The Quest for the Lost Jesus
Part 2: The Mindset of the Messiah
© Andy Bannister, 2002

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Read the other parts of the Quest for the Lost Jesus series
Part 1
Asking Questions, Seeking Answers
Part 2
The Mindset of the Messiah
Part 3
The Coming of the Kingdom

Download all three parts as one handy PDF file

Recommended reading
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A brief recap

Last time, we introduced the subject of Jesus by making the point that if Muslims wish to say that they honour him then, given the lack of information about him in the Qur’an, they need to invest some time searching for their lost Jesus — by getting to grips with his life and ministry as reported in the accounts contained in the New Testament.

We also looked at a key aspect of the self-understanding of Jesus — the fact that he considered himself to be utterly unique; not just one in a line of prophets, but indeed, in a category apart. We showed this by looking at just one of the parables that Jesus told. To stress the point again; to understand Jesus, it is not enough just to quote a verse here, a verse there, to try to prove your point. Whatever and whoever you understand Jesus of Nazareth to have been, if your understanding cannot deal with all of his teaching, actions, and ministry, then you are building castles in the air. Quoting mere proof-texts to try to show that “Jesus was a good Muslim” is not the way to study Jesus. And, indeed, there is a very good reason why attempts to make Jesus out to be a good Muslim do not work; it is because this was not what he understood himself to be.

Who did Jesus think he was?

So if Jesus did not consider himself to be just another prophet, one in a long line stretching from Adam to Muhammad, who did he understand himself to be? What categories did he use to explain his actions, his teachings, and his ministry? The answer is, at one level, simple. Jesus understood himself to be Israel’s Messiah (in Arabic, ‘al-Masih’, the word that the Qur’an uses). That, however is where the simplicity ends. For to call Jesus the Messiah simply leads to another question; “what does 'Messiah' actually mean?” Sadly many Muslims have not given this question the slightest consideration. Yet it is foundational to understanding the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. Muslims are not helped in that the Qur’an makes no attempts to define what ‘al-Masih’ means, to discuss what it means for someone to be ‘al-Masih’, or what Jesus meant by the term.

To explore the answer to this central question concerning Jesus, you need to do some digging. Because when Jesus used the word “Messiah”, he was tapping in to a very ancient Jewish story; a story that informed, guided, and drove the nation of Israel of which Jesus was a part. It is a story that speaks of the God who created the world, who set mankind within it, who guided men and women in order that his purposes might come about. In one sense, this Jewish story recorded in the Old Testament is the oldest story of all! Hence to understand Jesus, indeed, to understand creation itself, you need to understand that story which Jesus, like any good first century Jew, would have been well versed in; it was a story told in the Jewish Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament), acted out at feasts and festivals, celebrated in Temple and Synagogue; it is a story that starts at the very beginning of it all.

In the beginning ...

The Jewish story of God’s relationship with the world starts at the very beginning of the Bible, in the book of Genesis. Shadows of this story can be found in the Qur’an, but as with the story of Jesus himself, fundamental aspects are missing from the Qur’an’s account — this may well be why Muslims have often struggled to recover their lost Jesus, because the key pieces of the jigsaw cannot be found in the Qur’an. Rather you need to turn to the Old Testament, specifically to Genesis 1-3, to start to lay the framework for what Jesus meant when he spoke of being the Messiah.

We read in Genesis 1-2 of how God created the heavens and the earth, and everything that can be found in the created order. What is also significant is what we read after God has completed this creative process:

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)

Right at the beginning of the Bible, we read that God’s creation was good — he was pleased with that with which he was made. This is a vital aspect of the Jewish-Christian story of beginnings; God does not divide things into ‘spiritual and good’ and ‘earthly and bad’, a way of thinking found in some religions today. Some religious people think that life is all about doing one’s best to please God, so that you can escape to a ‘better place’ (paradise or heaven). However, this is not what Genesis says. Created things are not bad, indeed the whole of the universe is very good indeed — creation as God first made it, was a very good thing.

But it is what follows next that is of primary importance for understanding the Jewish story and, in our case, understanding what Jesus saw his Messianic role as being all about. For once he has completed the rest of creation, God then creates man and woman:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
(Genesis 1:26-27)

God creates man and woman, the very pinnacle of his creation, according to the Bible; but the vital part of the narrative is that mankind was created in the image of God. The result of missing this has massive consequences — it will cause you to misunderstand God, misunderstand humanity, and misunderstand Jesus. Some Muslims have occasionally asked questions like “how can humans be in God’s image — God is utterly different from his creation?” But mixing up creation and the creator is not what this story is about. I know of no Jewish or Christian scholar writing today who would say that this verse suggests humans are in any way divine. Rather, the image of God tells us about the role of human beings in God’s creation. Just as an ancient king would place statues or images of himself throughout his empire, to pronounce to his subjects that it was his power that was supreme, so human beings are in the image of God:

‘Adam was meant to represent God within his creation’ [1]

When God makes men and women in his image, ‘he does not mean them to look like him, or to be made of the same stuff. Rather he intends them to be a kind of extension of his own personality, and a fundamental part of his own activity in the world. They are his representatives.’ [2]

The idea that human beings are God’s image or representatives runs through the whole of the Bible like a golden thread. Why does God forbid human beings to murder? Because humans are made in God’s image (Genesis 9:6). Why is God so concerned that human beings live sinless, righteous lives? In order that they may accurately represent him within creation; God is perfect and thus expects his representatives to accurately reflect that perfection (e.g. Matt 5:48).

However, the next part of the Genesis story tells of how Adam and Eve disobeyed God and broke the relationship between humankind and God. Once again, the Qur’an (Surah 2:30-39) has borrowed the biblical story, but misses many of the most important points. The result of the sin of the first human couple is not only that human beings are separated from God but that creation itself was damaged when they rebelled; we have seen how Adam and Eve were the high point of creation, God’s representatives within it. They not only failed God in sinning, but failed their responsibility to creation as well:

Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. (Genesis 3:17-18).

And with sin also came, for the first time, human death, as God had warned (Genesis 2:17):

... until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken, and to it you will return. (Genesis 3:19)

Central to the whole Bible is the idea that mankind and creation are inseparably linked. Unlike the Qur’an’s account of creation, God did not set Adam and Eve in some heavenly paradise from which they sinned and were cast down to earth (Surah 7:24). Rather, he created human beings to be responsible for and look after the rest of creation, to be his representatives within it. And, unlike the Qur’an, the Bible does not present paradise as an otherworldly place disconnected from reality, but speaks of God restoring the whole of creation to the way it was intended to be.

Adam, Israel, and God’s true humanity

The creation and the sin of Adam is just the beginning of the Jewish story which we need to understand if we are to grasp the mindset of Jesus. God had intended humankind as a whole to be his representatives, but they had failed in this task. So the story of the Old Testament moves on to the person of Abraham (or Abram as he was called before he met God). God had a very special plan for Abraham, when he called him to leave his homeland and travel to a new country:

God said to Abraham ... “I will make you a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

This promise to Abraham is foundational to the rest of the Old Testament and to the understanding that Jesus had of what it meant to be the Messiah. Indeed, one could trace the Muslim loss of Jesus right back to Abraham himself. Understand what God promised to Abraham and how that was fulfilled, the purposes of God behind that promise that the Old Testament reveals, and you are well on the way to correctly approaching Jesus. So important is this promise to Abraham that we find that God repeats it to him on a number of occasions where more of the details are fleshed out:

God said to Abraham, “know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and ill-treated for 400 years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions.” (Genesis 15:13-14)

God promises to turn Abraham into a great nation through the long-hoped-for son, Isaac. A nation who will indeed be enslaved; the story of Israel’s ill-treatment by the Egyptians and their rescue by God is one of the most important themes in the Old Testament. But a key question to ask here is why? Why did God choose to raise Abraham up into a nation, to miraculously provide him and his wife with a child, Isaac, to do so. What does it mean that all nations on earth will be blessed through Israel? These are important questions, and have to do with the role of Israel in God’s plans and purposes as revealed in the Old Testament [3]. The Bible answers this question for us very clearly in a number of places. Here are just a few of the key verses:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. (Hosea 11:1)

God has declared this day concerning you that you are a people for his own possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, that he will set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honour, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he has spoken. (Deuteronomy 26:18-19)

And God said, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’
‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
(Isaiah 49:3,6)

What, then, do we see in these verses and throughout the whole Old Testament? We see that God has chosen Israel to be his special people, that they will be holy and set apart, and, crucially, that they shall be a light to the other nations of the earth. Think back to what we saw concerning Adam and Eve, how God had created them to be his representatives. The Old Testament teaches that this role had now passed through Abraham to Israel. As leading biblical scholar Tom Wright has expressed it:

‘Abraham and his family inherit, in a measure, the role of Adam and Eve ...we could sum up this aspect of Genesis by saying: Israel are God’s true humanity.’ [4]

‘Jewish covenant theology claims that God has not been thwarted irrevocably by the rebellion of his creation, but has called into being a people through whom he will work to restore his creation ... Israel is to be the people through whom the creator will bless his creation once more.’ [5]

The hope of a nation

Yet just as Adam and Eve rebelled against God, so too did Israel. The people that God had called as his special men and women, those through whom the rest of the world would see his glory fell into sin and rebellion. The prophetic books in the Old Testament recount time and time again how God called his people Israel, through the prophets, back into the kind of relationship with him that would mean they might fulfil their purpose and that the rest of the world might see God revealed through them. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

Return, faithless Israel, says the Lord God, I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, I will not be angry for ever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the Lord your God and scattered your favours among strangers under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, says the Lord God.
Return, O faithless children, says the Lord God; for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the LORD, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord God.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; it shall not be made again.
At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord God, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord God in Jerusalem, and they shall no more stubbornly follow their own evil heart
. (Jeremiah 3:12-17)

Note the examples here of all the themes we have been discussing. Israel rebelled and disobeyed God, and in the process one of their most sacred religious objects — the ark of the covenant had been lost. Now the nation of Israel are in exile, yet God has not forgotten them. The promise is clear — if they cease their rebellion and return to God, then he will carry out his promises and prosper them. All nations will gather to Israel because through her they will experience the power of the Lord God himself. It was this kind of promise that kept God’s people hoping and praying during the long years of oppression, exile, and persecution.

This is what the Lord God Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to pray to the Lord, to seek the Lord God Almighty. I myself am going.’ And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to pray to him.”
(Zechariah 8:20-22)

By the time of the first century, the time period in which Jesus lived, Israel had already lived through one exile, when God carried out what he had promised above and used the Babylonians to punish his people. But now Israel was living under a new oppressor — the Romans ruled Palestine and to those Jews who were still loyal to God, it seemed like they were living in exile once again. But the Old Testament was very clear — God would not abandon his people to their fate but would one day, soon, intervene dramatically in history to vindicate and rescue Israel just like he had done when he had rescued them from Egypt in the time of Moses, over a thousand years before. See how in this passage from the prophet Isaiah, God reminds his people of their time in Egypt, and promises a new rescue plan — a new kind of Exodus. When God acted to rescue his people Israel, all the nations of the earth would see God’s salvation plan in action ...

For this is what the Sovereign Lord God says, “At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them. And now what do I have here?” declares the Lord God. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares the Lord God. “All day long my name is constantly blasphemed. Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.”
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”. Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord God returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.”
(Isaiah 52:4-10)

Passages like those from Zechariah, Jeremiah and Isaiah formed the backbone of a passionate hope that was a central feature of Judaism of the first century. And to understand Jesus you need to understand this key idea. The Jews of his day were living in tremendous hope. They knew God had promised to act to rescue them once again, to restore them to kind of people he intended Israel to be. He would restore the fortunes of Israel so that the rest of the world would see God’s power and sovereignty demonstrated through his chosen people. This was a tremendous hope and it was all focussed in the person of the Messiah. The Messiah would be the one who God would use to restore Israel, to defeat the Romans, and to bring his all powerful rule to bear on all the earth:

‘This, then, was the hope of Israel. And it was a strong one. Its roots went far back into their national and religious identity. It was fed by the belief that one day the Lord God would restore the fortunes of Israel. Such an event would take place through the nation in general and through the agency of his chosen leader, the anointed one, the Messiah, in particular.

Their God, then, would rescue them, restore them, make good the desolation, despair and depression they had long experienced. Ruling nation after ruling nation oppressed them, but still the hope remained. A national and collective hope that was located in one particular figure. This figure would be their saviour. The evidence would be seen in what was done. And what was achieved would happen by virtue of being empowered by the very Spirit of God. There had to be the Spirit’s anointing. As such, this individual would be the “Anointed One”: in Hebrew, the word "Messiah", in Greek, the word "Christ". [6]

Note the words in bold above. A key thing one must always remember about the word ‘Messiah’ is that to a first century Jew, such as Jesus, it was a very practical word. Being the Messiah was something one was by virtue of what one did. This is why we have spent so much time establishing the Jewish story in the Bible up to the point of Jesus. Because, from a biblical point of view, it is very clear what the Messiah had to do:

  1. Restore Israel so that God’s glory was reflected by his chosen people.
  2. A properly restored Israel would function as Adam should have done, as God’s representative.
  3. Thus a properly restored Israel would be, in effect, a properly restored humanity; the mistake made by Adam and Eve that wrecked the relationship between humankind and God, that spoiled the perfect creation that God had made, would be reversed when God acted through his Messiah.

So what did Jesus make of this concept of Messiah, a word on which were pinned the hopes of over a thousand years of Old Testament history? The answer is a very great deal indeed.

Jesus and the role of “Messiah”

Both Christians and Muslims agree that Jesus understood himself to be the Messiah. But what we have done so far in this paper is to examine what “Messiah” meant to a first century Jew. The Qur’an does Muslims a great disservice in not explaining what Messiah (or ‘al-Masih’) means, because without this background, you will not understand the significance or the uniqueness of Jesus. Here is one of the most famous passages in the Bible where Jesus talks about being the Messiah:

Jesus and his disciples were on the way to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say that I am?”
His disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter answered “You are the Christ.”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
(Mark 8:27-33)

The passage is extremely interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, the disciples answer to the question of Jesus (“who do people say that I am?”) revealed the wide range of opinions that people had about Jesus. Differing opinions about who Jesus was (as Muslims and Christians disagree today) is not new, but had begun during the ministry of Jesus himself. The popular view seems to have been that Jesus was a famous prophet risen from the dead, perhaps John the Baptist (recently executed by King Herod), or Elijah. But Jesus rejects those answers, pressing the disciples further — “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers clearly, that Jesus is the Messiah. So far, so good. But look what comes next. Jesus begins to outline some of the things that must happen to the Messiah, as far as he is concerned. Jesus states clearly that the religious establishment of the day will reject him, kill him, but that he will then be raised from the dead. This is all too much for Peter. In Peter’s mind, being killed is not what should happen to the Messiah. Quite what Peter exactly believed about the Messiah is unclear, but it seems very likely that, along with many first century Jews, he would have believed that the Messiah should be a powerful military leader, through whom the Romans would be overthrown and God’s people vindicated. This was perhaps the most popular idea of what the Messiah would be like in the first century, yet is was one that Jesus went to lengths to separate himself from. His understanding of what it meant to be the Messiah did not include leading a military campaign against the Romans:

Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”. (Matthew 22:21)

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:50-52)

Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king ...”
(John 18:36-37)

So if Jesus rejected a highly political interpretation of what being the Messiah meant (the popular interpretation, that which would seek to overthrow the Romans by force and bring God’s Kingdom about by violence) what did he understand by the term “Messiah”. How did he interpret “Messiah” in the light of all of the Hebrew story that we have studied? This is the crucial point that Muslims need to grasp. When you speak of Jesus, whatever understanding you have of him needs to make sense of creation and Adam, of Israel and God’s true humanity, and of God’s promises to his people to save them and vindicate them, to use them as a light to draw all the nations to himself. What did Jesus say about his understanding of Messiahship? To answer that question, we need to look at the first public occasion where Jesus announces, for those who are aware and are listening, that he is Israel’s promised Messiah:

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor,
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Then Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
(Luke 4:16-21)

Jesus’ words must have shocked the first hearers, but two thousand years on we have lost something of the impact. “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus was not quoting any old section of the Old Testament, but was reading from Isaiah 61:1-2. The passage is a crucial one because it speaks of many of the key themes that we have already seen in our study of the Hebrew Old Testament story. Here is the entire of the passage that Jesus read bits from that day in the synagogue in Nazareth:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because God has anointed me to preach good news to the poor,
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion -
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord God for the display of his splendour.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ancient cities that have been devastated for generations.
Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord God,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.
Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance;
and so they will inherit a double portion in the land,
and everlasting joy will be theirs.
For, I, the Lord God, love justice, I hate robbery and sin.
In my faithfulness I will reward them, and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the Lord God has blessed.

(Isaiah 61:1-9)

Like all of the Old Testament passages we examined before, Isaiah 61:1-9 speaks of God acting dramatically to vindicate and save his people, causing all the nations to look to them to see what God has done. When Jesus quoted this passage, and said “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” what he was saying was this — that the promises of God that you have been hoping, longing, and praying for are coming true. Jesus was not proposing a political Messiahship, one that saw the overthrow of the Romans as an end in itself. He was interested in something else entirely; bringing to pass those age old promises of God concerning his people. God intended that Israel would represent his true, normal humanity, as Adam was supposed to have done, and God promised that he would act to bring that about. Jesus was saying that the waiting was over, that this was happening now. And as we shall see in a later part in this series, what was so radical about Jesus was that he said that these promises of God were coming true in and through his own life and ministry. His understanding of what it meant that he was the Messiah can be summed up thus:

'Jesus’ whole announcement of the kingdom of God indicates that he believed that kingdom to be present where he was, and operative through him personally. He believed that Israel’s destiny was reaching its fulfilment in his life, that he was to fight Israel’s battles, and that he should summon Israel to regroup, and find new identity around him ... Jesus, then, believed himself to the focal point of the people of God, the returned-from-exile people, the people of the renewed covenant, the people whose sins were now to be forgiven.' [7]

In the first part of “The Quest for the Lost Jesus”, we showed why Muhammad cannot possibly have been a prophet after Jesus, unless one is to reject everything that Jesus believed and stood for. Having begun to examine what Messiahship is all about, what Jesus was thinking and doing in claiming to be the Messiah, we see this point even more clearly. If Jesus was right, and he was indeed Israel’s Messiah, then there would be no more prophets. There would be no need. The Parable of the Vineyard that Jesus told (which was quoted in full last time) falls perfectly into place. Jesus understood that his job as the Messiah was to complete the history of Israel, to conclude the story of God that began with creation and God’s desire to have a humanity who accurately represented him within that creation. The job of the Messiah was to restore Israel to be the true humanity she was called to be, and then through Israel the world would know who God was and would come to be saved. There is no room in such a scheme for later prophets, because that was never God’s plan. Jesus was the climax of God’s dealing with the world, his restoring the true Israel to be his people, that all the nations of the world might see him represented by those true people. And what did Jesus consider the badge of membership of God’s true people to be? It depended upon how you reacted personally to him:

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me”. (Matthew 19:21)

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:17-18)

If Jesus was the true Messiah, if he achieved what he set out to do, then God has acted dramatically in the world — and whether or not one is part of God’s true humanity, a “normal human being” as opposed to a broken human being, still trapped in rebellion and sin, all hangs on how one responds to God’s Messiah, Jesus. An invitation to respond that God throws open to all the world.

After Part I of this series appeared last month, I had emails from Muslims asking how best to go about studying more about the historical Jesus of Nazareth. To answer this question, I suggest the following:

“The Quest for the Lost Jesus” is a new, regular series at Answering Islam. The author will attempt to produce new papers in the series on average once every 8 weeks. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please do feel free to email me at Although I am very busy and may not be able to reply immediately, I will always respond to any emails as soon as possible. Thanks for reading, and I pray that God may guide you as you seek to study and discover more of who Jesus really was.

Footnotes and references
To return to the the main body of the text, click on the footnote number you have just followed.
1 Graham McFarlane, Why do you believe what you believe about Jesus? (Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2000) p77.
2 John Drane, Introducing the Old Testament (Oxford: Lynx, 1987) p250.
3 When I speak in this paper of “Israel” be careful not to confuse the word with the political nation-state of Israel today. They are two utterly different concepts. In the Bible, “Israel” refers to the nation that God raised up through Abraham, whom God called to be his special people, revealing him to the other nations of the world. As we shall in a later part in this series, Jesus radically redefined the term “Israel”. But in many Muslim minds “Israel” has all kinds of connotations in the 21st century world; this mental baggage should be left behind when we turn back to examine the first century.
4 N T Wright, The Climax of the Covenant (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1998) 22-23.
5 N T Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (London: SPCK, 1992) 260-262.
6 McFarlane, 44.
7 N T Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (London: SPCK, 1999) 530-539.

Read the other parts of the Quest for the Lost Jesus series
Part 1
Asking Questions, Seeking Answers
Part 2
The Mindset of the Messiah
Part 3
The Coming of the Kingdom

Download all three parts as one handy PDF file

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