No person in the whole of history has polarized people like Jesus Christ. People are happy to talk about God, but mention Jesus and the conversation may stop! Jesus asked his disciples “Who did men say that I am?” In a similar manner we get various responses to the same question today. For some people Jesus is just a swear word, others would describe him as a sort of guru or great teacher or (like the Muslims) a great prophet, some would see him as a purveyor of secret knowledge (the gnostic Jesus), and others would describe him as a non-violent revolutionary who brought into the harsh Roman world ideas of humility, love, kindness, and self-sacrifice. As noted by theologian Hans K ̈ung, Jesus was above all a non-legalistic Jew from whom a Jew could learn how to pray, fast, love God and neighbor, and understand the meanings of the Sabbath and God’s kingdom.
He was neither a priest nor theologian, nor a member of a political party such as the Sadducees, for example, yet called into question the ecclesiastical establishment. Nor was he a social revolutionary who agitated against the Roman occupation (e.g., no call to refuse paying taxes to Caesar) yet stood up for justice and spoke against social abuses on behalf of the poor and the oppressed. Nor was he a religious recluse who advocated withdrawal from the world, but he socialized with all kinds of people including those marginalized such as lepers, tax collectors, and disreputable characters. Although not legalistic, he reinterpreted the law such as anger was like murder, adulterous desire was like adultery, untrue words were like perjury, and uncleanness came from within and not from the outside.
He focused on the heart rather than on legality, and was against self-righteousness. K ̈uung writes: Throughout all the gospels he appears as the unarmed, itinerant preacher and the charismatic physician who does not inflict wounds but heals them: one who relieves distress and does not exploit it for political ends, who proclaims not militant conflict but God’s grace and forgiveness for all.