Most religions are not completely opposed to Jesus. They perceive Him as a good teacher, a prophet, a bearer of an excellent moral compass. But when He begins to cross the line toward becoming a deity, superseding the conceptions and limits we’ve placed upon Him, He becomes troubling, even burdensome.
It seems like there isn’t a group that wholly accepts Jesus.
1) His disciples
Once Jesus is arrested, they all scatter, like cockroaches when the light is turned on. They realize what they’re in for if they stick around. Even people in hot pursuit find Jesus confounding at times. Don’t you?
2) His enemies
Once the dirty deed of handing Jesus over to the authorities is done, Judas suddenly grows a conscience. He drops off the blood money and hangs himself, unable to cope with his actions. While he felt compelled at one point to make a profit off of Jesus’ capture, he discovers Jesus is too much to handle.
Opponents of Jesus today have the same problem: while they have no problem shredding the Bible, particularly its historicity and structural integrity, they cannot dismiss Jesus.
3) The religious
The Jews finally win the grudge match and get their hands on the slippery Jesus, who seemed to magically vanish or talk His way out of every other situation. This is too easy: if He’s really God, why doesn’t He just do the same disappearing act all over again? Fearing for their reputation, the Jews look to dispose of Jesus altogether, even bartering Him off for another prisoner.
People who love religion cannot stand Jesus. He demands whole acceptance. He will not have halfway or passive faith. And He claims He is the exclusive route to God. No other religious figure demands this. Instead, religions shave off the inconvenient parts and make Jesus into an image that looks nothing like the man.
4) The authorities
One of the more fascinating portions of the gospels to me is when Jesus stands before Pilate, the prefect over the Roman province he was assigned. The Jews shore up and spit out Jesus, and Pilate takes no time at all to determine the man is innocent. To avoid a reputation hit, Pilate defers responsibility, symbolically washing his hands and giving Jesus back to the Jews. “You deal with him,” he says in effect. “I cannot.”
Theocracies don’t work without the threat of a sword, because ideologies are often born of experience and personal volition, only partially influenced by culture. The more stable government solution, which seems to work if kept pure, is a balance of freedom and justice, which is exactly what Jesus prescribed. But the moment we begin to “enforce” Jesus, the government and the people get restless. Christianity, because of Jesus, is the only religion that cannot be enforced effectively, while being completely abhorred by other theocracies.
5) The public
Once Pilate dismisses Jesus, the Roman soldiers get their grubby mitts on Him and start beating and mocking Him. Why? They don’t know what to do with Him either! They cannot accept Jesus as God, so they insist on making fun of His claims and supposed deity. This shouldn’t surprise anyone; Jesus can’t be defined by any other standard and therefore is left for the public to decide.
I’ve noticed that there are only two responses to Jesus: whole acceptance or complete dismissal. Jesus doesn’t allow for anything else. Which will you decide?