Monday, March 11, 2019 -
Last evening, just as I’d finished writing in my journal, a man knocked on my cell door. I motioned him inside. He said something to me about me knowing the Bible and wanted to know if I knew where it said Jesus ate or drank after His resurrection. I had never met this man before, although I’d seen him. You see all the men in our unit since there are only a hundred. Well, I knew he was a Muslim because of the way he looks – he wears the Muslim cap and has a Muslim prayer cloth in his cell. I said yes, “I think the Bible does say that, but I’m not sure where, so let’s have a look.” My Bible happened to be setting directly in front of me.
I suggested he sit down, and he sat down on the spare seat (the toilet) and I laid the Bible down on the stool and we looked at it together. He seemed very eager to follow along. I first opened to Acts 1, and read verse 3 aloud but said, “No, this isn’t it.” So I said, “Let’s look at the gospel of John,” and turned immediately to John chapter 1, where Jesus was cooking breakfast on the beach after the resurrection. He’d told me something their teacher had said in their meeting about Jesus eating or drinking, but I really didn’t understand the significance. The passage in John doesn’t say specifically that Jesus ate, but I explained that Jesus, even though He was God, had to have eaten because He was also human. I explained that God had to send His Son as a man to bridge the gap between mankind and God. Because man is sinful, we are born with a sinful nature, and therefore we are separated from God. I showed him Romans 3:23 and then explained that Jesus died for mankind’s sin so that we would have access to God. The fact that all men are born sinners kind of threw him for a loop, so we talked about that some. I told him it is very evident when you see a child that they are born a sinner, just the way they always want to get their own way.
He said something to the effect that Muslims believe a man has to commit a deed for it to be sin, that just because you are tempted to do something doesn’t make it a sin. I told him, “Well, that is partially true, but let’s look at what Jesus says about that.” So we turned to Matthew 5 and read a good bit about what Jesus said on things that you think in your heart that are sin. Anger without cause being the same as murder, looking on a woman lustfully being the same as adultery, and so forth. At the end of chapter 5, Jesus also tells us to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect. But Jesus is setting Himself up because He knows there is no way we can be perfect in and of ourselves, but when He died for our sin, He took our sin upon Himself and made us clean, or perfect. I said, “This doesn’t mean I never sin, but He died for my sin past, present, and future, and hence I can know God.” I asked him, if as a Muslim if he can be assured of going to heaven when he dies. He replied, “No, no man can know that.” I said, “Well, I know. I have that assurance because I know that Jesus died for my sin; and so I have no doubt.” That really seemed to amaze him.
All throughout this conversation, I asked a lot about what Muslims believe, and let him tell me as I listened. Some points I understood, some I didn’t. But I tried to be respectful and interested. I told him that man has two choices – to accept Christ’s death for our sin and be assured of eternal life, or reject Him and go to eternal punishment in hell. After reading what Jesus said in Matthew, he said, “You know, we’re taught that everything Issa says is true, and we are to accept it.” I could tell his wheels were turning, the Jesus’ words totally contradicted what he had just told me. He asked me about children who die, and I told him I believed that if a child was before an age where he was capable of making a decision to accept Christ’s atonement for their sin, that God would not send them to hell. He expressed his relief at that point.
He then asked me about the last supper, and we looked at that Scripture, as well as I Corinthians 12 and some other passages. He seemed fascinated reading the Bible. We spoke about Adam and original sin, and he said he didn’t understand how Adam’s sin could be held against all of mankind. I explained again that Adam and Eve’s sin of pride and wanting to be like God merely ushered sin into the world. But that we, unless we accepted Christ’s death for our sin, would pay the penalty for our own sin, and not Adam’s. Those seem to be things Muslims use to refute Christians, yet the Holy Spirit just seemed to pour out of my mouth all the right words for this man. We finally introduced ourselves to each other, expressed our enjoyment in the deep discussion that lasted quite a while, and parted extremely amicably since he had to go say his prayers. I pray that he dreamed of Jesus last night.
It turned out “S’s” cellmate sent him my way because he’d been asking around for someone who knows the Bible. I found this out because he later asked me how the conversation went, and he hoped I didn’t mind him sending him to speak with me. I said, “Oh no, it was a good conversation.”
These unexpected encounters make my time in prison worthwhile! Please pray that the seeds sprout and take root!
Kathie and William also visited yesterday, but today I’m afraid she is paying the price. She is recovering from pneumonia and it just may have been too soon for her to have made the long trip. Please also pay for her quick recovery and the ever-present pain in her mouth from damage done years ago to a nerve during oral implant surgery.