“Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”
Nabeel Qureshi Died
For more information about Nabeel Qureshi, I recommend Justin Taylor’s excellent article Nabeel Qureshi (1983-2017).
Maybe you saw in the news recently that Nabeel Qureshi died of cancer last Saturday at the age of 34. (If you feel led to help Nabeel’s wife and daughter materially, you can give here.) He was born in the U.S. to Muslim parents who fled to the United States to escape the religious persecution of fellow Muslims. Nabeel’s parents are Ahmadi Muslims, which is a peaceful sect of Islam.
Nabeel’s Islamic family was loving and wonderful — and devout. His mother taught Nabeel Arabic before she taught him English. And in Nabeel’s own words:
“My earliest memories are of my mother, every day, sitting me next to her, and having me put on my skull cap, and showing me how to recite the Qur’an letter by letter. I finished the Qur’an when I was five years old, and by that time I had memorized the last seven chapters so that I could recite them during the five daily prayers.”
So Nabeel’s intelligence was evident even at age five. Later he would earn four college degrees including an M.D. from Eastern Virginia School of Medicine. It was during his time in college that he became best friends with a Christian named David Wood. For years the two debated about religion.
Nabeel was inspired by his friend to investigate the claims of Christianity as well as the claims of Islam. One day David pulled him aside and asked him this question:
“If Christianity were true, and it meant you had to give up everything to follow God, would you want to know the truth?”
The Most Painful Day Of Nabeel’s Life
After years of investigation he knew the evidence pointed to the truth of Jesus. But the cost of conversion was high. He knew if he made this decision his loving mother and father would be devastated, even horrified. Ultimately Nabeel came to the place where he said,
“I began mourning the impact of the decision I knew I had to make. On the first day of my second year of medical school, it became too much to bear.”
In that moment he began reading the bible and praying. He prayed:
“But Jesus, accepting you would be like dying. I will have to give up everything.”
Qureshi looked down at the bible and described what happened after that prayer:
“The next verses spoke to me, saying, ‘He who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for my sake will find it.’ (Matthew 10:38-39 NASB) Jesus was being very blunt: For Muslims, following the gospel is more than a call to prayer. It is a call to die.
“I knelt at the foot of my bed and gave up my life.
“A few days later, the two people I loved most in this world were shattered by my betrayal.”
What If You Had To Give Up Everything?
For Nabeel Qureshi following Jesus meant being put out of the Muslim community.
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, a lesbian who came to Jesus, once had to make a similar sacrifice. She believed but she mourned the cost. Her friends came from, her world was made up of, the academic community and the lgbtqia community. She knew they would be aghast if she gave herself to Christ. She knew they would be profoundly disappointed. But she gave herself to Jesus anyway. (See The Power of the Tongue)
In our text we see that “many of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”
For those Jews who lived during the time of Christ, to follow Jesus meant being put out of the synagogue. To follow Jesus meant violating the expectations of the people around them.
Nabeel followed Jesus even though it meant violating the expectations of the people around him.
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield followed Jesus even though it meant violating the expectations of the people around her.
What about you? Maybe you’re someone who won’t be put out of the synagogue, or the Muslim community, or the lgbtqia community. Maybe you consider yourself more mainstream. If that’s you I think it’s easy to underestimate the cost of following Jesus. Jesus himself said, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:26)
Today there’s a lot of shaming going on in our culture. And when people shame you, it’s easy to become ashamed. If what you believe doesn’t line up with the people you work with, or the people you go to school with, or the group you hang with, their expectations can be violated. They might resort to shaming and name calling, maybe not to your face, but if you don’t believe what the group believes, you can be put outside of the group.
So we have to ask ourselves the question:
If following Jesus meant you had to give up everything,
or if following Jesus meant you had to give up being a part of the group,
would you follow him anyway?
Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus trailer, YouTube, January 27, 2014
Nabeel Qureshi Cancer Fund, gofundme.com
Justin Taylor, Nabeel Qureshi (1983-2017), The Gospel Coalition, September 16, 2017
Nabeel Qureshi Wikipedia Page
Terry Kelhawk, Nabeel Qureshi and the Koran, Huffington Post, September 18, 2017