In Mark 10:45, Jesus declares: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He adds in John 10:14-18:
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
His disciple John later said that “he appeared so that he might take away our sins” (1 John 3:5).
Jesus’ sacrificial death gives rise to one of the most common Muslim objections to Christianity: Wouldn’t it be unfair or unjust for God to punish Jesus for the sins of others? However, if Muslims think that this is a good objection, they apparently haven’t read their own sources.
Let’s take a closer look at this objection.
I. NO BEARER OF BURDEN SHALL BEAR ANOTHER’S BURDEN
Qur’an 6:164—Say, “Shall I seek a Lord, other than Allah while He is the Lord of all things?” And no soul earns evil but only against itself; nor does any bearer of burden bear the burden of another. Then to your Lord will be your return, and He will inform you of that wherein you used to differ.
Qur’an 17:13-15—And We have fastened every man’s deeds to his neck, and on the Day of Resurrection, We shall bring out for him a book which he will find wide open. (It will be said to him): “Read your book. You yourself are sufficient as a reckoner against you this Day.” Whoever goes right, then he goes right only for the benefit of his own self. And whoever goes astray, then he goes astray to his own loss. No one laden with burdens can bear another’s burden. And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger (to give warning).
Qur’an 35:18—And no bearer of burdens shall bear another’s burden, and if one heavily laden calls another to (bear) his load, nothing of it will be lifted even though he be near of kin.
Qur’an 39:7—If you disbelieve, then verily, Allah is not in need of you, He likes not disbelief for His slaves. And if you are grateful (by being believers), He is pleased therewith for you. No bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another. Then to your Lord is your return, so He will inform you what you used to do. Verily, He is the All-Knower of that which is in (men’s) breasts.
Qur’an 53:33-42—Have you then seen him who turns his back? And gives a little and (then) withholds. Has he the knowledge of the unseen so that he can see? Or, has he not been informed of what is in the scriptures of Musa? And (of) Ibrahim who fulfilled (the commandments): That no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another; and that man shall have nothing but what he strives for; and that his striving shall soon be seen; then shall he be rewarded for it with the fullest reward; and that to your Lord is the goal . . . ?
II. SOME WILL BEAR THE BURDENS OF OTHERS
Qur’an 16:22-25—Your God is one God; so (as for) those who do not believe in the hereafter, their hearts are ignorant and they are proud. Truly Allah knows what they hide and what they manifest; surely He does not love the proud. And when it is said to them, what is it that your Lord has revealed? They say: Stories of the ancients; that they may bear their burdens entirely on the day of resurrection and also of the burdens of those whom they lead astray without knowledge; now surely evil is what they bear.
Qur’an 29:12-13—And those who disbelieve say to those who believe: “Follow our way and we will verily bear your sins,” never will they bear anything of their sins. Surely, they are liars. And verily, they shall bear their own loads, and other loads besides their own, and verily, they shall be questioned on the Day of Resurrection about that which they used to fabricate.
III. CHRISTIANS AND JEWS WILL BEAR THE BURDENS OF MUSLIMS
Sahih Muslim 6665—Abu Musa reported that Allah’s Messenger said: When it will be the Day of Resurrection Allah would deliver to every Muslim a Jew or a Christian and say: That is your rescue from Hell-Fire.
Sahih Muslim 6666—Abu Burda reported on the authority of his father that Allah’s Apostle said: No Muslim would die but Allah would admit in his stead a Jew or a Christian in Hell-Fire. Umar b. And al-Aziz took an oath: By One besides Whom there is no god but He, thrice that his father had narrated that to him from Allah’s Messenger.
Sahih Muslim 6668—Abu Burda reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: There would come people amongst the Muslims on the Day of Resurrection with as heavy sins as a mountain, and Allah would forgive them and He would place in their stead the Jews and the Christians.
110 Hadith Qudsi #8—Narrated Abu Musa: Allah’s Messenger said: On the Day of Resurrection, my Ummah (nation) will be gathered into three groups. One sort will enter Paradise without rendering an account (of their deeds). Another sort will be reckoned an easy account and admitted into Paradise. Yet another sort will come bearing on their backs heaps of sins like great mountains. Allah will ask the angels though He knows best about them: Who are these people? They will reply: They are humble slaves of yours. He will say: Unload the sins from them and put the same over the Jews and Christians: then let the humble slaves get into Paradise by virtue of My Mercy.
IV. MUHAMMAD HAD A BURDEN OF SIN
Qur’an 40:55—Then have patience (O Muhammad). Lo! the promise of Allah is true. And ask forgiveness of thy sin, and hymn the praise of thy Lord at fall of night and in the early hours.
Qur’an 47:19—So know (O Muhammad) that there is no God save Allah, and ask forgiveness for thy sin and for believing men and believing women. Allah knoweth (both) your place of turmoil and your place of rest.
Qur’an 48:1-2—Lo! We have given thee (O Muhammad) a signal victory, that Allah may forgive thee of thy sin that which is past and that which is to come, and may perfect His favour unto thee, and may guide thee on a right path . . .
Sahih al-Bukhari 6307—Narrated Abu Hurairah: I heard Allah’s Messenger saying, “By Allah! I seek Allah’s forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance for more than seventy times a day.”
V. JESUS HAD NO BURDEN OF SIN
Qur’an 19:19—He [the angel] said [to Mary]: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son [i.e., Jesus].
Sahih al-Bukhari 3286—Narrated Abu Hurairah: The Prophet said, When any human being is born, Satan touches him at both sides of the body with his two fingers, except Isa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), whom Satan tried to touch (but failed), so he touched the placenta-cover (instead).
Hebrews 4:15—For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
1 Peter 2:21-22—To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.
1 John 3:5—But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.