So what do we learn when we compare Islam, which has some interest in Jesus, with the historic Christian view of Jesus? In Christianity, of central importance is the fact that Jesus Christ is the speech of God. The New Testament book of Hebrews begins with this statement:
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe (1:1-2).
In Islam, the Koran is centrally important, because it is believed to be the recitation of God. The Bible, on the other hand, describes Jesus as the speech of God, the Word of God. Many people have observed, in fact, that Jesus is to Christianity what the Koran is to Islam. The difference, of course, is that Jesus is a living Word of God—God Himself—speaking to humanity with a clarity and brilliance and depth and character and beauty that is unlike what any other religious theory in the world has conceived.
Christians believe that God has been speaking throughout human history. Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and many others delivered diverse messages of God. God spoke through the poetry of the psalms and the oracles of the prophets, on Mount Sinai and even in historical events themselves. But in these last days, something different has happened. The Son of God has spoken—and so God has spoken. God’s speech through the prophets is an amazing thing. The fact that He spoke at many times and in many different ways is all the more amazing. But when the very Son of God came, God’s revelation became personal and direct.
In Islam, Jesus is held in high regard. He is seen as a prophet, as born of a virgin and as the Messiah, but not as the Son of God, not God incarnate. The Koran teaches that “it is not worthy of God that He should take a son” (19:92). It would drag God down to speak of Him as the father of anybody—of Jesus or of us. Muhammad was exposed to Christians in Arabia early in his life, but he said some really strange things about their beliefs. For example, the idea that Christians worship a Trinity consisting of the Father, the Virgin Mary (to whom the Father was married) and the Son, Jesus (5:116). This is a convoluted representation of Christianity that Muhammad rejected. It’s possible that he may have met some people who considered themselves Christians who had terribly warped beliefs.
In contrast to the Koran, the New Testament portrays Jesus as the Son of God in a unique sense and says that we are invited by God to be His children by faith, to view Him as a loving and powerful Father and to address Him as such.
Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus “is the radiance of God’s glory.” That means that the very essence of God’s being shines through Jesus, because He belongs to that being. As surely as you cannot separate the sun from its rays, we cannot separate God the Father from the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the “exact representation of [God’s] being” (Heb. 1:3). The Greek word used in this phrase means “character” or “stamp,” and it suggests the impression made by a die. A stamp leaves in what is stamped an exact duplicate of the stamp itself. That is why Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9) and “Believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1, NRSV). It is the very reason why we can have confidence that we can know God. In the past, God used prophets, but now He has spoken to us in the Person of His Son.
Hebrews 1:3 goes on to say that Jesus “provided purification for sins.” Chapter 2 verse 10 tells us that Jesus is the author of our salvation because of His suffering, and chapter 2 verse 14 says that Jesus destroyed the power of death and the devil, and freed “those who . . . were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Although Islam regards Jesus as a prophet, it does not view Him as the Savior. He does not atone for sins—you alone must pay for your sins. Furthermore, the Koran says Jesus was not crucified, but somebody was mistakenly crucified in a case of mistaken identity (4:157). And if Jesus didn’t die, then there is no resurrection either.
Hebrews 1:8-13 also clearly describes Jesus as the Lord of heaven and Earth. The Lord Jesus was there when the foundations of the earth were laid, He rules over His enemies, and His throne lasts forever and ever.
In Islam, Jesus is a prophet in a long line of ascending prophets, beginning with Adam and going through Abraham, then the great prophet Moses, then the greater Jesus and finally the greatest and final prophet, Muhammad (the “seal of the prophets,” according to Koran 33:40). Hence the creed of Islam, which is recited five times a day, every day, by devout Muslims: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”
But in the Christian faith, Jesus is the Creator and Lord of a people who are gathered together at the foot of His cross in thanksgiving for forgiveness and cleansing. Jesus knows how far short we have all fallen, yet He loved us enough to give His life for us, paying a price we couldn’t pay ourselves. He points to life, not death and conquest.
Because of the empty tomb, His followers believe that their Lord is still on the loose.