On the first Palm Sunday, Jesus forced people into a perplexing dilemma as they tried to understand His life and teaching. Was He a prophet, a triumphant king, compassionate healer, or was He a blasphemous fraud who created turmoil?
2,000 years later on this Palm Sunday on March 28th, 2021, we still are struggling to understand this Man of Nazareth.
Progressive and conservative Christians are locked in a divisive battle over who more accurately represents Jesus. Both groups claim they are the ones who faithfully emulate His life and teachings. It is the other side that gets Jesus wrong.
There is a path to a better understanding of Jesus, but it cannot be found by His professed followers as they attack, demean, and belittle each other. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Progressives proclaim an inclusive Jesus who challenges the self-righteousness of religious conservatives who, they claim, distort the message of Jesus as they exclude people Jesus would have welcomed.
Conservatives preach a holy Jesus who denounces the moral relativism of progressives who, they allege, cherry-pick the words of Jesus to make friends with the world.
Jesus often ends looking a lot like those who claim to have gotten him right. This might tell us all we need to know about the human blind spots that lead us to soften His rough edges. Anne Lamott, in her book Bird by Bird, says, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
Most of us are likely unaware of the ways we contort Jesus into our own image. We are convinced Jesus endorses our lifestyle, financial habits, private behaviors, and even our politics.
You can try to fit Jesus into a mold, but most of the time He refuses to flex. If you have a Jesus that never challenges you, you are likely ignoring the real Jesus.
A spiritual seeker might watch divided Christians and arrive at the conclusion that no one can really understand Jesus. Is the message of Jesus one of love, compassion, and inclusion? Or, did He convey a message of holiness, purity, and judgment?