LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR
December 14, 2013 by William H. Scarle, Jr.
God willing I will be in Israel beginning January 15 for a short stay with my daughter, her husband Michael and some friends from her congregation. It is doubtful we will be able to visit the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, although we shall certainly spend some time at the Western Wall. I have visited the Dome of the Rock many times when the restrictions were not so tight. It is a magnificent example of Islamic art, although it was originally built by Byzantine Christians.
Around the inside of the dome, rendered in radiant blue tile are artfully drawn Arabic inscriptions fired into the tile. They circle the entire dome. Most Christian pilgrims are unaware of their meaning, which is probably a good thing, since it would damage their appreciation for the beauty of the art. Translated in part they read, “O people of the Book! (That’s Jews and Christians) Do not exaggerate in your religion, nor utter concerning God, and his Word which he conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from him. So believe in God and his messengers, and say not ‘Three’ – Cease (it is) better for you! – God is only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that he should have a son. His is all that is in heaven and all that is in the earth….It befitteth not (the Majesty of God) that he should take unto himself a son.”
It is a helpful perspective to remember that the Dome of the Rock was originally built as an answer to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. There was an obvious attempt to refute the claims of Christians that Jesus was God’s Messianic Son who died upon the cross and rose again for the sins of the world.
Strange as it may seem Islam teaches that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. What is denied is that Jesus was anything more than a prophet. He did not die on the cross. God substituted someone else to suffer that death. Prophets cannot be put to shame in Islam. Obviously if Jesus did not die on the cross he did not rise from the dead. Likewise he is not the Messianic Son of God, since Mohammed was the last and greatest of the prophets.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in the little town of Nazareth he said in part, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus (Yeshua of Joshua, meaning God saves). He will be great and will be called The Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:20 – 23).”
Christmas is a time when Christians throughout the world celebrate the manifestation of God in the person of his Messianic Son, Jesus. The Eastern Church favors the term Epiphany (showing forth) rather than Christmas (The worship service honoring Messiah).
Jesus spoke to his Disciples in sending them out on an evangelistic mission, “The one who hears you hears me, the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me (Luke 10:16).”
Christmas is a time for choosing. The question still resonates through history. Jesus asked his Disciples, “Who do you say that I am.” Peter answered for the band. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org). END-whs