Blasphemy or Worship?
By Rick Brinegar
In Pakistan, making blasphemous remarks about Prophet Mohammad can be punished with life in prison or death. Similar laws exist in Iran and Saudi Arabia. The controversial blasphemy laws in Pakistan came to light recently after a popular and vocal televangelist for conservative Islam was charged with blasphemy. Junaid Jamshed had criticized Prophet Muhammad’s wife Aisha in a video that went viral on the Internet. Afterward, Jamshed, who is also called “Disco Mullah,” released a video in which he apologized for his “blasphemous” remarks, and pleaded for everyone to forgive him.
There are currently 17 individuals on death row and 19 serving life sentences for violating Pakistan’s blasphemy law. According to human rights groups, ISIS has beheaded and stoned to death many people in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq for actions they see as violating their interpretation of Islamic laws, including their laws against blasphemy.
Blasphemy, the act of showing contempt or lack of respect for deity, was punishable by death in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, when Jesus said “I and my Father are one,” the Jewish religious leaders picked up stones, to stone Him to death. “For a good work we stone thee not;” they said, “but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:33).
Could it be that those who encountered Jesus personally were committing a similar blasphemy with the terminology and honor that they applied to Him. After all, He was a man, and they were making it seem as if He were God. Elizabeth called Mary “the mother of my Lord“ (Luke 1:43). The Angel of the Lord told the shepherds of the birth of a Savior, “which is Christ, the Lord (Luke 2:11).” When the wise men saw the child, they “fell down, and worshipped him” (Matthew 2:11). Thomas called Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
“More than any other title, kyrios [Lord] defined the relationship between Jesus and those who believed in him as Christ: Jesus was their Lord and Master who was to be served with all their hearts and who would one day judge their actions throughout their lives.” – From II Corinthians: a commentary by Frank J. Matera 2003 ISBN 0-664-22117-3 pages 11-13.
When the disciples and others called Jesus “Lord”, or “my God,” they were purposefully giving Him titles and descriptions which were similar to the terms used to describe the unique and only living God, (YaHWeH) of the Old Testament. The Apostles certainly new the Old Testament well, yet they were clearly demonstrating that, when they quoted Old Testament passages referring to YaHWeH, they believed that the passages spoke of Jesus Christ the Messiah.
The disciples, the Apostles, and the angels were neither blaspheming nor confused. They were emphasizing that God himself took on a human body to live physically and visibly on the earth in order to reveal God’s true nature, and to redeem mankind. John said it in this manner: “the Word was God…. the Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:1, 14).