Chapter 8: Jesus as a Divine Sacrifice
As a Christian, I had been taught that Jesus was perfect and had been without sin throughout his life. I also had believed that he was God, that he had died for me and that his voluntary self-sacrifice on the Cross absolved me of all of my sins. We all had believed that it was only because he had been both flawless man and perfect God that he could have been the sacrifice that brought about the forgiveness of all the wrong the rest of the world had done. I now knew that this was not possible. Though he was Messiah, the prophets of the Old Testament, the angels and Jesus had not said that he was God.

The prophecies of the Messiah had said that Jesus would be fallible, would be punished and then would be forgiven. I could no longer consider Mark 10:18: “‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good — except God alone’” to be an example of God’s teasing sense of humour. Jesus had been telling the truth all along!

I was left wondering what the implications of Jesus’ crucifixion and assumption into heaven actually were, and wondering as well how I should find out. There was no question in my heart that some benefit did accrue to those who actually followed Jesus’ teachings, nor was this questioned by my Muslim friends. The Holy Quran said in Surah 3:55: "Behold! Allah said: 'O Jesus!

I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those Who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.’” I thought it was interesting that, according to this verse, the benefit of following Jesus came during this life rather than on Judgment Day.

The status of the Bible as having being divinely inspired was likewise not a source of controversy with my Muslim friends or the Holy Quran. Although I had originally been angered and frustrated by the Muslim contention that when early Christians had translated and preserved the Bible, they had changed the words and meanings whenever convenient, I had found examples of this in the footnotes and margin notes of my own NIV, some of which I have already shown, and others of which will be seen later in this manuscript.

I considered just abandoning all Christian texts, but I couldn’t really blame the Bible for the way Christian scholars had interpreted it. My only question was whether things had become so obscured over the centuries that it would be impossible to decipher what the Prophets had originally meant. So far, I had been studying the Bible, reading, praying, rereading and searching for answers for almost a year.

There was no question that what I had learned was different from what I had expected. However, the more I learned, the more I found that the message of the Bible was still strong and internally consistent. For that reason, I decided that I would continue to use the Bible in my exploration of Jesus’ actual message. I was quite excited because it seemed that with the Spirit of Wisdom as “firstborn”, strengthening, empowering and enlightening Jesus, the Bible had become more consistent rather than less, although with a different message than that which I had been taught by the Church.

After the divinity of Jesus, the other major area of doctrinal controversy between Christianity and Islam was the crucifixion. My Muslim friends simply did not believe that it was actually Jesus who had been crucified. Translations of the meaning of the Holy Quran that pertain to this include (from the Abdullah Yusuf Ali New Revised Edition) Surah 4:157-159: “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 - and there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment He will be a witness against them” and Surah 3:54-55: “And (the unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah. Behold! Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.’”

When I read these verses, I wondered if both sides had been guilty of over-interpreting the Word of God. The Holy Quran said that the Jews had thought that they had crucified and killed Jesus but that instead, Jesus had been taken up to Heaven by God. The lesson that I saw was that the Jews had not crucified Jesus, nor had they killed him, and that God was in control of events that day. The Holy Quran said that everyone who differed about those events was full of doubts, with only conjecture to follow.

I had to wonder if this verse from the Holy Quran shouldn't be read as a warning to anyone who argued about them. There are traditions in Islam that expand on these matters, but these are ascribed to the followers of Mohammed (PBUH) rather than to the Prophet himself.

That God was in control that day was confirmed by both the prophecies of Isaiah and the statements of Jesus. Isaiah 53:10 said “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.” Jesus confirmed this in Matthew 26:52-54: “‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’” and in John 19:11: “Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.’”

Both the Bible and the Holy Quran were in agreement that what passed between God and Jesus on the hill of Golgotha was under God’s control. Jesus surrendered himself to God. God found Jesus acceptable and took him up to Heaven. I saw a strong parallel with Abraham’s obedience to God in his willingness to sacrifice his firstborn son.

In that situation, it was the willingness and the offering, not the blood, that God required. It became apparent to me that the people who wished to argue about the mechanism of Jesus’ exaltation were really missing the point.

It is difficult to avoid the temptation to "fill in the gaps" when reading God's word. In all of the books, there are points which are explicitly stated, but there are also questions that we may ask which are not answered, and our attempts to answer these questions can lead to disputes which may remain unresolvable to the end of time.

There is an excellent verse in the Holy Quran about how to approach conflicts when interpreting the Word of God. Surah 3:7 says: “He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book; In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are not of well-established meaning.

But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is not of well-established meaning, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its true meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: ‘We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord’ and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.”

Yusuf Ali in his commentary says: "This passage gives us an important clue to the interpretation of the Holy Quran. Broadly speaking it may be divided into two portions, not given separately, but intermingled.

1. The nucleus or foundation of the Book, literally "the mother of the Book".

2. The part which is not of well-established meaning. It is very fascinating to take up the latter, and exercise our ingenuity about its inner meaning. But it refers to such profound spiritual matters that human language is inadequate to it, and though people of wisdom may get some light from it, no one should be dogmatic, as the final meaning is known to Allah alone."

I believe that the whole of God’s revealed Word is true and can only be fully understood with God's help. Those things that are important for us to understand are explicitly stated. It is a sign of perversity to seek discord and division rather than unity and understanding.

When studying the Holy Quran and the Holy Bible, I found that if I read the words, seeking understanding and enlightenment, and avoided drawing conclusions that were not explicitly stated, that there was no conflict between them, even about the Crucifixion.

The Quran taught that everyone had misinterpreted the events. Isaiah had said that the suffering servant would “see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord would prosper in his hand.”