The Message of the Qur'an and the Message of the Cross
I was close enough to my friends that they knew I was sincere and they were not (apparently) angry or offended at what I said, rather they wanted to assure me that deep down we all have faith in the same God, and so I should not be concerned for them. At the time, I indicated that the Muslim and Christian understandings of Jesus are quite different, that the death of Christ is necessary for the atonement of our sins, and that a personal relationship with the living Lord is fundamental.
Everything I've read in the Qur'an has strengthened my original impressions concerning the crucial differences between Islam and Christianity. Previously on this blog, I've indicated one difference between Islam and Christianity concerning the Person of Christ: these two faiths are fundamentally at odds in their account of who Jesus is. Below, I want to briefly look at one difference between Islam and Christianity concerning the Work of Christ, because the two faith are also at odds concerning what Jesus has done.
Surah 4:157-158 declares:
That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah;" but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they did not kill him. Nay, Allah raised him up to Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise,These verses explicitly declare that Jesus' enemies did not kill Him-- specifically denying that they crucified Him-- the Muslim belief being that Allah raised Jesus up to Himself without Jesus dying.
This directly contradicts the testimony of the New Testament. The synoptic Gospels all record that Jesus taught that He must suffer, be rejected by the religious leaders, be killed, and then rise from the dead on the third day (Matt 16:21; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). All of the Gospels accounts find their climax with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel of John-- written by one who was present at the crucifixion-- is particularly explicit concerning the death of Jesus:
31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken [so that they might die more quickly] and that they might be taken away [to be buried]. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness— his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth— that you also may believe. (John 19:31-35 ESV)
Notice the reason that John gives for relating this account: "that you also may believe."
The Cross of Jesus is so central to the Christian faith that Paul refers to the Christian gospel as "the message of the Cross" (1 Cor 1:18). Jesus connects the way His believers are to live their lives with His work on the Cross when He says:
"If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it." (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)
The above statement makes no sense at all if Jesus Himself did not lose His life upon the Cross: thus saving His own life and the lives of all who believe in Him.