Jesus once asked his disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am” (Matt 16:13)? Who was Jesus anyway? Most people of His day viewed Him as some sort of prophet (John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah, for example).
Islam, a state religion in some twenty-five countries and professed religion to over 1 billion individuals, continues to consider Jesus to be a great prophet. In fact, according to the Koran, Muhammad, founder of Islam (A.D. 570-632), was convinced that Jesus was Allah’s prophet who prepared the way for his arrival. Muhammad viewed himself to be a prophet to the Arabs in much the same way that Jesus was a prophet. In fact, Muhammad taught that when Jesus was born, it was foretold that Jesus would be someone who would be noble, live a righteous life, and be favored by Allah. In the Koran, Jesus has the highest ranking among the prophets. He has special abilities to further proclaim Allah’s message. In fact, His abilities prepare for the grand finale of the prophet Muhammad himself. Despite His prominence in the Koran, Jesus’ position there is less than what Peter said about Jesus. Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Peter’s confession occurred just prior to Jesus’ teaching to His disciples on humility, love, and forgiveness (Matt. 18). Since Jesus, in His first advent, appeared not as the majestic Ruler but as a suffering Messiah who would take away the sins of the world, the disciples had to learn how to love and forgive one another. Jesus thus began to prepare His disciples for His departure – His death and resurrection.
Islam, like many religions throughout the world today, has an elevated view of Jesus. Jesus, however, is not the Messiah who suffered death and resurrection for the sins of the world. In fact, the Koran denies the crucifixion of the Messiah. In Islam, salvation does not come through Jesus Christ; it comes through the Koran.
Missionaries who minister to Muslims have a difficult task because Jesus is highly venerated as a great prophet. He is, however, more than a great prophet, a moral teacher, or a good example. Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). He came and took away the sin of the world, and He provides salvation to those who trust in Him alone.