Yeshua and the Islamic Leaders
14 February 2010
NOTE: In this article, as in the other articles on this Web site, I am using the Hebrew form of Jesus, Yeshua, rather than the usual Greek form, Jesus. He IS Jewish after all, isn't He?!
When Yeshua lived on this earth, the group of people He was the harshest with, and the most condemning of, were the religious leaders. Many, many centuries before, God had given His chosen people His written Word, which explained to them how they were to have relationship with God. Unfortunately, over the centuries they turned this relationship into a man-made religion, which opened the door to demonic influence and control (as we shall see later in this article).
In Isaiah 29:13, God confronts the Jews about this very issue:
And so Yahweh says, "These people say they are Mine. They honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. And their worship of Me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote."When Yeshua was on this earth, he used this verse from Isaiah to confront the religious leaders, as recorded in Mark 7:6-8:
Yeshua said, "You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, 'These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.' For you ignore God's law and substitute your own tradition."Throughout the four gospels in the New Testament, we see Yeshua clashing with the religious leaders time and again. Some of the most dramatic confrontations are recorded in the book of John, chapter 8. In my studies of Islam, it dawned on me one day that one could substitute Islamic religious leaders for the Jewish religious leaders Yeshua was dealing with, and the chapter would still make almost total sense. The "fit" is actually quite amazing — practically hand-in-glove. So, without further ado, here is my version of John 8 (and later, a bit of John 10), with Yeshua confronting the Islamic religious leaders:
At dawn Yeshua appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them. The Islamic teachers and authorities brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Yeshua, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Qur'an it commands us to stone such women. Now what do You say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.Wow! There are some really heavy-duty implications here. Yeshua, a Jew, the Son of God, is calling the Jewish religious leaders children of the devil! That's pretty mind-boggling!
But Yeshua bent down and started to write on the ground with His finger. When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Yeshua was left, with the woman still standing there. Yeshua straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
"No one, Sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Yeshua declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:2-11)
Yeshua said, "If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
The Muslim Arabs answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can You say that we shall be set free?"
Yeshua replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill Me, because you have no room for My word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from YOUR father."
"Abraham is our father," they answered.
"If you were Abraham's children," said Yeshua, "then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does."
"We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."
Yeshua said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on My own; but He sent me. Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the DEVIL, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me! Can any of you prove Me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe Me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."
The Islamic leaders answered Him, "Aren't we right in saying that You are demon-possessed?"
"I am not possessed by a demon," said Yeshua, "but I honor My Father and you dishonor Me. I am not seeking glory for Myself; but there is One who seeks it, and He is the judge. I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death."
At this the Islamic leaders exclaimed, "Now we know that You are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet You say that if anyone keeps Your word, he will never taste death. Are You greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do You think you are?"
Yeshua replied, "If I glorify Myself, My glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the One who glorifies Me. Though you do not know Him, I know Him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His Word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad."
"You are not yet fifty years old," the Islamic leaders said to Him, "and You have seen Abraham?!"
"I tell you the truth," Yeshua answered, "before Abraham was born, I AM!"
At this, they picked up stones to kill Him, but Yeshua hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (John 8:31-59)
Then came the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Yeshua was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. The Islamic leaders gathered around Him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."
Yeshua answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in My Father's name speak for Me, but you do not believe because you are not My sheep. My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
Again the Islamic leaders picked up stones to kill Him, but Yeshua said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone Me?"
"We are not stoning You for any of these," replied the Islamic leaders, "but for blasphemy, because You, a mere man, claim to be God." (John 10:22-33)
As you read the Old Testament, it's evident that the Jewish religion had its origin in God and His Word revealed to them. But you can also read how time and again their hearts would stray from simple devotion and obedience to God, which would then open the door to demonic influence in their lives and culture. The outward evidence of this inward reality was expressed through worshiping other gods (which as the Apostle Paul points out are not gods at all, but demons (see 1 Corinthians 10:18-21), and other sinful practices which are cataloged throughout the entire Old Testament. So, even though their religion did NOT have a demonic origin, through their disobedience they turned it into a man-made religion, which DID come under a demonic influence. By the time Yeshua arrived on the scene, that demonic influence had evidently become quite strong, as His forceful words illustrate.
I don't know about you, but it sends shivers down my spine to see how these passages from John, originally addressed to the Jewish religious leaders, are also amazingly applicable to Islam. But maybe it's not so amazing when you consider that both of these man-made religious systems have the same source ... as Yeshua said, "the father of lies". And lest we followers of Yeshua get too smug, let us not forget how easy it is to slip from relationship to religion. Over the past two thousand years there has been no shortage of demonic influence over the Christian religion either. The Crusades, the Inquisition, and the other horrific crimes committed by so-called Christians over the centuries give us ample proof of that.
In the middle passage above, from John 8:31-59, you can see that the religious leaders were ready to kill Yeshua. Yeshua had said a very provocative statement to them: "Before Abraham was born, I AM!" Actually, the word "born" is not in the original Greek, it was added by the translators. So what Yeshua really said was, "Before Abraham was, I AM!"
Maybe you don't completely understand what Yeshua meant by "I AM", but the religious leaders sure did — they wanted to kill Him for it! Yeshua was referring back to when God revealed His name to Moses at the burning bush, as recorded in Exodus 3:13-15:
Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is His name?' Then what shall I tell them?"The name "Yahweh" (sometimes rendered as Jehovah) is derived from the Hebrew for "I AM". So when Yeshua was saying that before Abraham was, before Abraham existed, "I AM", He was equating Himself with the original I AM, with Yahweh, with GOD. This is why the religious leaders wanted to kill Him, as is made more clear in our passage from John 10, "... because You, a mere man, claim to be God."
God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'Yahweh, the God of your fathers — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob — has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation."
Regarding righteousness and salvation, being a descendant of Abraham, whether Jewish or Arab, doesn't win you any brownie points with God. John the Baptist addressed this point during his ministry:
When John the Baptizer realized that a lot of the religious leaders were showing up for a baptismal experience because it was becoming the popular thing to do, he exploded: "Brood of snakes! What do you think you're doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? It's your life that must change, not your skin! And don't think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as father. Being a descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen. God can make descendants of Abraham from stones if He wants. What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it's deadwood, it goes on the fire." (Matthew 3:7-10, also Luke 3:7-9, The Message)The Apostle Paul, in chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Galatians, has quite a bit to say about Abraham and his descendants. You should read the whole thing, but I will quote a few verses here:
"Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith." The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God. So all who put their faith in the Messiah share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. For you are all children of God through faith in Yeshua the Messiah. And now that you belong to the Messiah, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you. (Galatians 3:6,7,9,26,29)All human religious systems, of which Islam is just one example, put righteousness first, and then salvation. In other words, if you can make yourself righteousness enough before God, then you MIGHT be saved. Unfortunately for such people, the Bible says that NO ONE is righteous, not even one person, and that all of our own righteousness is as used menstrual cloths (Psalm 53:3; Isaiah 64:6).
That's why the perfect and holy God had to come to earth to live as a perfect, righteous human being — because there was not even one righteous person in all of history. Only in Yeshua is true righteousness attained. FIRST, Yeshua (the name Yeshua in Hebrew literally means "Yahweh saves") saves you, through faith in His atoning sacrifice ("We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Yeshua the Messiah once for all", Hebrews 10:10), and THEN you are made righteous by Yeshua's perfect righteousness, not your own self-righteousness (see Philippians 3:9). This is GOOD NEWS indeed!
The demonically influenced religious system of Yeshua's day, whose leaders took pride in being descendants of Abraham, could not tolerate Yeshua and His followers, so they had them put to death (Acts 2:36; 8:1-3; 9:1-2).
In exactly the same way, the demonically inspired and controlled ideological system of Islam, whose Arab followers take pride in being descendants of Abraham, could not and can not tolerate followers of Yeshua. Ever since the beginning of Islam exactly 1,400 years ago this year (according to the Western calendar), Christians have been persecuted and murdered in the name of Islam.
Why do Muslims persecute Christians so relentlessly? Paul explains it in the last half of Galatians chapter four, which I will paraphrase and expand upon. Paul writes that Abraham's two children, Isaac (from whom the Jews descended) and Ishmael (from whom the Arabs descended) represent two ways of relating to God. Ishmael (from whom came Islam) represents trying to get to God by your own righteousness, by trying to follow rules and laws and regulations, hoping that you'll be good enough on Judgment Day to be saved. Isaac (from whom came Yeshua) represents the followers of Yeshua, who like Abraham, are declared righteous by God through faith in Yeshua. Then Paul writes in verses 28-29:
As followers of Yeshua, you are children of the promise, just like Isaac. But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep rules and regulations, just as Ishmael [the followers of Islam], the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Holy Spirit [the followers of Yeshua].So the persecution and murder of Christians continues to this very day. And according to the book of Revelation, it's going to get unimaginably worse, as we shall explore in a future article.