The first to speak sounds right – until the cross-examination begins. (Proverbs 18:17)
This is the second part of a series examining some of the common claims Muslims make about Christianity. I am using a video I was referred to as a starting point and the first claim made in this video between 1:45 and 2:20 is that Jesus himself never made any claims toward divinity. Jesus actually many times made it very clear that He knew and claimed to be God. Feel free to jump back to CE#1 to take an in depth look at these many claims. Once you have done so, lets continue on:
In this video around 3:20-3:30 this Muslim scholar says that Jesus Christ dying for our sins is not something Jesus taught but rather a doctrine of Paul.
I will jump in, in one second, to look at what Jesus Himself said about His death, but before I do, I want to make it clear that the centrality of Jesus’ death and resurrection is not just something Paul made up. In the Quran, there are a few random quotes by or illusions to Jesus. These are the words of a man who never knew Jesus and had a very limited and warped understanding of Christianity writing a good six hundred years after Jesus’ life. From an historical standpoint they are extremely unreliable.
In contrast, the Bible has four different biographies of Jesus. Three of these were written by eyewitnesses (Matthew, Mark, John) and one by an historian who carefully recorded the testimonies of eyewitnesses (Luke). All of these were written within a few decades of the events they describe and for three of them if not all four, there were still plenty of others around who had seen and heard Jesus for themselves and so if their writings were not accurate they would never have survived. They are all incredibly reliable.
The thing that strikes me the most from these four gospels is how much of their writing focuses in on the final days of Jesus life. He had lived more than thirty years and had a public teaching ministry at least three years long but a very significant portion of what all four gospels write is about the death and resurrection of Christ. Clearly these writers (only one that could be said to be heavily influenced by Paul) all made Jesus death and resurrection the focal point of their story. Matthew gives 8 of his 28 chapters to Jesus final week. Mark gives 6 of 16. Luke, the one who lived and learned from Paul, gave the smallest portion. He only devotes 6 of 24 chapters to this doctrine the Muslim scholar calls Pauline. Finally, John 10 of his 21 chapters to Jesus passion week. With decades of life to select from, all four gospel writers, contemporaries of Jesus, wrote between 25% to almost half of their biographies on the events surrounding Jesus death and resurrection. They obviously felt it was the single most important thing they could say. This was not just some doctrine made up by Paul.
But I have spent more time on that than I planned. It is time to get back to what Jesus said about His death. First of all, there are three times where Jesus clearly and unambiguously predicted His death:
Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. (Mark 8:31)
He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” (Mark 9:31)
“Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, flog him with a whip, and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.” (Mark 10:33-34, each of these has parallels in Matthew and Luke)
He also refers to it secondhand when speaking on other matters:
Jesus replied, “Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose. Yes, today, tomorrow, and the next day I must proceed on my way. For it wouldn’t do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem! (Luke 13:32-33)
Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. (Mark 8:34)
He weaves His death and resurrection into some of His parables:
The owner finally sent him, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’ “But the tenant farmers said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ So they grabbed him and murdered him and threw his body out of the vineyard. (Mark 12:6-8)
In addition to those found in the first three gospels, there is an abundance of predictive prophesies or prior references in the gospel of John. Here’s a link that includes all that I found…
John 2:19-22, 3:14, 7:6-8, 7:33-34, 8:20-21, 8:28, 10:11, 10:15, 12:5-7, 12:23, 12:32-34, 13:31-32, 15:24-25, 16:16-17
Clearly, Jesus knew that He was going to die. He knew also that He would rise again. He said, “It is for this reason that I have come.” He also made it clear that He was doing so for others and that it was a good thing. (John 3:14-16, John 15:13 among many others)
He said that His death would bring others life. (John 12:24)
He refers to His death as a coming judgment through which Satan will be dethroned. (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11)
He said His life would be given as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)
In the upper room, hours before His crucifixion Jesus quotes from Isaiah 53. (Luke 22:37) I am going to quote that at length to demonstrate exactly what Jesus was going to happen and why:
He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.
It was this portion of scripture that Jesus was quoting right before His imprisonment, trial, and execution. It is abundantly clear that throughout Jesus’ life and ministry He knew that He would ultimately die as a sacrifice for our sins. Anyone who is willing to look at even a cursory glance through the most reliable accounts of Jesus life would see this is crystal clear.
The question is not: Did Jesus believe His death would be a ransom for our sins?
The real question is: Do you believe Jesus death can be a ransom for your sins?