Says the Qur'an: "They killed him not. But (God) made it appear as if they had, and took Jesus up to heaven." In other words, according to the general interpretation, a crucifixion took place, but Jesus was miraculously spared its fate.

On one hand, in denying the Crucifixion, the Qur'an is denying the idea that the Jews had complicity in his death, which may be part of the reason why the Jews were much safer in Islamic lands than Christian lands throughout much of history.

But what is really being rejected by the denial of the Crucifixion is the idea that salvation comes through Jesus' death. According to Muslim thinking, salvation cannot come by the sacrificial act of another; it is only possible by obeying God's will. Islam wants to emphasize that it is Jesus' life, not his death, that matters.

Anyone with that point of view could not find much spiritual uplift in "The Passion," and that apparently also includes many Christians who have criticized the movie's unrelenting focus on Jesus' torture and death. As the movie painfully illustrates, crucifixion was a degrading and horrific means of execution. Why such a focus on that, some have asked. Where is Jesus' great eloquence? Where are his parables and miracles? His message of compassion?

For a while, I was asking the same questions-not only as a Muslim, but as a soul looking for a message of hope from this story.

Not all Muslims reject the Crucifixion of Jesus. There is a minority interpretation that holds the Crucifixion did happen-otherwise you have to believe God has conducted a 2,000 year-long charade. And the movie has convinced me this minority view is right.

I'm still struggling with the film. It will be on my mind for a long time, as I'm sure it will be for many others. It will continue to be controversial and opinions will change. But at least this much I'm sure about: The amount of soul-searching his film has provoked would not have happened without Gibson's explicit portrayal of Jesus' torturous last hours.

One can be a passive bystander at the Sermon of the Mount. One can listen only half-attentively to Jesus' parables, react with quiet cynicism to the miracles. But his suffering and death stir emotions that cannot fail to move us.

By theology and belief, Jesus is a revered figure to both Christians and Muslims. And though much evil has been wrongly doled out against the Jews in his name, he is without doubt the most consequential Jew ever to have lived.

So, whether you regard him as a towering figure in Jewish history, the Son of God, or the Word of God, he reminds us all of the Abrahamic tradition's highest ideal and sets the standard for the most important gift we can ever hope to give or receive. After enduring torture and humiliation, abandonment, and betrayal, after being broken and bloodied and facing certain death, Jesus can look upon his tormentors and grant them-forgiveness.

As difficult and troubling as the movie is to watch, the message of mercy, compassion, and hope is perhaps there after all.

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