Meet the Muslim actor playing Jesus in Bill O’Reilly’s ‘Killing Jesus’

(RNS) “Bless you for playing Jesus, peace be upon him.”

This was the reaction of Lebanese-born actor Haaz Sleiman’s mother after she learned that her son had been cast as Jesus in National Geographic Channel’s “Killing Jesus.” The three Abrahamic religions will collide on Palm Sunday (March 29) when the television special premieres, with a 24-year-old Muslim actor playing Jesus, the Jewish rabbi who Christians believe was God made flesh. The television movie is adapted from the New York Times best-selling book by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and co-author Martin Dugard. Sleiman digested the book, among others, in preparation for the role. He says he was excited to portray Jesus, a person he described as “the ultimate teacher,” who has “heavily influenced” his life. Both the book and film retell Jesus’ crucifixion and accounts of his resurrection — two events that are central to Christianity but not embraced by Islam.