Perhaps the greatest obstacle that keeps most Muslims from accepting the truth of the New Testament is the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. They adamantly refuse to accept the truth that Jesus died on the cross, and they insist that the whole story of the crucifixion is a hoax to deceive the Christian community. Many of these Muslims further claim that this is one of the reasons why the Qur'an was revealed -- it came to correct this false teaching about Jesus dying on the cross.
If the story of the crucifixion is a hoax, and if the Qur'an came to mankind to correct this false doctrine, then it would only be reasonable to expect the Qur'an to have a great number of verses declaring very clearly, "Jesus did not die on the cross," just as there are many verses declaring the resurrection of the dead and the Day of Judgment! The Qur'an has over six thousand verses. Would it be too much to expect a mere 5% of all its verses to declare "Jesus did not die on the cross?" What about only 1%? That would mean only sixty verses. At least we could expect ten verses out of six thousand to clearly state without doubt, "Jesus did not die on the cross." This would certainly help to clear up the controversy, and most Muslims would agree that yes, the Qur'an must surely contain at least ten verses to clearly support their claim.
Now for an amazing revelation! Out of over six thousand Qur'anic verses, there is not one single verse that simply says that Jesus did not die on the cross or that Jesus was never crucified. Not even one! Furthermore, out of the whole Qur'an, there is only one passage that speaks on the issue of the crucifixion. It reads as follows:
That they (the Jews) said (in boast) "We killed Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, the Apostle of God" - But they killed him not nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. Nay, God raised him up unto Himself; and God is exalted in Power, Wise;
Surat-un Nisaa (4):157
Look carefully at the passage. The subject of the passage is not Jesus, but instead, the Jews; and it clearly says that the Jews did not kill or crucify Jesus. but nowhere does it say that Jesus never died on the cross. And this is the only verse about the crucifixion.
The phrase "but so it was made to appear to them" is not clear, and as a result has opened the door to many interesting theories as to how Jesus was supposedly rescued from the cross. One favorite tradition is that God changed the appearance of Judas the traitor to look like Jesus so that it was really Judas who was nailed to the cross, not Jesus. But no such story is found anywhere in the pages of Al-Qur'an. Such stories come only from the imagination of great story tellers!
The phrase in question could just as well be explained in this way. The Jews plotted against Jesus and boasted that they had put an end to Jesus. It certainly appeared that their scheme had succeeded and that the ministry of Jesus was silenced for good. But God was likewise planning. Though Jesus died, God raised him to life to prove to the Jews that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. He was the One who God anointed to be Savior and Ruler of mankind.
According to the Holy Scriptures, it was God's good plan that Jesus suffer the agonizing death of the cross. This death of Jesus was to reveal the suffering love of God who agonizes over the continual sin and rebellion of the human race whom God lovingly created to worship and adore Him. In relation to God's plan, the death of Jesus was to be the fulfillment of all the animal sacrifices. This is why Jesus is called "the Lamb of God." His sacrificial and atoning death was to provide redemption and forgiveness of sin, and more importantly, entry into the very presence of God. It was Jesus who was to lead man into the presence of God, and not some four-footed beast! The animal sacrifice was only a symbol of the far purer sacrifice that God Himself provided.
And so all of this was the plan of God, not the plan of the Jews. The Jews did not put Jesus on the cross, God did, to reveal His plan of salvation for all mankind. In order to prove to the world that the cross was God's plan to overcome the scheme of Satan, God raised Jesus from the dead, exalted him into Heaven, and seated him at the right side of His throne!
The Qur'an mentions the death of Jesus as follows:
So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again). Surat-u Maryam (19):33
Most Muslims accept the birth of Jesus; most Muslims accept the raising of Jesus into Heaven. It should not be so difficult then to believe that somewhere in between, Jesus died, as clearly indicated by the above Qur'anic verse. This verse certainly agrees with the teaching of the Bible that Jesus was born, died, and was raised to life and lifted into Heaven. However, the Qur'an unfortunately does not tell us anywhere how Jesus died. This of course poses a question and the Qur'an itself clearly gives the following instructions whenever one is in doubt:
If thou were in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee (ask the People of the Book). Surat-u Yunus (10):94
The People of the Book know how Jesus died because the Bible very clearly gives the answer. The following verses should remove any further doubt from the mind of the inquirer.
Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took twelve disciples aside and said to them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man (the Messiah) 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 the Gentiles (non-Jews) to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life.
Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you, as you yourselves know. This man (Jesus) was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you with the help of wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses to the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God...
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