I cannot deny what is patently obvious. That the story of Jesus (Iesu) is one that is compelling, energising and deeply inspirational and one that is a story of rebellion through self-introspection, love and through God’s grace. As a Muslim, this compelling story has a narrative that I hold dear and it is one of a man born into poverty who changes the world through love and the human spirit to create change.
The story of Jesus is also moving in many instances. It is the story of poverty that leads to a valuation in life by Jesus and his disciples, that the spirit is the most important. It is set against the Roman background of materialism and comfort and where Jesus is framed to be a rebel, someone who goes against the grain and who rejects materialism for selflessness. Allied to that is a fierce independence and libertarianism that courses through the story of Jesus. His is a story of a spiritual radical who questions the norm and reframes morality through a desire to sacrifice for others.
The story is also laced with huge symbolism. Images of Mary and the baby Jesus play to every mother and woman who has ever held their child in their hands. It is of maternal love, yet one which we all know, leads to the death of the child through his crucifixion some 30 years later.
Jesus’s story is also one of salvation through forgiveness and through self-sacrifice. ‘A lamb to the slaughter’ plays on the theme of a man caught up in the machinery of war through the Roman occupation. It is as if God is keeping score and the slate is wiped clean through the sacrifice of Christ, only to reset in a world of change, turmoil and persecution of the followers of Christ.
As a Muslim, Christ’s story is refreshing since it challenged the status quo. It gives hope to those who believe that they cannot change things for the better and it empowers the human spirit to challenge, not through physical violence but through persuasion and hope.
Who knows the truth of the facts that took place 2,000 years ago, but one thing is clear. The story of Jesus is relevant today but it should be seen through the prism of challenge. Jesus challenged, argued and harried those in power within institutions. If we are to value religion and belief, we must understand the story of Jesus, whether Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu. If we fail to do so, we will fail to understand how truly radical and outspoken Christ was against injustice, power and intolerance.
Fiyaz Mughal OBE is the Founder and Director of Faith Matters.