Subject: Islam, Judaism and Christianity Part 6 – Jesus Christ the Son of God
Matthew 21:37 “The last of all, the Owner sent His Son to them, saying, ‘Surely they will respect My Son.’”
Just before they were beheaded, the ISIS video captured these final words of the 21 Coptic Christians – “Lord Jesus Christ”. The world witnessed what it means to be willing to not only die but to live a life that places Jesus Christ as Lord. In an American culture where we now elevate television stars into ‘American Idols’, who are these true heroes of the Christian faith who are now in the presence of God?
“Coptic” (“Egyptian”) Christians, which make up about 15% of Egypt’s population, began in the city of Alexandria. They claim John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, as their founder and first bishop sometime around A.D. 45 – A.D. 60, when he came to Egypt on a mission trip and the gospel of Jesus Christ took hold in the city. At that time, Egypt was a mixed society of Jews, Greeks and Egyptians under Roman rule. Those who professed Christ were martyred when they refused to worship the Roman Emperor and instead publicly worshipped Jesus Christ alone as their Lord.
By 641 AD, the Arabs overthrew Roman rule in Egypt, and soon new persecutions began, based primary on an Islamic document known as the ‘Pact of Umar’, where Christians were given a choice to either convert to Islam, pledge themselves under Islamic rule by agreeing to adhere to the rules of the Pact, or die. Over the centuries, Coptic Christianity in Egypt was gradually overtaken by Islam as many converted.
But these 21 Coptic Christians were executed by ISIS for blasphemy against the Islamic teaching that Jesus Christ is merely a prophet to be respected as being sent by God. Instead, they refused to deny their belief in Jesus Christ as God Incarnate, who is both fully human and fully divine. They believe Jesus came to earth by setting aside His divine prerogatives and took the form of a lowly servant to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin by dying in their place on the Cross. This is a severe blasphemy in Islamic theology and justification to be put to death. The actual title of the beheading video released by ISIS is “A Message signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” Once again, Islamic terrorists sent a message to the world that Christians were to be executed, especially for their steadfast trust in Jesus Christ as God.
The Trinitarian view of God as three Persons within one Being is the Islamic equivalent of the Christian highest sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Surah 5:73 says “They do blaspheme who say God is one of three, … for there is no God except one God.” But Christianity does not teach that God is one of three.
The Bible teaches absolute monotheism, as Deuteronomy 6:4 says: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”, but describes God’s complex nature as the eternal, unchanging unity of one indivisible Being in a diversity of three Persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God has revealed Himself to mankind in the Trinity: ‘three Persons, one Substance’. This triune nature shows us a command structure within the Godhead. Jesus Christ is the Son because He submits to the will of the Father and came to earth to serve the Father. The Holy Spirit submits to the will of the Father and Son.
Judaism is like Islam in this regard – anyone who claims God is Triune in nature is committing blasphemy. Jesus confronts the Jews with their false understanding of God’s nature in our verse this week. Matthew 21:37 is part of a parable Jesus tells in Matthew 21:33-37 that does two things. First, it confronts Judaism with their Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah chapter 5, as a description of the Messiah as God the Father’s Son. This is meant to show their own Scriptures reveal God’s nature as multiple Persons in one Godhead.
But secondly, unlike most parables He told which left the hearers to figure out what He meant, in this parable everybody knows what He’s saying. The chief priests and Pharisees want to kill Him all the more, because they understand that Jesus has cast them as the wicked tenant farmers, and Himself as the son. Like most of Jesus’ parables, the story doesn’t just convey information – it causes the situation it describes.
Jesus tells the story of Israel and shows that it has come to its true climax, in Him and his work: He is the Prophet as well as the Owner’s Son, the heir to the estate, coming to the vineyard on the Owner’s behalf. God as the Owner sends his Son, expecting that they will respect Him. They throw him out and kill Him.
Anyone who rejects God the Father’s only Son, whom He sent into the world to save all mankind, whether Muslim, Jewish, or Gentile, will give an account one day to Him for why they may have respected Him but were unwilling to follow Him as the Father’s freely-given gift to pay for their sins.