An examination of Jesus’ supposed “failure of the cross”
An examination of Jesus’ victory on the cross
Pope Francis’ words at St. Patrick’s Cathedral have stirred up controversy as to the success or failure of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
“The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds. God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.”
Though certainly the pope was suggesting the distinction between spiritual success and worldly or physical success, saying that “humanly speaking,” Jesus’s life ended in failure, “the failure of the cross,” has generated considerable uproar.
Of course, those of us who have an understanding of the New Testament can point to the destruction of the temple veil at the moment Jesus cried out as an indication of His victory on the cross.
From the Book of Matthew:
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
Piercing the veil has since served as a symbol of dissolving the separation between God and man. As Christians sing every Christmas season, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross allowed for “God and sinners” to be “reconciled.”
Islam certainly has weighed in on the crucifixion of Jesus, but Islam perhaps has not clarified the issue or answered the question as effectively as it presumes. In the context of explaining why the Jews were once chosen by God, but had later been passed over for another group, the Quran states:
“And for their saying, ‘We did slay the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’ whereas they slew him not, nor did they bring about his death on the cross, but he was made to appear to them like one crucified; and those who differ therein are certainly in a state of doubt about it; they have no certain knowledge thereof, but only pursue a conjecture; and they did not arrive at a certainty concerning it’ (4:158).
Although the statement seems most clear to me: Jesus did not actually die on the cross but “he was made to appear to them like one crucified,” many Muslims have taken this verse and asserted that it means that someone else (usually Judas Iscariot) was made to look like Jesus so he could be crucified in Jesus’ place. Honestly, I believe that this interpretation comes from a good place because the Book of Deuteronomy states clearly, “he that is hanged is accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:23). So I think Muslims have justified their interpretation based upon the idea that none of God’s messengers, especially the Messiah, could be cursed by God, and God certainly would not allow His word delivered through Moses to be invalidated by allowing a beloved messenger to die ignobly on the cross as one hanged for sedition.
However, I think putting Judas on the cross takes away from Jesus’s victory. It also diminishes the magnitude of Jesus’ willing acceptance to drink this cup of death.
Ultimately, I think we can come to a reasonable consensus here, especially if we take both the Bible and the Quran seriously. After all, the Bible suggests that Jesus cried out to God and then God took Him, which is exactly when the earth quakes and the temple veil is ripped asunder. Mark 15:34 marks the passage when Jesus cries out, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
This is when onlookers, who believe He is calling out to Elijah, said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him. And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.” (source)
Okay, so it is ambiguous in the Bible whether or not God does come to rescue Jesus, but the Quran leaves no doubt. As earlier stated, the Jews are wrong in their notion that they have (through their extensive political pressure exerted on Pontius Pilate) killed a messenger of God, thus refuting Jesus’ divine status.
“On the contrary, Allah exalted him to Himself. And Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (4:159).
The problem I have with the traditional Islamic view is that Jesus never comes back. In other words, there is no mention of the meeting in the garden between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, nor does the encounter with doubting Thomas touching the wounds of Jesus ever get substantiated. According to many Muslims, Jesus has remained in the “second heaven”; but, the Quran makes no mention of any of the meetings Jesus has with His disciples or speaking to St. Paul on the road to Damascus.
Instead, the Quran gives a cryptic statement regarding the reward / destination for Jesus and his mother after the crucifixion:
“And we made the son of Mary and his mother a sign, and We gave them, refuge on an elevated land having meadows and springs of running water.” (23:50)
So the “We,” presumably, refers to the Elohim, or angelic hosts of Heaven, who give both Jesus and Mary refuge in a place many Arabic scholars have determined to be Kashmir. This remarkable interpretation comes from Jesus’ own words that He would seek the lost sheep, referring to the lost 10 tribes of Israel. So, in the boldest interpretation of the crucifixion, Jesus’ body is recuperated with the help of Essenes like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus during the three days in which Jesus’ spirit or consciousness has been raised up to Allah or to the second heaven. Then, after three days, Jesus returns to his physical body (which is what allows Thomas to be able to touch his wounds), but then Jesus heads toward India to council the remaining 10 lost tribes of Israel.
According to LankaWeb, as He is still a wanted man by the Jewish authorities (the “race of vipers”), He must leave Israel.
“So, he set out for the regions of the east in which the lost tribes were settled all the way from Syria through Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and north western India to Kashmir. The very name of Kashmir is reminiscent of Syria and some of the place names are identical with Syrian place names. The people of Kashmir to this day bear a striking resemblance to the Children of Israel (Bani Israel). Jesus was welcomed and accepted by the Jewish tribes of the diaspora among whom he became known as Yuz Asaf, the prince prophet.”
“He spent his last years in Kashmir. He lived to the ripe old age of over 120 years and when he died he was buried in the Khanyar street in Srinagar, Kashmir. His tomb is still preserved and is a place of pilgrimage.”
I personally enjoy the idea of Jesus in Kashmir. If you are also curious about it, I would point you to the Ahmadiyaa Movement.
I would be wrong, though, to fail to mention that the Ahmadiyaa Movement does not believe that Jesus will be returning, so I have to admit that I have only taken a piece from their interpretation, just as I have taken a piece of mainstream Islam and mainstream Christianity. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, it is important to know that the message of Jesus lives, despite the fact that His actual mission seems to be clouded in obscurity, like the blood moon Sunday night.
I know this seems like a strange place to end the story but, of course, as I have written about in another article, Muhammad (PBUH) has stated that Jesus Christ will return to Damascus. Hopefully, He will be able to clear up this confusion.
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