There are many questions that come to mind when the name Jesus is mentioned. Some people say he was a prophet, others call him a god, while others say he was a very wise man. But whatever your idea is, one thing remains certain: he was not an ordinary man. Just who was Jesus anyway?
Jesus lived about 2,000 years ago in ancient Palestine when the Roman Empire was at its zenith. He was not conceived in the usual way, but was implanted in the womb of a young woman named Mary. God simply commanded, “Be,” and he was. In this sense, he was a word of God and a special sign for humanity. In fact, he was the last in a long line of religious guides sent to the Jews.
Mary, The Blessed
Mary was a righteous woman. Her mother dedicated her to Gods service even before she was born. As a child, she lived a life marked by health and righteousness, which others pointed to in admiration. She was raised by the wise Zechariah, who instilled in her a beautiful sense of faith in God. When she had become a young woman, Mary sought to purify herself further before her Lord. Knowing that the hustle of life in the towns was distracting, she withdrew from her people to a sanctuary in the East. There she could meditate in seclusion and peace. Suddenly, on a day that seemed no different from the rest, an angel of God visited her, disguised in the likeness of a human. Afraid of so strange a sight, Mary prayed for protection, but the strange being reassured her and declared that he was a messenger from the Lord to announce the glad-tidings of a faultless son. Mary, astounded, asked how this was possible seeing that no man had ever touched her. But the angel replied, “Your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me.’” But when she felt the little child within her, she fled her sanctuary out of fear of what her family would do or say when they heard the news. Mary, however, was not to face hardshipwithout being provided relief. When in her despair she cried out to God for oblivion, a voice soothed her and she found shade and a cool spring. Under a date-palm in the warmth of late summer, she made her dwelling and there bore the child unlike any other in human history.
Shortly thereafter, Mary returned to her community carrying the child who was to be called Messiah, Jesus, and son of Mary. When her people saw her with the baby in her arms they couldn’t believe their eyes, let alone accept her word. They refused to believe when she told of an angel who came and told her she was chosen above all other women to carry this burden. They accused her of infidelity and implied that she had ruined the family name. Mary, being overwhelmed, simply motioned towards the child meekly.
Now the child was the product of a miracle and consequently, miraculous things began to happen. In defense of his mother and of the truth, the infant Jesus spoke saying, I am a servant of God. He has given me Scripture and has made me a Prophet. He has blessed me wherever I may be and has made prayer and charity my duty as long as I live. This put the detractors to rest.
Throughout his youth, Jesus remained dutiful to his mother and developed quickly in intelligence, wisdom, and piety. He dumfounded the learned and was greatly admired by those around him who appreciated his talents. He claimed to be a sign of God and a Messenger to the Israelites.
His people had strayed from the spirit of truth and placed their trust in legalism, thereby burying their sense of mercy beneath dusty scrolls and rituals. Finally, when he came of age, Jesus began to travel and preach throughout the land of Palestine about a return to the truth of the old revelations and a rejection of all that man had added. In his task he was supported by the spirit of truth, the angel Gabriel.
The Gospel, His Message
Jesus taught that love and mercy overcome hate and anger and that only a true and sincere faith in the Creator and obedience to His will can bring a person salvation in this life as well as in the next. To reinforce his message, which was called Injeel (Good News), God granted him the performance of miracles. He healed the sick, uplifted the distressed, and revived the dead. All these things he did with the permission of God, never taking credit for them himself. He led a simple and pious life. Soon he attracted an inner-circle of devoted followers who listened to his teachings with fervor and humility. These disciples, among them Peter, Barnabas, and John, helped him carry the message of Divine Love to the people, helping him in his mission.
A Test of Wills
No righteous man of God is without trial and tribulation. As the message of Jesus began to gain wider acceptance, a small clique of hypocrites and evil men began to plot against him. They were the priests and leaders of the Jews whose position and wealth depended upon their place as the sole interpreters of religion to the masses.In collusion with the Roman authorities, they pursued Jesus and his followers and eventually captured him. Though they abused him, he never renounced his faith in the one God. So in their anger they plotted to crucify him on a Roman cross. But Jesus slipped from their grip at the last moment, and all the while they thought they had succeeded. They were sure they had killed him but God answered Jesus’ prayer and saved him from their schemes. Confusion overtook the mob and it is possible that they killed the man who betrayed Jesus instead. In any case, Jesus escaped from their grasp. Then God removed Jesus from this world into another dimension, to a place with Him, not to return until a later time.
With their teacher gone, the devoted followers of Jesus tried to maintain the purity and simplicity of his teachings. But they were soon besieged and overtaken by a flood of Roman and Greek influences, which eventually so buried and distorted the message of Jesus that only a little of its truth now remains. Strange doctrines of Jesus being a man-god, of the son ofGod dyingon the Cross, of saint worship, and of God being made up of different parts came into vogue and were accepted by many of those who took the name Christians centuries after Jesus.
The only records that have come down to us concerning Jesus are some sketchy biographical material, poorly researched and compiled, which can in no way be representative of the full and accurate Message of Jesus, the Son of Mary. The time of the final and incorruptible Message was not yet at hand. It would be left to the last prophet of God, Muhammad (peace be upon him), to clarify the truth from human additions and deletions.
Jesus taught the same eternal message that was taught by all the Messengers of God, from Adam on through Noah, Abraham, Moses and ending with the mission of God’s last Prophet and Messenger to humanity, Muhammad (peace be on them all), whose coming was foretold by Jesus himself.
Every nation and every people, from the Aztecs to the Greeks, have received a Prophet or a Messenger from God. Jesus was the last of a series of Messengers sent to the Israelites, but they consistently strayed from the path of surrender to God. Each of the many Messengers spoke a different language and followed varied customs. Yet the core faith taught by each was the same: surrender your imperfect and fickle will to the perfect will of the Power that is greater than you. You will then find the peace and freedom that only the Creator of all things can provide. Then you must do what is right and good to your fellow creatures. This way of life – surrendering to God and, thus, finding peace -is called Islam.