Many of our contemporary images of Jesus are far removed from the Jesus depicted in the Bible. Countless times throughout church history people have misrepresented Jesus and offered a manmade facsimile that would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic and deceptive. Many have kept Him suspended in a state of eternal agony on some crucifix while others have taken Him down and conveniently buried Him in the spaces between their pews.
Our Americanized version of Jesus that multitudes have taken into their hearts has little to do with the Jesus portrayed in the gospels. He’s domesticated, house-broken and, for all intents and purposes, “church broken”. We’ve managed to tone Him down, dumb Him down and water Him down. He's been sanitized, sterilized, religiousized, formalized, ritualized, idolized, minimized, modernized, sensitized, commercialized, politicized, patriotized, militarized, secularized, hip-sterized, tele-evangelized, Hollywoodized and compromised.
He's so far removed from the Gospels you can no longer recognize Him. He’s been Roman Catholicized, denominationalized, Judaized, fundamentalized and contemporized. He's now, accommodating, "user friendly", "seeker sensitive", middle-class, complacent, docile, churched and non-threatening. His revolutionary nature and message have been emasculated to the point of being essentially harmless, impotent and even effeminate. He’s now conservative, mainstream, Republican and a champion of “truth Justice and the American Way!” For many, the real Jesus was crucified on the altar of “our will be done” long ago.
God created man in His own image and we have returned the compliment. Yes, we have cloned our "Americanized" Jesus into our own image. Our ways are now His ways. Our opinions are now His opinions. Our values are now His values. Our ambitions are now His ambitions. Our love of the world is now His love of the world. Our “Christianized” version of the American dream is now His “Christianized” version of the American Dream. Our “Prosperity Gospel” is now His “Prosperity Gospel”. Our purpose driven lives" are now His "purpose driven lives". Our “cultural correctness” is now His “cultural correctness”. Our materialism is His materialism. Our self-indulgence is now His self-indulgence. Our trendy ways of doing church are now His trendy ways of doing church. Our church fads are now His church fads. Our sensational experiences are now His sensational experiences. Our “Hype-ology” is now His “Hype-ology.” Our mega-church celebrities are now His mega-church celebrities. Our “pop theology” is now His “pop theology”. Our "self-empowerment theology" is now His self-empowerment theology. Our politics are now His politics. Our social crusades are now His social crusades. Our best-sellers are now His best-sellers. Our “User friendly Jesus” is now His “User Friendly Jesus”. Our false doctrines are now His false doctrines. Our hate is now His hate. Our idols are now His idols. Our “casting of stones” is now His “casting of stones.”
The religious establishment crucified Him because He didn’t endorse their religious posturing, power and “self-rightness”. So too, if Jesus walked into most of the world’s churches today, He wouldn’t endorse or even recognize the “Jesus” they were worshipping. The version of Jesus they have embraced is a fabricated Jesus who simply accommodates their lifestyles, their religiosity and their desires. The Jews who so rapturously praised him on Palms Sunday had envisioned him as a warrior king who, like King David, would destroy their enemies and make Israel great again. When He failed to live up to their expectations and revealed Himself instead as “The Suffering Messiah”, many in that same crowd cried passionately for His execution a few days later. No doubt, If Jesus showed up today among the throngs of enthusiastic churchgoers, they would inevitably crucify Him as well because He didn’t live up to their expectations either - maybe even by us? What is even more alarming is the sobering reality that the version of Jesus they have taken into their hearts will eventually shipwreck them spiritually.