Jesus means “The Lord saves” and the Bible tells how this salvation is brought about. In this third episode of Reasons for Our Hope we offer a glimpse of the story of salvation. It is a drama in four acts and Jesus stands at its culmination
When it comes to the place of Jesus in Christianity, it is not enough to notice some similarities or differences from the Muslim presentation. It is important to see the larger picture, or mosaic.
The name Jesus comes from a term which means “the Lord saves,” and the Bible tells the story of how this salvation is brought about.
This story is not about God sending books to prophets. In the Bible, God’s personal engagement with humanity can be thought of as a drama made out of four acts: creation, Abraham, the people of Israel, and Jesus…Plus an end we are still waiting for!
Each step builds upon the former: Revelation for Christianity is a cumulative process, some truths are not known from the beginning but are discovered over time.
In the opening, before history, God creates the world and the humans in it.
Creation is good and nothing can destroy its fundamental goodness, not even the devil. Yet, humanity’s sin seriously distorts it. Hence the need for salvation.
To bring it about, God acts in a surprising way.
He chooses Abraham, one old man out of all of the people in the world and promises to bless the nations through him. After testing his faith, he makes a covenant with him.
Later on, part of Abraham’s offspring ends up in Egypt, in slavery. God hears the cry of their pain, and sends Moses, who delivers the Israelites, bringing them out of Egypt to Mount Sinai.
Here God renews his covenant, now with the entire people and commands them to follow a law, the Torah.
They are given a land, provided they remain faithful to the covenant. Years go by, and the people are not faithful to the covenant. Kings of Israel rise and fall, and eventually all of the people are taken away in exile. Their Temple is destroyed.
God, however, does not abandon them. Rather, he announces a new step: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” This will happen thanks to a mysterious figure, a servant of God called the Messiah, in Hebrew the Mashiach, in Arabic al-Masih.
Most of the prophets present the Messiah as a mighty king, but one of them, Isaiah, warns: this servant will have to suffer and be rejected.
Muslims will recognize many of the characters mentioned in this story. But they will also recognize that the underlying logic is different from that of the Qur’an.
To understand Jesus in Christianity, consider him in the light of this salvation history. He is not simply a prophet with a message: he claims to be the fulfilment of these ancient promises.
In his first public speech in the synagogue of Nazareth Jesus boldly applies to himself the prophecies of Isaiah about the Messiah and says: Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
In our first three videos we have given you a glimpse of the pattern in the mosaics of the Bible and the Qur’an. Future videos will fill in the missing pieces.
For now, we leave you with this: with a generous heart, everyone can see coherence and beauty in the universe of the Qur’an and of the Bible. With this as a beginning, fraternity and friendship are the next steps.
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