References to Christ in His Tablet to Pope Pius IX
It is not surprising to learn that Bahá'u'lláh made references to Jesus Christ in His Tablet to the recognized head of Christ's church in His day, Pope Pius IX. As the return of Christ in the glory of the Father, it is also not surprising that many of these references which Bahá'u'lláh brought up are made in connection with Himself. As many as possible of these references will be explored, with Biblical references from the Gospels also referenced wherever possible and appropriate.
Bahá'u'lláh's first reference to Himself and Christ appears in His very first sentance to the Pope. Bahá'u'lláh writes: 'O POPE! Rend the veils asunder. He Who is the Lord of Lords is come overshadowed with clouds'[F1]. Christ, Who is commonly referred to by the title 'Lord of Lords' stated that He would indeed return 'overshadowed with clouds,'[F1] even as it was predicted in the Gospel of Mark: 'And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.' [Mark 13:26].
Also in that first paragraph, Bahá'u'lláh again compares Himself to Christ when He tells the Pope 'He, verily, hath again come down from Heaven even as He came down from it the first time.' [F1] I believe that Bahá'u'lláh was referring, not to the virgin birth, but rather to the fact that Jesus Christ had come into this world through the womb of His mother, even as Bahá'u'lláh came into this world through the womb of His mother on November 12, 1817, both of them imbued with the Holy Spirit. Again, a Biblical reference is provided, referring to Christ's birth: 'But while he[Joseph] thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.' [Mark 1:20]. This Biblical reference points out both that Christ was 'of the Holy Ghost' and that He was 'conceived in her' [Masry].
Bahá'u'lláh then gives His first warning to the Pope, cautioning Him 'Beware that thou dispute not with Him even as the Pharisees disputed with Him (Jesus) without a clear token or proof.' [F1] The Pharisees did indeed contend with Jesus, questioning and critizing many of His actions and those of His disciples as is evidenced by the following verses from the Gospel of Matthew.
'And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?' [Matthew 9:10-11].
'But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.' [Matthew 9:34].
'At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.
But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath' day.' [Matthew 12:1-2].
Not content with criticizing Jesus, the following two passages show that the Pharisees deliberately set out to entrap and destroy Him, the ultimate in contention.
'Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.'[Matthew 12:14].
The Blessed Beauty again refers to these Pharisees and how they contended with Jesus when He writes: 'Consider those who opposed the Son (Jesus), when He came unto them with sovereignty and power. How many the Pharisees who were waiting to behold Him, and were lamenting over their separation from Him! And yet, when the fragrance of His coming was wafted over them, and His beauty was unveiled, they turned aside from Him and disputed with Him.'[F2]
Bahá'u'lláh refers to Jesus a little more directly when He writes: 'Call thou to remembrance Him Who was the Spirit (Jesus), Who when He came, the most learned of His age pronounced judgment against Him in His own country, whilst he who was only a fisherman believed in Him.' [F1] Here the Blessed Beauty reminds the Pope that he too is in the position--though with even more power and over more people--as that of Caiaphas. The Gospel of Matthew portrays how Caiaphas behaved towards Christ as follows:
'And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him.' [Matthew 26:3-4].
In that same passage, Bahá'u'lláh also reminds Pope Pius IX of the humble origins of the Papacy itself by reminding him that Peter, Christ's greatest disciple, was a lowly fisherman who nevertheless, and unlike the high and mighty Caiaphas, had the spiritual capacity to not only recognize Jesus as the Christ but also to leave his old familiar life completely behind to follow Him. This is also supported in the Gospel of Matthew.
'And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
'And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.'[Matthew 4: 18-20].
Bahá'u'lláh thus laid out clearly for the Pope the choice of paths which he could take. He gently made the Pope recall the love which he held for Jesus by directly refering to Him, though having missed Muhammad's Revelation and the Quran, the Pope may not have understood that 'the Spirit' actually referred to Jesus Christ (though Bahá'u'lláh may have opened the Pope's spiritual eyes long enough for him to catch the reference.) Also, in the second reference made to Jesus in regard to the Pharisees, Bahá'u'lláh uses the term 'the Son' in reference to Christ, a terminology the Pope could not misunderstand. This gentle reminder coupled with His earler proclamation in that same Tablet that He was Christ returned in the glory of the Father, was also a gentle suggestion that the Pope should extend that love for Christ to the Person of His return. Notice that He does so amidst His admonishments to the Pope, providing a softness and kindness to the harsher words of admonition regarding the Pope's accumulation of earthly wealth and his heedlessness of his Lord's plight. After all, if he had the chance to make Jesus's life easier, wouldn't he do everything he could to do so? He now had this chance with the Person of Christ's return, so why was he dallying?
Bahá'u'lláh again proclaims His Station in the following passage:
Again, turning to the Gospel of Matthew, we find the passage to which the Blessed Perfection was most likely referring:
'Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.'[Matthew 6: 12-13].
Bahá'u'lláh is identifying Himself with the 'Spirit of truth' who will guide us into all truth, unveiling the things which Jesus stated that the people could not bear at that time. Again Bahá'u'lláh alludes to this passage from the Gospels when He states that 'The Word which the Son concealed is made manifest.' His Station iItself is also alluded to by referring to Himself as 'The Word'. By doing this, He makes it clear that His Station is as great as that of 'the Son', Who is also referred to as the Word in the opening verse of the Gospel of John when, referring to Christ, he writes 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' [John 1:1]. In a later Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh identifies Himself even more definitively with the Spirit of truth, even quoting part of that verse from the Gospel of Matthew in the following passage from the Lawh-i-Aqdas, which is also known as the Tablet to the Christians: "This is the Word which the Son concealed, when to those around Him He said: 'Ye cannot bear it now.'"[F4].
In fact, by referring the Pope to this verse, Bahá'u'lláh is also foreshadowing the hardships which will soon befall the Pope, doing so by referring to His own circumstances in His Tablet to Pope Pius IX-- when 'he will shew you things to come' [Matthew 6:13]. Despite the Pope's inevitable fall from power, Hee advisies the Pope on the correct actions which he should take which will avert the dire future which otherwise awaits him, and, in addition, will provide him with eternal life.
As was demonstrated, Bahá'u'lláh makes many references to Jesus Christ in His Tablet to Pope Pius IX, using these references as a gentle reminder of the Pope's duty to God's new Manifestation--Christ returned in the glory of the Father. His references to Christ are mostly allegorical, a teaching style which the Pope should have been used to, since Jesus also taught often by allegory (parables), all of which pointed to some portion of the Pope's Holy Book, the Bible, with which He should be very familiar. Bahá'u'lláh also commands the Pope as Christ returned in the glory of the Father. What command could be clearer or more important than, for example, 'Arise in the name of thy Lord, the God of Mercy, amidst the peoples of the earth, and seize thou the Cup of Life with the hands of confidence, and first drink thou therefrom, and proffer it then to such as turn towards it amongst the peoples of all faiths.'[F1]