Was Jesus more than just a prophet?
Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet. In fact, they teach Jesus was one of the greatest of the 124,000 prophets Allah sent to mankind – second only to Muhammad, the final prophet of Islam.
The Qur’an mentions Jesus in more than 25 places, always with honor. Jesus is called the son of Mary, the Messiah, a servant of God, a messenger of God, a word from God, and a sign from God.
At the same time, the Qur’an denies the deity of Christ, as well as the elements of His saving work on the cross, including his death, burial, and resurrection.
But if Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, we may rightly ask if Jesus ever prophesied about Himself. If so, did His prophecies come true? We have to go to the Bible for answers, for the Qur’an offers little in response.
Jesus’ prophecies about Himself
Let’s note a few of Jesus’ prophecies about Himself that might encourage our Muslim friends to give this prophet a closer look.
First, Jesus prophesies that His own words won’t pass away. As part of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus tells His disciples, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt. 24:35). This puts Jesus’ words on the same level as the incorruptible Law and Prophets (Matt. 5:17-18).
Second, Jesus predicts His death, burial, and resurrection. The Qur’an denies any of this actually happened, saying the Jews falsely claimed to have killed Jesus. Instead, according to the Qur’an, Allah rescued Jesus from the cross (Qur’an 4:157).
But the Bible records Jesus telling His disciples, “The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death. They will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified, and on the third day he will be raised.” (Matt. 20:18-19). All of this, of course, actually comes to pass, as multiple eyewitnesses affirm.
Third, Jesus prophesies that the church confessing Him as the Son of God will prevail over Satan. On the foothills of Mt. Hermon in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks His disciples who people say He is. They respond: some say John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
But then Jesus puts the question directly to His followers: “But you, who do you say that I am?” Peter confesses, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15-16).
Calling Jesus the Son of God goes against the Muslim doctrine of tawhid, or the absolute oneness of Allah in which he takes no partners and recognizes no equals. Worse, to ascribe deity to Christ is to commit an unpardonable sin called shirk. So, if Jesus were only a prophet, he would have to rebuke Peter for his false claim.
Instead, Jesus replies, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). Jesus goes on to acknowledge Peter’s statement as the bedrock truth of the church and declares that the gates of Hades cannot overpower it.
Fourth, Jesus says He will raise Himself from the dead as a sign of His authority. He tells the Jews who confront Him in the temple, demanding a sign, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days” (John 2:19).
The Jewish leaders think he is talking about Herod’s temple, but John notes, “He was speaking about the temple of his body. So when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made” (John 2:21-22).
Last, Jesus prophesies about the purpose of his death: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Each of these prophecies is fulfilled, as attested by credible eyewitnesses and recorded within a generation of their achievement.
Yes, Christians and Muslims agree Jesus was a great prophet. But Jesus reveals more about Himself than that. Further, eyewitnesses affirm He is God in human flesh. He lives a sinless life and dies on the cross to pay our sin debt. On the third day, He rises from the dead so that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
Muslims often respond to these fulfilled prophecies by claiming Jews and Christians have corrupted the Bible, making its claims suspect. We take up that argument in the next column.