He turned his eyes about him; his mouth opened and his lips curled back over his teeth. Then he seemed to make an effort towards control, and began to mutter something to himself. ‘Not much yet, lord god!’ Richardson heard. ‘Slowly, lord, slowly! I’ll make sacrifice—the blood of the sacrifice,’ and at that a sudden impatient anger caught the young man.
‘Fool,’ he cried out, ‘there’s only one sacrifice, and the God of gods makes it, not you.’ (Charles Williams The Place of the Lion)
Many years ago, when I began college, I took some classes that would give me knowledge about some of my immediate experiences. For instance my husband and I, with our six children, often made trips to an orphanage in Baja so I took a class on Mexican history. The teacher was intrigued with the history of the Aztec period so we didn’t get very far into the modern history of Mexico. We stood far too long around the bloody altars of the Aztec’s human sacrifices.
To supplement my knowledge of the Hebrew Bible I took a wonderful class on Jewish history taught by Mrs. Gabriel. That class was one of my favorite classes even though the teacher used the book The Passover Plot to teach about the beginning of Christianity. Yes, I understand that Jewish people do not believe Mary was a virgin or that Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified.
So Walid Khalidi, the scholar who spoke at the UN this year (2009) on the "Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people" did not shock me when he inferred that Jewish scholars held some very poor views of Jesus and Mary.
But I was shocked while listening to the videos of Khalidi’s UN speech posted at the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Khalidi, who is speaking about his concern that Israel is trying to make Jerusalem a Jewish Capital, in the second video, attempts to make the case that Islam is closer to Christianity than Judaism because of the former’s high regard for Jesus and Mary.
But while Islam does hold Mary and Jesus in high regard one might ask, “Which Jesus and Mary would that be?” Or “Why is the Hebrew Bible Sacred to Christians but not the Qur’an?” And of great importance to those who love Jesus and love their brothers and sisters in Christ, “Why in light of Khalidi’s appeal to the relationship between Muslims and Christians do most Islamic countries persecute those Christians who evangelize Muslims?”
Khalidi believes it is wonderful that the Muslim God did not allow Jesus to suffer crucifixion and instead raised him to heaven to return at the end of time. And he also sees the Islamic belief that Mary was a virgin as a sign of Islam’s strong connection to Christianity. But Islam’s connection to Christianity falls and is broken on the person of Jesus Christ as do all other attempts at redefining the biblical Jesus.
To the Muslim, Jesus is not God and so, although Mary may have been a virgin, she was not carrying God in her womb, but merely a perfect human who was to be a prophet. And if Jesus was neither God nor died on the cross, and therefore was not raised from the dead, then as Paul stated, our Christian faith is worthless and our sins are not forgiven. (The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins is the holy Trinity’s great gift.) But this worthlessness of the Christian faith is doubly certain without the Hebrew Scriptures for then Christ for us would have no meaning at all.
John Calvin was quick to remind his readers that the Jewish sacrifices and their sacraments looked forward to Jesus Christ the perfect sacrifice. And when Jesus taught his disciples, it was always from the deep riches of the Hebrew text. When Jesus walked the road to Emmaus with two of his disciples after his resurrection, he explained his mission, suffering and resurrection from the Hebrew Scriptures, including the law, the prophets and the writings. His words, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into his glory?” It is from the Old Testament text that we know Jesus not from the Qur’an.
If Khalidi wants to prove there is a close connection between Christianity and Islam he must go to the biblical text and understand who Jesus Christ is within that text. He could then reframe his assertion offering a true understanding of who Christians believe Jesus is. Next he must understand the close connection between the Jewish and Christian community since they share the same sacred text, the Hebrew Bible. They also share the same biblical understanding about God and humanity. That is that humans are all sinful and in need of God’s forgiving grace. And God, for both peoples, is the one who provides the sacrifice:
“Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, ‘In the mount of the Lord it will be provided. (Genesis 22:13-14)”
Finally Khalidi must plead for his own faith leaders to stop persecuting Christian converts as well as those Christians whose communities have existed since the first centuries of Christendom.