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Why Follow Jesus?

Chapter 9: The Crucifixion Factor

It may seem hard to understand why such a godly prophet who taught with such authority and wisdom should die a horrible death on a cross. After all, crucifixion was a method of execution used for common criminals. In fact, this has offended some people so much that they will not accept its truth. However the Bible tells us that Jesus did not only come to teach and to heal. His main mission was to open the door of forgiveness for all mankind by giving His life on the cross.

One of His apostles, Peter, was very upset when he heard Jesus' predicting His own death on the cross. However, Peter later realised that this was God's choice. All this had been prophesied by Isaiah centuries before Jesus, as we saw in chapter 4 [1]. The fact that one third of the Gospel is devoted to Jesus' death on the cross and to His resurrection shows just how important these events were.

The Plot

Some of the Jews did believe in Jesus and put their faith in Him. However, others were violently opposed to Him; these were mostly the religious leaders of the day who regarded Jesus as a threat to their status and power. So, just before the annual Passover festival, they arrested Jesus and accused Him of blasphemy. They handed Him over to the Roman authorities, changing the charge to sedition, that is, speaking against Caesar.

Jesus' trial, death and resurrection

The Roman governor, Pilate, delivered Jesus to death in spite of having judged Him completely innocent, three times [2]. He was crucified and, after six hours hanging on the cross, He died. If Jesus had died on the cross and then remained in the grave, it would have meant that He was neither the Messiah nor the promised one. We know that in those days many people were crucified, however, Jesus rose again on the third day, after being dead and buried [3]. For some forty days, Jesus was seen alive by various people and later he was taken into heaven before their eyes [4].

The heart of the matter

The Christian claim is that, "...Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures."[5] But it is on this point that there is conflict. The Jews deny that Jesus was the Messiah. They say that Jesus may have died on the cross but it would be far-fetched to think He rose from the dead. Orthodox Islam, on the other hand, goes further and denies that Jesus was even crucified [6]. Yet it believes Him to be the Messiah, accepts His bodily ascension and predicts His second coming.

The Ahmadiyya sect, on the other hand, accepts that Jesus was crucified, but says He merely swooned on the cross, revived in the tomb and eventually died in Kashmir at the age of 120 [7]. It would be most unfair and uncharacteristic of God to allow Jesus to die in such a way if there was no point or reason for it. There was a most important reason, however, which makes the death of Jesus not only understandable, but even necessary!

God is holy, but man is not. How can the death of Jesus help solve this problem? Isaiah chapter 53 verses 4 to 6 and likewise many verses in the New Testament show us why Jesus died [8]. He did not die as punishment for His own sin; He died because of your sin and mine. He carried our wrongdoing [9]. He took our punishment. He received in His body the results of the many wrong things we have done.

An exchange took place on the cross. Try to imagine all the guilt, wrong and evil being taken from you and me and put upon Jesus. Look at Isaiah 53: 4 to 6 again with this in mind and ask God to help you to see the truth of it in your heart.

Can you see now how this solves the greatest problem which mankind has - how to come to have personal friendship with God? The solution was not that we should try to reach Him by our good deeds; our good deeds hopefully outweighing our bad deeds on God's scales. No! Jesus completely removed everything on the bad side of the scales! He took upon Himself all the evil we do. Jesus received what we deserve - that is, the punishment for sin [10].

Now we can begin to understand why Jesus had to die. When Jesus died it was God reaching down to deal with a problem which man could not solve on his own. "For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son..."[11] If we deny the crucifixion, it means that Christ was a deceiver, for He spoke about His death beforehand. He told His followers that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and scribes, and be killed and raised again on the third day [12]. On another occasion He said that He had come to give His life as a ransom for many [13].

In the Qur'an there is only one reference to Jesus' crucifixion and that is ambiguous,[14] but in the New Testament we have reference after reference that Jesus did die on the cross. Jesus himself later testified to this truth by saying, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" [15]

We see that, according to the prophecies of the Scriptures, Jesus is the only Saviour. The Bible declares, "Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" [16].


References

  1. Isaiah 52:13-53:12
  2. John 18: 28-19:25
  3. Matthew 27 & 28
  4. Acts 1:1-9
  5. 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4
  6. Qur'an 4:157-158
  7. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, "Jesus in India" (Rabwah: The Ahmadiyya Foreign Missions, n.d.), pp.59-60
  8. Mark 10:45 ; 2 Corinthians 5:21 ; 1 Peter 2:21-25; c.f. Romans 3:21-31
  9. Other meaning of the text is 'shouldered'
  10. Ezekiel 18:20
  11. John 3:16
  12. Matthew 16:21
  13. Matthew 20:28
  14. Qur'an 4:157
  15. Revelation 1:18
  16. Acts 4:12
  17. Qur'an 4:155
  18. Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi, Holy Qur'an, (Karachi: Taj Co. Ltd., 1970), Vol. I, p.96-A
  19. Ahmad Deedat, "Crucifixion or Crucifiction", (Birmingham: Islamic Propagation., 1986)
  20. Isaiah 53:7-12

 

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