What will you do with Jesus?

Christians say this is the most important question in life.  You can’t deny he existed; there is ample evidence from ancient non-Christian historians that Jesus of Nazareth lived, was famous in his time and place for miracles, and was crucified by the Romans.  What you do from there is where it gets interesting.  Will you use logic to say that his followers must have thought he was divine?  They all suffered and all but one of the apostles died a martyr’s death gaining nothing materially for their beliefs.  There were so many things that could have been done at that time to disprove the resurrection but were never done (produce a body and the Jesus Movement is done).  The early church produced a weak story (criminal’s death on a shameful cross with a resurrection corroborated by women and fishermen), unless there was some sort of credibility that could rise up from the story itself.  More people alive today have found meaning from the story of Jesus than any other religious option (33% in 2001 according to Adherents.com).  The question, then, is what will Islam do with Jesus?

In today’s section we get the answer.  First, the Qur’an discusses what the Jews have done with Jesus.  In a section condemning the Jews for their disbelief they are quoted as saying:

“We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of God.” (They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition: they certainly did not kill him — No!  God raised him up to Himself.  God is almighty and wise.  There is not one of the People of the Book who will not believe in [Jesus] before his death, and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them.) (4:157-59)

Then the Qur’an addresses the deification of Jesus by the Christians:

People of the Book, do not go to excess in your religion, and do not say anything about God except the truth: The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was nothing more than a messenger of God, His word directed to Mary, and a spirit from Him.  So believe in God and His messengers and do not speak of a “Trinity” — stop [this], that is better for you — God is only one God, He is far above having a son, everything in the heavens and earth belongs to Him and He is the best one to trust.  The Messiah would never disdain to be a servant of God, nor would the angels who are close to Him. (4:171-72)

Persian miniature of Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount

As we have seen before Jesus is highly revered in Islam as a great prophet or “messenger.”  He was the Messiah but this simply means he was a special emissary to Israel from God leading them back to the right way to live with submission (islam).  Even in Islam, Jesus was born to the virginal Mary (an honor not even bestowed upon Muhammad) and performed miracles while on earth.  As we see in this passage, while it seemed to an observer that Jesus was crucified, he in fact never tasted death and ascended directly to Heaven.  He will come again near the Day of Judgment to defeat the “false Messiah.”  While obviously being special among all prophets (even when compared to Muhammad) he was only ever a human, never claimed anything other than that fact, and will make this clear at the end of time (5:116).  As 4:172 said, Jesus was always fine with this role and never once desired greater power.

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Islamic depiction of Jesus at the Day of Judgment

If Jesus did not actually die on the cross, what happened?  The Qur’an does not say.  Muslim tradition says, though, that someone who looked like Jesus was placed on the cross in his place, maybe one of the Roman soldiers who were crucifying him or Simon of Cyrene or Judas Iscariot.  Observation: That seems like a lot of rigmarole just to explain the crucifixion.  That is how important the atonement really is: it is so foundational to Christian theology that Jesus must not have done anything close to it. 

One commits shirk by claiming Jesus was the “son of God” and therefore divine.  “Shirk” means one has given a “partner” to God, one of the most serious sins of all.  As the passage  above says, therefore, it is ridiculous to speak of  a “trinity.” 

So what do Muslims do with Jesus?  Elevate him to a special position, then divest him of anything divine.  Seems like a strange combination.

Who is the liar?  It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ.  Such a man is the antichrist — he denies the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. . . . every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.  This is the spirit of the antichrist. (1 John 2:22; 4:3)

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