The threat of Islamic extremism today is very present and real. However, the threat that Islam poses to the Gospel of Christ is a more pressing problem. Terrorism is a matter of life and death — in this world. Spiritual truth is a matter of life and death — eternally.
As with most religions, there are things in Islam that Christians agree with. Muslims believe in one God almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. When Islam was founded, not only was the pagan Arabian peninsula awash in idolatry, but idolatry had also gained a foothold in seventh-century “Christianity.” Islam did and does stand against idolatry. Muslims believe in life after death, with both rewards and punishment. Other areas of agreement could be named; but let’s zoom in on Islamic teachings regarding Jesus of Nazareth.
Positive Things about Jesus in the Quran
The Quran affirms that Jesus was born of a virgin: “Behold! the angels said: ‘O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter’… She said: ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, “Be,” and it is!'” (3:45-47).
The Quran confirms miracles of Jesus that are recorded in the Gospels, while adding one found in an apocryphal gospel: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favor to thee and to thy mother… Thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it, and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! Thou bringest forth the dead by My leave'” (5:113).
The Quran says that Jesus was a prophet, and the Messiah (Christ): “He [Jesus] said: ‘He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet'” (19:30). “His name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary” (3:45).
Jesus’ ascension into heaven is also confirmed: “Behold! Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee [of the falsehoods] of those who blaspheme'” (3:55).
Negative Things the Quran Says about Jesus
However, the Quran is adamant that Jesus was/is not divine, not eternal, not the Son of God. The statements in this regard are strong: “They do blaspheme who say: ‘Allah is Christ the son of Mary.’ But said Christ: ‘O Children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord’ Whoever joins other gods with Allah, –Allah will forbid him the Garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrongdoers be no one to help. They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: For there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them” (5:75-76).
In the Quran, Jesus is never called “Son of God.” He is always called “son of Mary.” “They say: ‘[Allah] Most Gracious has begotten a son!’ Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous! At it the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin. That they should invoke a son for [Allah] Most Gracious. For it is not consonant with the majesty of [Allah] Most Gracious that He should beget a son” (19:88-92).
The Quran Denies Jesus’ Crucifixion
“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 killed him not. Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise” (4:157-158).
“They killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them.”
What a claim! The Quran, six centuries after Jesus’ death, claims it didn’t happen. No details, no names, no witnesses, no explanations, no proofs, nothing; just a sixteen-word denial. Present-day Muslims, twenty centuries after the fact, attempt to offer some proof in favor of the Quran’s claim. But the Quran itself, the highest authority in Islam, does not pretend to offer proof. It would be like me claiming — five centuries after the fact — that Christopher Columbus did not sail from Spain to the Americas; rather “it was made to appear” that he was the head of the expedition. If I were serious about such a claim, just imagine what you would think — not about Columbus, but about me!
Of course, Mohammed had a need to make this claim. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, in his translation of the Quran, indirectly tells us the need for this claim. In his footnote on the verse in question, he includes these telling words: “The Orthodox-Christian Churches make it a cardinal point of their doctrine that his life was taken on the Cross, that he died and was buried, that on the third day he rose in the body with his wounds intact, and walked about and conversed, and ate with his disciples, and was afterwards taken up bodily to heaven. This is necessary for the theological doctrine of blood sacrifice and vicarious atonement for sins, which is rejected by Islam.” Mr. Ali quite correctly states what is involved in the denial of the historical facts. He thus, indirectly (and perhaps inadvertently) offers the motive for Mohammed to include this verse in his Quran. It was necessary for Mohammed to deny the doctrine of blood sacrifice and atonement for sins by Jesus Christ in order to establish his own religion based on works. It was necessary for Mohammed to deny Jesus’ sacrifice for sins in order to make himself and his new religion more important than Jesus and his Gospel.
A denial of Jesus’ death on the cross is so serious for another reason. If Jesus was taken up into heaven, like Enoch and Elijah, without dying (as the Quran says), then of course he did not rise from the dead. Mohammed, in the Quran, denying the crucifixion of Jesus, was automatically denying Jesus’ resurrection. Thus, the entire basis of the gospel was denied. The gospel is based on three inseparable events. As Paul explained in 1 Cor. 15:1-4: “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; by which also you are saved… that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day.” This is the historical basis of Christianity. Mohammed, with no evidence, no proof, no witnesses, six centuries after the fact, denies the historical basis of the gospel with just sixteen words.
Crucifixion Crucial to Christianity
The crucifixion of Jesus is at the heart of Christianity. The obvious first reason is that Jesus died for your sins and mine. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin… Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him… we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son… You were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold… but with the precious blood of Christ.” (Rom. 5:8; 1 John 1:7; Rom. 5:9-10; 1 Pet. 1:18-19)
The resurrection is inseparably connected to the crucifixion. It changed everything. The apostles were very different men before and after the resurrection. Without the resurrection, the crucifixion is meaningless. “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished… But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept… For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.” (1 Cor. 15:17-20; Rom. 14:9)
A sinner’s conversion is connected to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection in a most meaningful way: “Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:3-4).
Christians remember the crucifixion every week. “The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Cor. 11:23-26)
That’s Not All
Jesus’ crucifixion is not only intimately tied to one’s conversion followed by the weekly Sunday worship. The powerful image of death on the cross becomes a symbol of the daily Christian life. Before Jesus went to the cross, He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Years later, Paul would say “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me… I die daily.” (Matt. 16:24; Gal. 2:20; 1 Cor. 15:31)
What was the message that the early Christians preached to the world, and how was it received? “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God… I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified… God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:18; 1 Cor. 2:2; Gal. 6:14)
Through his death, Jesus overcame Satan. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he [Jesus] also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Heb 2:14)
Jesus’ death and shed blood gives us confidence to approach God. “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.” (Heb 10:19)
Jesus bought the church with his blood. “… the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)
Jesus’ death made the New Testament possible. “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.” (Heb 9:16)
The crucifixion of Jesus upon the cross of Calvary, shedding his blood just outside Jerusalem in the year A.D. 30, is more than an historical fact. It is even more than dying for our sins. The cross of Christ is essentially tied to every phase of the gospel message. At the time of Jesus’ death, his closest followers thought they were witnessing a great defeat. Only later, via the Holy Spirit, did they come to realize that the cross was not a moment of defeat — it was a moment of tremendous victory. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus triumphed over death, sin, and Satan. He gave us access to God our Father, a better covenant between God and mankind, a new life in this world, and life eternal.
Islam and Blood
That’s why Paul would say: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified… But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ… For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:2; Gal. 6:14; Philip. 3:18)
Mohammed, Islam, and the Quran are not the only enemies of the cross of Christ. There are many ways that Satan today tries to divert people from this truth. But, praise God, through Calvary and the Open Tomb we have peace with God, access to God, and the promise of eternal life.
The physical dangers of extremist Islam today are real. Nevertheless, Jesus tells us: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28) The major danger of militant Islam is not that it is an enemy of the USA. Rather, the major danger of all Islam is that it is an enemy of the cross of Christ. That’s not just a danger for non-Muslims. It’s a real danger for Muslims themselves. Muslims need the cross. They need the crucified Savior, just as we all do. Let our chief concern not be for our bodies, but rather let it be for our (and their) souls. The Islamist Jihadis want our blood. What all Muslims need is the blood of Jesus!
[Quotations of Quran taken from translation of Abdullah Yusuf Ali.]