible?”
“Yes, I think I must do that.”
“If you do, perhaps you, too, Mr. Rahman, will be convinced that Jesus is far more than a prophet.”
This name, common among Moslems, is assumed. The dialogue is based on true-life discussions with Moslems of the Ahmadiyyah movement.