Let’s get right to it:
1. Jesus was a moralist!
Just read His sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7). He exalted righteousness as a primary pursuit (Matt. 6:33). He espoused bearing good fruit and warned against bearing bad fruit (Matthew 7:17-19). He saw the increase of wickedness as a threat to love (Matt. 24:12) and had little patience for religious performers who were “full of greed and wickedness” (Luke 11:39).
2. Jesus demanded repentance!
His entire preaching career is summed up with the imperative verb: “Repent…” (Matthew 4:17). The alternative was to perish (Luke 13:3). To Jesus, “Sodom and Gomorrah” were notorious for their failure to repent. He used them as powerful illustrations of God’s just judgment to foster repentance (Matt. 10:15 & 11:20-24).
3. Jesus publicly attacked local politicians, fearlessly
(Matthew 23). In His culture, the religious leaders and the civil politicians were one and the same. Nearly all the local legal, judicial, and civic concerns were left to the chief priests, scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees (Rome left most local political matters to the natives). Jesus pulled no punches denouncing their hypocrisy out loud.
4. Jesus got angry.
One day in a synagogue, some Pharisees were watching to see if Jesus would heal a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. Seeing their stubborn cold hearts, Jesus got angry and defiantly healed the man (Mark 3:1-6). For Him, religious rules must never obstruct kindness or morality.
5. Jesus talked about hell
more than any other Bible character. Here is just one of many references: “…it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29).
6. Jesus used violent force with a weapon
to cleanse the temple of exploitative money-changers and merchants (John 2:13-22). Once, He told His disciples that those without a sword should “sell your cloak and buy one.” (Luke 22:36). Later, he told Peter, who was carrying a sword; “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52). Go figure.
7. Jesus fiercely criticized his entire generation.
He often described His generation as “evil and adulterous…” (Matthew 12:39); “unbelieving…” (Mark 9:19); “wicked…” (Luke 11:29), “perverse…” (Luke 9:41); and “sinful” (Mark 8:38). He sounds like a “culture warrior.” Moral, cultural and spiritual concerns filled His teaching ministry. He did not hate his generation. Rather, he wept for them. His rebukes flowed from love.
8. Jesus openly commented on laws regarding divorce and defined marriage in sacred terms.
In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus affirmed that from the beginning, marriage was one male and one female becoming one flesh. Today, he would be branded as a bigot.
9. Jesus respected rites, customs and traditions,
but never at the expense of love and morality. He observed the strict tithing practices of the Pharisees and warned them not to neglect “the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.” He added, “You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matthew 23:23).
10. Jesus was religious.
He attended and preached regularly in synagogues throughout Judea and Galilee (Matthew 9:35 and Luke 4:16,44). He kept and led religious feasts (Luke 2:21-22 and 41-49). He was a respected Rabbi (John 3:2). He commended a poor widow who contributed money to the temple treasury (Luke 21:1-3). He prayed a lot (Matt. 6:5-13; Luke 6:12). He cared for the needy and advocated purity of heart, which is “undefiled religion” (James 1:27). He knew His Hebrew Bible backwards and forward and practiced the same religion as the Pharisees, but unlike many of them, he did so sincerely, inside and out.
This list presumes you are already aware of our Lord’s focus on love; learning it, commanding it, and living it—even dying for it. But if we fully understood the nature of His love, its affirmation here would be the most unpopular fact of all.