If Christ was an "apocalyptic prophet with a message of division, exclusion" and the spirit of his message must always be "put into context", then the claim that his message is a universal one is patently false.
The experts disagree on this, not to mention the rest of us.
He was just a middle eastern Jewish guy who lived a long time ago.
There is pretty good evidence for that'
Advertisers use things people think are nice and good as powerful associative tools. Associate sex and youth with some product - sell that product. Associate Jesus with some religion - sell that religion (let alone associating some religion with some modern nation state). But Jesus and Christianity don't mix so easily. The whole spirit and direction of his message is completely against the grain of the tradition he was a part of. Of course he utilized many aspects of the cultural narrative of the time. That's how you gain a voice.
Even that is uncertain. There is no evidence that he broke with Judaism. Much of what he taught, if not all is consistent with the teachings of the leading Pharisees of his time.
Was Jesus's death the blood sacrifice that would put an end to the need for any other blood sacrifices?
How would we know that? It would require metaphysics or revelation. That is the meme we were born into in western society. It is a way of explaining Jesus' death and making it meaningful to his followers. But it is fraught with problems when you analyze it. Who required it? How does one death substitute for another? Why would God want a blood sacrifice in the first place? Why must something die so that others can live in nature anyway? Is the crucifixion part of some deeper reality? Or was it just a Roman execution of a guy we really know very little about with any certainty?
Did Jesus himself actually believe, in any way, shape or form, that blood sacrifice has anything at all to do with spirituality? Could we trust his words if he said he did?
How can we know for sure that the words attributed to him on the subject really his or were his followers telling stories and creating myths to justify their belief that he was the messiah--the fulfillment of all the prophesies?
It's a clever narrative invention, and it was apparently a powerful one. But a narrative invention isn't enough - the spiritual practitioner must free himself or herself from the bonds of external tradition, and not resist the Holy Spirit. The point is to not cling to the past, to not cling to "context". "Heaven", of course could refer to the realm of purity; of open universality, as opposed to "division", "exclusion", "context". Christ presented an open, universal message. That message can be dragged through the mud, but it remains pure and inviolable. Yes, Christ presented a nearly impossible challenge to the world. We can live pure and fearless lives, or we can narrow our world according to our fears. Failure to read between the lines and grasp the essence of Christ's message is a reflection of our fears. We don't think we can do what he said we should do, so we pretend he didn't really say what, deep down, we know he said. We know the spirit of Christ's message, but we're afraid of that message so we bog it down in "context" and academic interpretation.
I guess this is a slam on my use of the word context. I was suggesting that we use de-demonize Paul by taking a fresh look at his teaching in as a product of his times and culture. That seems compatible with following the spirit of Christ's message to me.
Christ didn't come to bring peace, as Omar points out. But what is the nature of this "sword" he wields? Did he claim that people "deserve to die"? No, he claimed that family and friends would reject his followers for their beliefs.
He may have thought that he was the messiah who was going to bring back God to free Israel from Roman oppression. That would explain the reference to the sword.
Was Christ's message truly universal? The entire world can be converted to Christianity, but that doesn't mean the message is universal. I do think Christ's message is universal, but to make such a claim I think you have to discern what his message "really is", as opposed to finding historically and politically situated quotes and working like hell to coordinate it with all other statements and have it all magically mesh in the end into a single cohesive story. But it never does - religious narrative always relies on constant invention and reinvention. Is the essence of Christ's message about blood sacrifice? Is it about heterosexuality? Is it about "fulfilling the old testament"? Is it about fig trees and doves? Or is it about love and fearlessness?
Inquiring minds would like to know. There's no consensus. Jesus refuses to be put in a box. He is too big to be contained even in the Church.
Mark 2 wrote:The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.
Which quote suggests Jesus was some kind of humanist.