We Would Kill Jesus Again Today
You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.
(John 5:39-40 NABRE)
This short passage from John's gospel shows us that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The verses come from a discourse Jesus offers after fundamentalists plot to kill him for breaking the Sabbath and for claiming to be the son of God. He tells them flat out that they think they can find their salvation through the scriptures, but are wrong.
The religious conservatives of the day knew the scriptures inside and out. They knew the predictions about the messiah and yet when he stood before them, they didn’t think he matched their scriptural understanding. They didn’t expect him to do things like violate Jewish law, or proclaim that Samaritans and Roman pagans had greater faith than they did, or interrupt the "righteous" stoning of a woman caught in adultery. This was not the kind of messiah they anticipated. They wanted the thing they did expect; a triumphant king who would kick the Romans out of Jerusalem and be a good and faithful Jew like David. The hyper-religious authorities were so outraged by the Jesus who stood in front of them that they decided he had to go. He had to die.
The reasons the gospel accounts are important is not only because they tell us what happened during the days in which Jesus walked the earth. They are also important because they show us that these things are still happening today. Hyper-religious Christians scour the Bible to sculpt a messiah which fits their own ideas of justice, despite the Jesus who sits before them in stories of outrageous, inclusive, love. They proclaim that an inclusive Jesus is a fiction, and that the real Jesus has eyes of fire and wields a sword of righteous damnation. And like the religious experts who demanded the life of Christ, they demand that eternal life can only be found by and through the scriptures and all its accompanying law. Like them, they do not want to come to Jesus to have life. They want to come to the image of Jesus they construct from a subset of scriptural passages. The image that matches their view of what he should look and act like.
If Jesus were to walk around with us today, he would undoubtedly be killed again for not matching that image. Like the fundamentalists Jesus describe in the John 5 passage, too many of us are not willing to look to the radical nature of love as the source for eternal life.