Syed Mashhood Ahmad, MA Biblical Studies, UK
In this article, I shall present five major proofs of Jesus’ survival from the cross according to the Gospel accounts in the Bible. Many articles and even books have been written on this subject, and much of what is in this article has been recorded before; however, I intend to show some proofs in more detail, building on the works of the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas and his khulafa.
1. Jesus’ heart-felt prayer in Gethsemane
After Jesusas discovered the plan of the Jewish priests to have him crucified on the cross like a criminal, he immediately went off to a private location to pray. He chose the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed to God to foil the plans of the enemies (Matthew 26:36-46). He was greatly “distressed and troubled”; he sought solitude, and prayed for hours, falling on his face as one would do in sajdah (prostration). His prayer was so intense that some manuscripts (Codex Sinaiticus and Bezae) read that he sweated blood. He prayed that God removes this “cup” from him (Matthew 20:22), i.e. remove that part of his destiny of which God was in control. Jesusas wasn’t concerned over his own life, but feared the plan of the Jewish priests; the public execution. If such a plan went ahead, it would have brought the Divine mission of Jesusas to an end – his disciples and all those who believed him to be the Messiah would abandon such belief, and it would have meant that Jesusas died an “accursed death”. (Deuteronomy 21:22)
Does the above sound like a man whose sole purpose of coming to the earth was to die on the cross? In fact, the Promised Messiahas goes on to explain the incompatibility of the above event and the Christian doctrine of atonement:
“If anyone were to suggest that Jesusas came for atonement and this is why his prayer was not accepted, I would say that when he knew that his purpose was to atone for the sins of man, then why such cowardice? If an official was sent on a duty to deal with an outbreak of plague, and he said that he was being sent in harm’s way, and requested to be sent somewhere else, would not such a person be deemed foolish? Now when the Messiah knew that he had been sent only to atone for the sins of man, then what was the need for such lengthy supplications? Was the matter still under deliberation as to whether he would be required for atonement or was this matter already settled? Therefore, whether it is one blemish or two, or even countless blemishes, can such a one be God? Let alone God, such a person cannot even be considered a great individual.” (Malfuzat [English translation], Vol. II, p. 215)
2. Jesus’ cry on the cross
Jesusas was arrested, tried and then condemned to die on the cross. He was taken to Golgotha where he was then offered wine to dull the pain (Mark 15:22-27), but he refused since he still held hope that his prayers would be answered and that he would not die on the cross; an accursed death. As the hours dragged on, Jesusas felt himself slipping into unconsciousness, fearing that God may have abandoned him, he cries out: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabach-thani?” meaning, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)
Uncomfortable with this cry of despair, some Christian historians argue that Jesusas is simply quoting Psalms 22:1. However, there is a problem with this theory; the words above were uttered in Aramaic. The Hebrew of the Psalms is “‘Eli ‘Eli lamah ‘azabtani?” while Jesusas cries out “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabach-thani?” Why would Jesusas quote a Hebrew text in translation? The Jews in those days would have known many of the Psalms by heart, and Jesusas must have known them too. So why would he quote it in a different tongue?
The answer is, that it was a cry of desperation, seeing that things were not going the way he had expected; in that, he knew God would heed the call and prayer of His Prophet and Messiah, yet he could feel his strength wavering and perhaps saw no other opportunity of surviving the ordeal, he cried out to God, “Why have You forsaken me?”
3. His side pierced
The Sabbath, which would begin at dusk on Friday was approaching, and therefore the criminals on the cross had to be taken down and killed immediately according to Jewish law. The two thieves on either side of Jesusas were executed, but the soldiers saw that Jesusas was unconscious and thought him already dead, but to ensure that he was not faking it, they pierced his side with a spear, resulting in a sudden flow of blood and water (John 19:31-34), a sure sign that his heart was still pumping and that he was alive.
It is often argued by some Christians that Jesusas had died before the actual thrust of the spear in his side, and if Jesusas was not dead, then the spear thrust would have killed him. However, the author of the gospel chose the Greek verb ηΰσσω (nussow) meaning: to prick, stab or pierce (Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Friberg, Miller)when describing the action of the soldier; implying a small cut or prick, the intention being to ensure that Jesusas was in fact dead, since the prick would have made Jesusas flinch. However, the drug given to Jesusas seemed to have done the trick, in that even a prick did not cause any involuntary movement.
Other Christians have come up with fascinating medical conditions and theories of why “blood and water” came out of Jesusas; discussions of a fluid build-up in the lungs or around the heart. Yet, it should be remembered that the spear was a small prick and not a deep thrust into the side. Holger Kersten writes:
“It appears that the expression ‘blood and water’ is a traditional idiom from the ornate Arabian language, intended to emphasize a certain happening. Today we can say someone ‘sweats blood’ – the German equivalent is ‘to sweat blood and water’, ‘Blut und Wasser schwitzen’ – if he works hard or is very anxious, without meaning that blood actually comes from the pores. The same expression, applied when observing a wound, could simply mean that a lot of blood is visible. The eyewitness was doubtless surprised to see so much blood pouring out from a supposedly dead body through a minor scratch wound, and aptly expressed his surprise” (The Jesus Conspiracy: The Turin Shroud & The Truth About The Resurrection, p. 251)
4. Wrapped in herbal medicines
Since the Roman soldiers saw no movement and thought him dead, they reported it to their superiors, and so Jesusas was given over to his disciples, namely Joseph of Arimithea and Nicodemus, who then applied 100 pounds of myrrh and aloe on his body (John 19:38-42). The two herbs are significant and very important as they show further proof that the disciples knew that Jesusas was still alive, since both herbs have healing properties and were used as medicine in the ancient world.
Aloe is a genus containing about 500 species, the most common one being Aloe Vera and grows in Africa and the Middle East. It is very valuable, so much so that the great thinker “Aristotle, being aware that the healing properties of Aloe would be invaluable to soldiers wounded in battle, advised his student Alexander III (‘the Great’) to conquer all lands that grew it, especially the island of Socotra off the coast of Eastern Africa […] Pedanius Dioscorides, a physician in the Roman army, mentioned medicinal Aloes in his encyclopaedic Greek herbal De Materia Medica (Approximately around 75 BC)”. (www.aloe-spectrum.com/body_aloes.htm)
Myrrh is similarly valuable: “In the past Myrrh was used by many cultures for religious ceremonies and as a healing agent. It was mentioned in the Bible as a gift at the birth of Christ. The Egyptians believed in its healing powers: they burned it every day as part of their worship rituals. In the Greek culture when soldiers went to battle is was an essential part of their combat gear because of Myrrh’s extremely high antiseptic and anti-inﬂammatory properties. It was used to clean wounds and to prevent infection. It was also used to prevent the spread of gangrene in already infected parts of the body.” (mdmd.essortment.com/whatismyrrh_riss.htm)
This was certainly not the Jewish burial practise; simple oils were applied to the body for cleaning purposes, but not expensive medicines. This was for the purpose of healing Jesus’ wounds and stop the bleeding. And so the two disciples who took away Jesus’ body knew that he was still alive and had planned his rescue, they brought along with them huge amounts of herbs and medicines to wrap Jesus’ body, and to stop the excessive bleeding.
5. Jesus appears to his disciples in the flesh
Finally, after recovering somewhat from his wounds and being able to walk, Jesusas appears to his disciples. Some of them weren’t in on the plan and did not know he survived, they thought him to be a ghost! (Luke 24:39). But Jesusas quickly removed their doubt and showed him his wounds and told them that it was him in the “flesh”. He was hungry as well and asked for some food and then ate in front of them.
What could this mean? Is this Jesusas raised from the dead? With the same wounds and hungry? Doesn’t the above sound like the same Jesusas who taught his disciples? He is naturally comforting them.
There are so many more proofs in the Bible, the careful reader can pick up on them and see God’s plan all along. He will see how Jesusas did not go on the cross willingly; that he prayed to be saved from such an ordeal in the Garden of Gethsemene and displayed utmost faith during the trials that he would be saved from the plans of the Jewish priests. His prayers were answered. God’s plan can be seen in the gospel texts themselves; Jesusas displayed signs of life on the cross, was wrapped in medical ointments and finally placed in a tomb where he could recover.
He was challenged and taunted on the cross by the Jewish priests: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” (Mark 15:17-32).
In the end, he had the last laugh, and his claim of being the Messiah was proven true when he did “come down from the cross” alive, as the Holy Quran attests itself:
“And their saying, ‘We did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah;’ whereas they slew him not, nor crucified him [i.e. killed him by crucifixion], 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 [definite] knowledge thereof, but only follow a conjecture; and they did not convert this [conjecture] into a certainty. On the contrary, Allah exalted him to Himself. And Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (Surah al-Nisa, Ch.4: V.158-159)