This week we shall address the third and final argument that the Koran appears to use to give Muslims a reason to distrust Christians. This is that Christians worship Jesus the Messiah.
As noted in the first and second articles of this series, the Koran teaches that Muslims must believe the Jewish and Christian scriptures. We also learnt that Jesus encouraged the people to obey the scriptures read by the religious leaders but not to follow their hypocritical behaviour. We reasoned that Mohammed likely encountered a similar Jewish and Christian religious leadership.
The prophets of Israel foretold the coming of the Messiah. Both Christians and Muslims believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah and the Koran reserves the title “Messiah” for Jesus alone. The Jews do not believe that Jesus is He. Who then is the Messiah and should He be worshipped?
The Israelite prophets described God’s righteous servant who had a close relationship with God. This servant would become an offering for sin, and would be given authority to rule all nations with justice. Why would the Messiah need to be an offering for sin? To understand this, we need to go back approximately 3,300 years to Moses.
When a person sinned, they were to personally sacrifice the best bull, goat or lamb that they possessed to pay for their sin. The priests offered sacrifice on behalf of the person and sprinkled the blood of the animal around the altar. If the person could not afford any of the above animals, he was permitted to bring a dove or a pigeon. Leviticus 7:11 states “For it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” A similar practise seems to have been performed by the patriarch Abraham approximately 600 years before, as evidenced by Isaac’s enquiry about the sacrificial lamb (Genesis 22:7).
There seems to be a law of God that states that every sin has a cost and must be paid for or atoned with the blood of an innocent. The person had to sacrifice the most healthy and unblemished animal, analogous to using a clean towel to wipe up a dirty mess – the cleaner the towel, the cleaner the result.
The Messiah is described as the Lamb of God upon who accepted the sins of the whole world. Jesus is described as being the sacrifice to atone or pay for the sins of all mankind, and his blood was spilt around the cross where He was crucified. A relationship with God could not be sustained if there is sin that is not atoned. Provision was therefore made for a personal relationship with God without a ceremonial ritual; a relationship so intimate that it is described as God becoming our Father, and we His adopted children.
There are many teachings in the Bible that are not contained in the Koran. However, Mohammed did not deny the Biblical teaching that Jesus the Messiah died to pay for the sins of all mankind. Nor did Mohammed deny that due to this provision, all mankind, including the Ishmaelites, could be adopted into God’s family.
The Biblical book of Revelation, which is consistent with the prophecies of the Israelite prophet Zechariah, describes a scene in heaven where Jesus appears to God after He has been sacrificed. Those around God’s throne then sing “For You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” Then all creation praised Jesus for His accomplishments.
Worship appears to be a combination of one’s attitude and action. It is described as bowing to the extent of lying prostrate, humbling oneself and acknowledging one’s relative position. It is essentially a mark of the highest respect. The Bible and Koran forbid the worship of any angel, man, animal, plant or created thing, yet the Bible describes Jesus being worshipped at His birth and during His reign, and describe Him as the Son of God.
The book of Revelation declares a mystery about God which will be revealed at the end of the age. If we accept this, then the issue of Jesus’ special relationship with God may be one of those mysteries that may have to remain in the balance until such time as “the mystery of God is no more.”