I understand that Jesus is called Isa Al-masih in the Quran. What is the meaning of Isa according to the Quran?
The Quran does not tell us the meaning of the name Isa. How does the Bible describe this name?
In the Bible the name is Isa, the same as Yeshua, which means God Saves. The Injil tells us that Mary will give birth to a son and she has to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.
Did Jesus teach that he will save his people from their sins?
I thought it was the Apostle Paul who invented this teaching?
Not at all. Jesus told his disciples that he came to earth to give his life as a ransom for many. On another occasion he said “This is my blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
I didn’t know that.
Not only did Jesus teach this, this message is also found in the Old Testament. The book of Isaiah chapter 53 speaks of a suffering servant who took our sins upon himself and was punished on our behalf so that we could be saved.
God took an innocent man and punished him on our behalf? Isn’t that cruel?
If God had punished an innocent bystander, that would have been cruel but that’s not the case. The Bible says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.
Even then, the person going through something on behalf of another person is difficult to accept.
I understand that if a person cannot do the pilgrimage to Mecca, someone can actually go on his behalf. Am I correct?
Yes, Islam allows a person to get a representative to do the pilgrimage to Mecca on his behalf if he is unable to do it himself.
The concept is actually similar. We ourselves cannot pay the penalty of sin because the price is too great. Therefore God provided a way for the penalty to be paid on our behalf.
I remember the Quran says “Every soul delivers itself to ruin by its own act. It will find for itself no protector or intercessor except Allah. If it offered every ransom or reparation, none will be accepted.”
Yes, God is the only one who can provide the ransom.
But didn’t the Old Testament have the system of animal sacrifices to gain forgiveness of sin? Animal sacrifices is also used in Islam the same way. The prominent Muslim scholar Imam Ghazali teaches “Sacrifice in a mass scale brings people near God. Hope that in lieu of every limb of the sacrificed animal, God will save your every limb from hellfire.”
I believe that animal sacrifices have that purpose but animal sacrifices alone cannot be adequate.
Why do you say that?
If we go to a pawn shop to redeem our watch, do we have to pay an amount more than the value of the watch or less?
Of course more. You won’t get your watch back if you pay anything less than its value.
If that is the case, how can animals act as a ransom for human beings? Doesn’t the ransom have to be something even more valuable than human beings?
Is that why in the story of Abraham, the Quran calls the ransom sacrifice a “great” or “feat” sacrifice? the Arabic word used to describe the sacrifice is “azim”. Is it pointing to something else?
I believe so. In the Bible story Abraham called the place “the Lord will provide” rather than “the Lord has provided”. He was looking forward to the day when God will offer a great and feat sacrifice.
What could this great sacrifice be?
Christians believe that this great sacrifice is Jesus. Even the Quran holds Jesus in high regard. Jesus is exalted in this world and in the world to come. The Quran also calls Jesus “a mercy from God”. In other words God provided Jesus because he is merciful towards us.
I see but how about the sacrifice being a feat sacrifice? Why would it be so hard for God to offer that sacrifice?
What would be the hardest thing for God to offer? It would be himself. God was willing to do that for us. While God commanded Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice, God was willing to offer himself as a sacrifice?
Yes, even though Abraham’s love for God is great, God’s love for mankind is even greater. He offered on our behalf the sacrifice that is without blemish.
Who can be without blemish? Even though Muslims believe that all prophets are free from major sins, is there one who can be called sinless and holy?
Only one prophet can fit that description. That is Jesus but let’s talk about it another day.