As any religious scholar will tell you, Christ said many things that were profound, inspiring, and uplifting, but He wasn't all too entertaining... Or was He?
It's an interesting phenomenon: Jesus is generally presented as an admirable figure, or at least benign, even in non-Christian or anti-Christian media. Atheists, Jews, Buddhists, cynics—anyone who might author stories unflattering in their portrayal of the Almighty, The Bible or religion in general—are nonetheless complimentary to that nice Jewish boy. This can be used as a Take That to Christianity ("Jesus was cool even if his followers all suck"), but also as a Pet the Dog moment from a character who is otherwise portrayed as villainous and/or hostile to the status quo ("Even Bad Men Love Their Jesus"). This makes sense, in a way. Jesus was supposed to be the Messiah in mortal form, and as such, having a sense of humor is possible, if not probable.
This is not always received well. Portraying Jesus as a cool dude can somewhat dent his gravitas as a religious figurehead, and as a result some Christians can get offended by (what they consider to be) the trivialization of their Lord and Savior. Others may note that Jesus is Way Cool because he happens to agree with the writer on all sorts of subjects, even those where all the evidence is the other way round. On the other, when employed in works that try to play up Christianity as being "cool" by association, it generally gets a free pass. Always remember that Tropes are Neither Good nor Bad, just tools.
The trope is usually associated with atheistic former Christians who are attempting to dissociate themselves from Christianity, but still have issues with it, and therefore need to view/depict Christ as a sympathetic figure, in order to obtain integration, resolution, and catharsis; Kevin Smith's example (from Dogma, as shown in the trope photo) is quintessential of this, as was South Park's attempt to basically include Jesus as a member of their community.
Nevertheless, the trope actually does have some genuine theological support insofar as Jesus is depicted as being allowed to drink wine, and tended to associate with prostitutes, people found guilty of adultery, tax collectors, and various other types who were considered unsavoury by the religious authorities of the day. He also had a pronounced anti-authoritarian streak, regularly calling out religious leaders for acting Holier Than Thou. Study of the New Testament (and the non-canon Gospels) will tend to show Christ as much less severe than he is sometimes depicted by certain church authorities, who have been known to (ironically) misuse his words with an eye on political and social control.
A character-centric Sub-Trope of Unacceptable Targets. When Jesus surpasses "way cool" and delves into "Freakin' Badass", that's Kung-Fu Jesus. Compare and contrast Jesus Was Crazy, Hippie Jesus. When cool people express admiration for him, it's a case of Real Men Love Jesus. When people philosophize about imitating him, it often overlaps with What Would X Do?
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
In the manga Saint Young Men, Jesus and Buddha are best buddies living in Tokyo and generally enjoying the human world on their vacation, doing such mundane things as going to convenience stores, taking the train and buying souvenirs. Even though Jesus is depicted as a bit of a Bunny-Ears Lawyer, it's affectionate rather than insulting.
Even a work as disturbing as Arm of Kannon gave props to Jesus. He was apparently one of the very few people who could contain one of the eponymous Pieces of God without losing control. The way it's portrayed is incredibly awesome too. Jesus calmly faced the out of control Arm which had taken on the form of a rampaging dragon and offered it a home inside him. Jesus stared down a dragon and peacefully subdued it.
In the Battle Pope series, Jesus is the hippie and oblivious sidekick to a Bad Ass post-apocalyptic God-buffed Pope.
Garth Ennis, well-known for his Rage Against the Heavens/God Is Evil stories, sympathetically portrays Jesus in Chronicles of Wormwood. Jesus, or "Jay", is the African-American best friend of the titular Anti Anti Christ (both sons who hate their dads), who suffered brain damage from police brutality while protesting the Iraq War, and who has suffered psychologically for centuries from his overwhelming desire to do good.
Underground comic artist Frank Stack (aka Foolbert Sturgeon) did a few comic books with Jesus in the present day, quietly (mostly) observing humanity's less than stellar actions.
In Spawn, God and Satan, though neither are particularly malevolent toward anyone but each other, are portrayed as essentially bratty teenagers on a cosmic scale. Jesus, on the other hand, is not God's son, but His mother, and the true Creator of the universe. She (the entity is technically genderless, but usually given feminine attributes) incarnated herself on Earth in an attempt to make humanity better than her children. As can be imagined given this goal, religious fundamentalism gets her down.
Incidentally, Spawn's creator and head writer Todd Mc Farlane is an atheist. Speaks to his respect of the guy.
Monty Python's Life of Brian is surprisingly non-scathing toward Jesus in a work that parodies the religions based on his teachings; the Pythons rejected their initial concept of Brian as a forgotten disciple of Jesus because the laughs stopped dead whenever Jesus was around — none of them felt comfortable directly making jokes about Him. He remains in one scene where people mishear the Sermon on the Mount (which He is delivering straight), which basically epitomizes the real theme of the movie: the conflict between what Jesus said and what certain people thought (and still think) they heard. (The Pythons had hoped to persuade George Lazenby to play Jesus so they could proclaim "George Lazenby IS Jesus Christ!" on their posters, but Lazenby was busy.)
Although He never speaks and is only seen from behind or at a distance, Jesus appears as a background character in Ben Hur. One memorable scene has Him giving a drink of water to the title character. A Roman Centurion tries to stop Him, but Jesus just stares at him without a word and the Centurion backs down.
In the original stage version, Jesus was played by a spotlight. Part of the contract from the author of the original book was that Jesus would not be portrayed by an actor.
Hair - The title song references wanting "hair like Jesus wore it." Jesus was so cool, he had hippie hair 1,935 years before hippies even existed. note Long hair was popular in Judea back in the day too, but that's neither here nor there.
The View Askewniverse (the films of Kevin Smith) gives us The Buddy Christ, pictured above. This version of Jesus was part of the "Catholicism WOW!" campaign in Dogma as part of a move to boost Church attendance. Oddly, despite the cynicism of the move, Cardinal Glick's stated reasoning was sound: the symbol of Christianity being the cross was, to him, "wholly depressing". "Christ didn't come here to give us the willies! He came to help us out!" He has since cameoed in more than one Kevin Smith film since then (Smith's comic shop even had a life-size version in the store).
Jesus was also mentioned several times by Rufus over the course of the movie, including agreeing with Glick, if not explicitly or by the same reasoning, that there is an issue with Catholics "mourning" their faith. While other parts of the movie parody different parts of religion, specific references to Jesus himself pretty much match what's written in the Bible. From the descriptions, Jesus seems to have been fairly laid back (he apparently owes Rufus twelve dollars) and enjoyed listening to people talk more than anything else.
Rufus: He likes to listen to people talk. Says it sounds like music to Him. Christ loved to sit around the fire and listen to me and the other guys. Whenever we were going on about unimportant shit, He always had a smile on His face.
While most of The Last Temptation of Christ focuses on his internal strife over living as a man or dying painfully to fulfill God's will, the Wedding at Cana scene gives Jesus a sense of fun and humor. (Even better, the whole exchange is Canon);
Father of the Bride: It's been three days and I'm about to run out of wine.
Jesus: What's in those jugs over there?
Father: Just water.
Jesus: No, it's wine.
Father: It's water, I just brought them up from the river myself.
Jesus: Check again.
Father: (skeptically has a taste) It's wine!
Jesus: (smiling) Told you.
In The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, the main conflict erupts between the local druid/pagan factions of Britain and early Christians at the time of King Arthur. Even so, at least one prominent druid (Merlin, no less) remarks that he has never had a problem with Jesus, only with the way most people interpret His words.
Robert A. Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice paints God as a jerkass (though not evil), Satan as vaguely benevolent and both as mere peons before real deities, who run some sort of creation business. But Jesus and Saint Peter are both good guys.
Despite being irreverent towards religion in general, the beginning of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy still gives a nod to the man who was "nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change."
José Saramago's "O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo" (The Gospel According to Jesus Christ) makes a notable twist in the portrayal of Jesus; while he is sympathetic, in the end Yahweh leaves him to die alone, making his whole life a Shaggy Dog Story; even for works where God is evil and Jesus good this is unusual, specially considering that it is implied God might be a figured that Jesus envisioned rather than real. Naturally, many people didn't take this well. Also, when John the Baptist appears in the book, Jesus is sorry for not being so cool as him.
Robert Rankin's Armageddon: The MusicalJesus is way cool and a generally nice guy when he comes down to try and sort out the plot. His sister Christine, however, rather resents him getting all the press again.
In the book Deadline the main character has frequent dreams in which he talks to a character named "Hey-Soos". Hey-Soos is basically a tanner white robe wearing version of the 18 year old main character, has a calm, laid-back demeanor and is very supportive of main character Ben Wolf. He also likes to make jokes about his reminiscence of Jesus Christ through various means, one of which being when he made his hands bleed during a dream talk he had with Ben to freak him out, then laughing about it.
Attacked by C. S. Lewis, who pointed out that 'great humanistic teachers' do not go around telling people that there is no way to heaven except through them, and said that the only options for opinions on Jesus were 'Mad, Bad, or God'. If you picked the 'God' option, then you would think he was cool. The message wasn't 'Jesus wasn't a good guy', it was that Jesus' life and teachings were 100% different to other moral teachers, and shouldn't be lumped in with them.
In James Morrow's Only Begotten Daughter, the second Messiah Julie Katz meets her older brother Jesus in Hell, where he tries to lessen the suffering of the damned. Although he initially comes across as a Jerk Ass, she eventually realizes Jesus Was Way Cool, and heads back to Earth to set things right with his blessing.
In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden states that he's "sort of an atheist" but he likes Jesus, though his disciples annoy him. He also believes that "Jesus never sent old Judas to Hell".
Memnohc the Devil: The Vampire Lestat met Jesus. At first he was freaked out meeting the son of God, but then Jesus gave the vampire a drink of his very own blood.
In The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, one of the socialist characters who is openly opposed to Christianity admits that he is perfectly fine with Jesus, claiming that he was a practical man.
Julian goes on for a bit about how Jesus was not God, that his followers suck, that the Roman prefect was correct in executing him... and that his moral teachings are beyond question.
Live Action TV
French comic actors "Les Inconnus" once did a parody of Hollywood action flicks starring Jesus (or more accurately Stallone playing Jesus). The sketch, called 'Jesus 2 : Le Retour' (The Return) had Jesus introduce himself as "Christ, Jesus Christ", beat people up (a pun on "distribuer des pains" which can mean either 'give out loaves of bread' or 'beat people up'), turn the other cheek... only to knee his opponent in the crotch, stitch up his own wounds after being resurrected. "50 percent man, 50 percent God, 100 percent Saviour." (The sketch is on Youtube, but non-Francophones will miss most of the jokes.)
An episode in the second season of True Blood has this as well, with Godric interrupting a execution scene by the corrupt church, explaining that even some vampires think Jesus was a nice Guy.
Godric: "I am much older than your Jesus, I wish I had known Him, but sadly I missed it"
Yes, Minister. Hacker and Humphrey both agree that if Jesus had been around in their time, they would have had to suppress him because of "all those things about the meek inheriting the earth". In other words, they don't think he's cool but the meek would.
NBC's Community, season 2 episode 5, starts off with Abed not really religious or in favor of Christianity. Shirley manages to convince him to actually sit down and read the New Testament start-to-finish. While Abed doesn't convert or anything and still doesn't particularly favor "Christianity" the organization, actually reading the source material makes Abed change his mind and think that Jesus himself was pretty cool as He was depicted in the narrative of the New Testament (regardless of how "real" any of it was historically), or as Abed describes it "He was like E.T., Edward Scissorhands, and Marty McFly combined."
In How I Met Your Mother Barney credits Jesus with inventing a few of the cornerstones of Bro-ness such as the three-day rule and, notably, the high five.
In the Red Dwarf episode "Lemons," the crew is accidentally sent back in time and encounter Jesus in 23 AD in India, where he's a fairly nice guy who's big on pacifism. After accidentally taking him back to the future with them, he ends up reading about himself and is horrified at what the religion he starts will do to the world, so journeys back in time to trash his reputation in order to make sure that no one bases a religion around him. The Red Dwarf crew, despite being fairly a-religious, figure they should go back in time and fix this, and manage to convince Jesus that while Christianity did plenty of terrible things, he can still do good. Then they figure out that he's the wrong Jesus (he's Jesus of Caesaria, not Jesus of Nazareth) so the whole thing is moot. You do get to see the real Jesus at the very end, but it's indeterminate whether this Jesus is Way Cool or not.
The Axis of Awesome has a song dedicated to this trope. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is awesome.
Caiaphas: One thing I'll say for him — Jesus is cool.
This is averted in some later versions, which change the line to "Infantile sermons, the multitude drools."
As you might guess from the examples above, this trope is often (though far from always) an exemption from Religion Rant Song targeting.
Miranda Lambert's latest single "Heart Like Mine" has a chorus that goes like this: "I heard Jesus, He drank wine and I'd bet we'd get along just fine. He can calm a storm and heal the blind and I'd bet he'd understand a heart like mine."
"Jesus Is Just Alright", popularized by the Doobie Brothers, and later covered by Christian Rock act dc Talk.
Rem's Michael Stipe is often critical of religion in his lyrics, and says in "New Test Leper" that while he can't say he loves Jesus, the guy did make some good points.
The Woody Guthrie song "Jesus Christ" depicts Christ as a socialist rebel killed for speaking truth to power (and notably makes no reference to his resurrection).
Guthrie also wrote a song called "Christ for President," later recorded by Wilco as part of Mermaid Avenue. President Christ promises "a job and pension for young and old."
Ewan MacColl's "Ballad of the Carpenter", also covered by Phil Ochs is pretty similar.
Praise be to MagicWoodyAllenZombieSupermanKomodoDragonTelepathicVampireQuantumHovercraftMeJesus!"
Brazilian's Jesus negao (ni*** Jesus) by Comedy group Hermes and Renato. They sing about how he's the man, how he's great at soccer, how he's awesome and a lot of other things. They also sing about how he's not coming today because he's feeling nailed.
What do you get when you combine this trope with Jive Turkey? "Jesus Christ is my Nigga". 
Country/Folk artist John Prine had "Jesus, The Missing Years," which presents Christ as a confused adolescent.
Arjona's song "Jesus is verb, not noun" talks about how Jesus is the best of all, and that he would hate how religion take advantage of the people.
"Jesus Was a Terrorist" by Jello Biafra and Nomeansno. While it was written and sung by Biafra, an atheist, it's actually less dismissive of him than one would expect from the title. The song is actually about freedom of speech, drawing parallels between the way the Roman government treated Jesus for preaching his faith to the way certain contemporary politicians and activists (who, ironically, are/were mostly Christian) tried to censor musicians and other artists/entertainers.
Comedian George Carlin, a well known atheist, in his stand-up routine included Jesus in his list of good people who were killed who wanted peace on Earth. His portrayal of Jesus in one of his audio books was very positive as well. In this portrayal he indicated that Jesus would probably be very disappointed in modern Christianity.
Carlin also played Cardinal Glick (see the example for Dogma above).
A Christian comedian, Mark Lowry, once discussed Jesus turning water into wine in his act. He said something like, "What I like about Jesus is that his first miracle wasn't healing the blind or raising the dead... his first miracle was to just keep the party going."
Eddie Izzard frequently comments on religion in his stand-up routines, and thus mentions Jesus on occasion. In "Dressed to Kill", he stated that he believed that Jesus existed and had "interesting ideas in the Gandhi-type area, in the Nelson Mandela-type area, you know, relaxed and groovy." Just don't take his name in vain. Or call him "Jeezy Creezy".
"Look, Dad, I went down there, I taught 'em to be hang out, be groovy, drink a bit of wine, they split into different groups! You've got the Catholics, the Protestants, the Jesuits, the Methodists, the Evangelicals, the free Presbyterians, the locked up Presbyterians... the Quakers, the Bakers, the Candlestick Makers... The Mormonsarefrom Mars, Dad, we've had that checked out."
Stand-up comedian Richard Herring has an entire comedy show, 'Christ on a Bike', devoted to how much of the Bible is utter nonsense if you try analyzing it sensibly, but admits that he quite likes Jesus, he just hates the evils that he sees as having been justified by Christianity and the Bible. As he puts it, "Jesus was a cool guy, a lot of the people who follow him are idiots. Jesus is a lot like The Fonz in that respect.
Philip Bowman, an Irish stand-up comedian, has an act called "Jesus: the Guantanamo Years." In addition to talking about Jesus' stay in Guantanamo (he was an Arab guy trying to take a plane into the United States and ready to die as a martyr, what did you think was going to happen?) Jesus talks about Himself in his stand-up comedy career. He goes around telling long stories about himself that go nowhere, yet slyly prove a point about life.
In Patton Oswalt's stand-up special, Finest Hour, Oswalt, an atheist, remarks that the only thing that would prevent Jesus from getting into a superhero team like the X-Men would be his own wisdom and humility. He then runs through a hypothetical scenario in which Jesus auditions for the X-Men and, instead of telling them about his more impressive miracles that could be useful to a superhero team like raising the dead, he would instead bring up the time he fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish.
In John Wick's Thirty, the characters meet several different versions of Jesus. The two most notable are the self-described Gnostic Jesus, who is mundane but a philosophical genius and kind of awesome ... and Paul's Jesus, who is a psychotic firebreathing monster the size of a building.
In the Reefer Madness musical, Jesus is just about the only cool person present. Almost all the other characters are pathetic, deranged, and/or sociopathic drug addicts, or they're incredibly square and easily manipulated rubes. Jesus, on the other hand, speaks out against marijuana as the lead singer in a heavenly night club, accompanied by a troupe of sexy, scantily clad angels. Even in a musical that satirizes anti-marijuana Aesops, this can't help but come off as awesome.
Joan of Arc: The Lord of Hosts, the stranger from the manger, the hardest working man in the afterlife: give it up for Jesus!
Audience Member: You rock, Jesus!
You know some of that stuff Jesus did? He did it in under 10 seconds. At least, that's what this game has you do.
In The Salvation War, Jesus is definitely cool. He realizes how insane his father is well before anyone else and tries three times to help humanity (Jesus, Mohamed, and someone else, possibly Joan of Arc or Martin Luther), but after these attempts backfire and he sees how rapidly they are progressing, he decides to see what they can do to correct the injustices done to them on their own. Even after Michael the Angelic Anti-Hero sets him up to die by nuclear weapon, he still forgives him because he understands his motivation for doing so.
In thisI'm a Marvel... And I'm a DC video, Iron Man is daydreaming about the opening day of The Dark Knight and how it's stealing the hype for his movie. Everybody is rejecting his movie (released a few months before) as being yesterday's news, but the culmination is the arrival of Jesus.
Jesus: My children, I have come back to you. The sheer awesomeness of The Dark Knight has brought about my Second Coming, and with it the Rapture, which shall begin immediately. ...after the 7:45 session. I gotta see this bad boy!
In the Mr Deity series, Jesus isn't perfect, but he's almost always standing up for the general good of humanity and objecting to particularly unreasonably aspects of the way his father does things. Out of Mr. Deity (God), Larry (archangel), Lucy (devil and Mr. Deity's girlfriend), and Jesus, who are the four main characters, Jesus generally gets portrayed as being more concerned with doing good than the other three and more reasonable than Mr. Deity.
Jesus is a semi-recurring character in Penny Arcade, where he hangs out with Gabe and Tycho, playing video games and being a cool guy in general. Though he is apparently a bit of a poor winner at Street Fighter.
Gabe: What can I say? Jesus is fucking metal.
Quoted nearly word-for-word in this strip of Wigu.
Sinfest — in which Jesus Christ is the most awesome superhero since Barack Obama. Notably, Sinfest portrays Jesus as far more awesome than his father in pretty much every concievable way.
The Devil's Panties has "J.C.", who often hangs out with the comic's version of its creator Jennie Breeden. He's presented as a really cool, pot smoking "long haired hippie" who often waxes philosophical with Jennie and some guy with horns and has a Friendly Enemy relationship with the latter.
The now-discontinued Lowroad 75 featured Jesus in a few episodes. In one, the main character and her boyfriend were surrounded by ads for Christmas shopping ("Buy crap! Because you're stupid!"), then cut to Jesus sitting alone in his apartment, holding a cupcake with a single birthday candle in it. ("Nobody remembered. Again.")
A semi-regular character in Ansem Retort. He first came to train the cast to fight against Larxene (much to Marluxia's disappointment, who wanted a hot Latino). He later shows up to officiate over Axel and Aerith's wedding, for an "Old Testament" drinking party with Axel and Zexion, and most recently has joined Axel, Zexion, Riku, and Marluxia to fix the timestream.
In Evil Diva, Jesus runs a cafe where he gives out advice and coffee.
Diva: You're awesome.
Jesus: I get that a lot.
Appears very rarely in Elijah And Azuu, where he seems to take on a sort of cool older brother role for the various angels. Has an apparent tendency to answer all questions of morality with, "What would I do?" (much to the annoyance of divine beings looking for a little guidance). God has a similarly laid-back personality.
Jesus first appears in Shortpacked! as a hallucination after Robin gets a nasty knock on the head. Eventually, he becomes a background cast member (when Galasso resurrects him). Though he has a much darker skin tone than generally depicted and referred to as "the Historical Jesus," he's also portrayed as a friendly man who spends most of his time promising nice customers that kindness is always rewarded. Though he does tell off a couple rich guys and give Ethan (a Jew) a good Death Glare when he finds out the latter is perfectly willing to work on the Sabbath.
South Park, an outrageous show if ever there was one, generally shies away from Crossing the Line Twice where its Jesus is concerned. The miracles and theology take some whacks, but Jesus himself is a generally nice and occasionally heroic character in a Crapsack World of loathsome misanthropes and buffoons.
He was part of the "Council of the Nine" in the Imaginationland trilogy - the most righteous and heroic characters in all of fiction. (Note that Aslan was a member too. Jesus is so awesome, he got to be on the Council TWICE.) Also doubles as a Take That.
Portrays Jesus as playing golf with guys on weekdays, and going to bars with God on weekends (Seth MacFarlane is an atheist). According to Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, was a very bad magician and he's really short.
He also entertains his friends by turning water into funk.
Black Jesus: I rode into town on an ass....(looks at screen) Yo' momma's ass!
Another episode portrayed him as Chinese
"I just came back from Heaven and I learned that Jesus is Chinese and His last name is Hong. Jesus Hong. I don`t know where they got the Christ."
At one point, Jesus shows up to convince the temporarily anti-Semitic Peter that Judaism and Christianity are two sides of the same coin. He then says that all religions are complete crap, earning a thank you from the atheist Brian.
In the New Zealand animated comedy series, Bro'town, Jesus stars in every episode as every episode starts in heaven with god telling a story using the main characters. Jesus is depicted as a hip but naive teenager who learns from God's stories.
Futurama: The robot Jews believe that He was built, and that He was a well-programmed robot, but they don't believe He was the robot Messiah. To all the robotic faithful out there, this is Robot Jesus, who may or may not be related to Zombie Jesus or the Jesus involved in the Second Coming of 2443.
Clone High had Jesús, a Latino clone of the Nazarene, who would attempt to give sage advice to other characters but often ended up accidentally injuring himself.
Jesús: God has a plan for all of us. A painful, painful plan.
God: "My Son went to Earth once. I don't know what you people did to him, but he hasn't been the same since." *Cut to Jesus sitting forlornly on a swingset*
They showed Jesus in another episode where Homer and Bart were being drawn to Catholicism. Marge had a nightmare where she went to the WASPy Protestant Heaven while Homer and Bart went to the loud, boisterous, Catholic Heaven. Jesus ended up in the Catholic Heaven, "going native".
On another occasion, the bullies confront Bart after Lisa converts to Buddhism, responding to his "Who cares?" by telling him there's a man who cares, who has long hair, works as a carpenter, and has some crazy ideas about peace and love. His name's Gunther, and he's dating Jimbo's mom. Sometimes he buys them beer.
Rev. Lovejoy pulled a joke like this too during one of his sermons. He said, "I know of one visitor who came from the heavens, only to die and be reborn... And his name was... Film:E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." (Cries a little)'' "I loved that little guy."
In an American Dad!Christmas episode, the Rapture occurs and Stan and Francine were left behind. Jesus comes back to lead people against the Anti Christ. He doesn't have his superpowers (except for being able to withstand freezing temperatures and Walk on Water), but he's still a badass. He's hunky and charismatic and actually front flips onto the Anti Christ's shoulder and snaps his neck with his thighs. He's also allowed to date this time and Stan calls him the best guy Francine could ever end up with.
Moral Orel: Reverend Putty hands out flyers saying "Remember kids, Jesus is Cool!"
C. S. Lewis was opposed to such portrayals of Jesus, writing: "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." - Mohandas Gandhi
It's possible that the Gandhi quote (given above) is apocryphal as no reliable citation has been given. One theory goes that it came from one time when he was barred from entering a white church in Africa; another says he was talking about materialistic tendencies among Christians of his time period. If anything, the closest quote to the misattributed one was "...All you Christians, missionaries and all, must live more like Jesus Christ."
Thomas Jefferson, a Deist, wrote a version of the New Testament that chronicled Jesus' good deeds and sayings without any references to the supernatural.
Neil Diamond didn't want to do a Christmas show until his mother told him, "Jesus was a nice Jewish boy."
The "Jesús está chido◊" ("Jesus Is Way Coo]") billboards from Guadalajara, Mexico.
"If Christ himself were alive, one thing he would not be is a Christian." - Mark Twain
As shown in Religulous, Bill Maher was severely outnumbered in a trucker chapel, and thanked his interviewees for their kind hospitality and their not-kicking-his-ass by saying, "Thanks for being Christ-like and not just Christians."
John Lennon's infamous Bigger Than Jesus quote (which was misquoted; see below) came from an interview in which he spoke about, amongst other things, the good Christ/bad Christian dichotomy that other famous dead people have commented on.
"We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first-rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."
Although he dismissed Christianity in general as conducive to "slave morality", Friedrich Nietzsche viewed Jesus as his Worthy Opponent and as an Übermensch who radically changed the views of society. He says (in a book entitled The Anti-Christ) that "the last Christian died on the Cross."
Prominent anarchist speaker and writer Emma Goldman had nothing good to say about religion, but stated in at least one essay ("Minorities Versus Majorities") that she respected Jesus for going against the dominant powers of his day and didn't entirely disagree with his teachings — just with the people who blindly follow them and use their religion as an excuse to persecute others.
Averted by G. K. Chesterton, of all people. As he says in The Everlasting Man, "The truth is that it is the image of Christ in the churches that is almost entirely mild and merciful. It is the image of Christ in the Gospels that is a good many other things as well...The Church can reasonably be justified therefore if she turns the most merciful face or aspect towards men; but it is certainly the most merciful aspect that she does turn....A man simply taking the words of the story as they stand would form quite another impression; an impression full of mystery and possibly of inconsistency; but certainly not merely an impression of mildness."
It should be noted that Chesterton's point is not that Jesus was not kind and merciful, but that to anyone reading the Bible for the first time with no preconceptions about Jesus would see someone who was certainly not afraid to show wrath.
Kurt Vonnegut was an atheist, but he spoke highly of Jesus. He even wrote: "If it weren't for the message of mercy and pity in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I wouldn't want to be a human being. I would just as soon be a rattlesnake."
Here are some verifiable (Biblically-sourced, that is) facts about Human Body v2: Post-Resurrection; the ability of either teleportation or phasing through solid matter (Jesus appearing in locked rooms), some degree of mental obfuscation (disciples at Emmaus), indestructible (1 Cor 15:42), immunity to psy-ops (Rev 21:4 - no pain, no sorrow, no sadness) and a guarantee that all genuine Christians get these upgrades. Yeah, this kinda body isn't that of a zombie, unless you're talking about Necrons. Specifically, Necron Flayers- with built-in warp-portal generators. Bad Ass enough yet?
Also, if you take one of the commonly held interpretations, Jesus was fully man though He was God in personality and being. Essentially, this means any human could do what He did if they were in tune enough with the will of God and faithful (as opposed to Him simply having the divine power while in mortal form). So Jesus's power would be based on sheer raw epic coolness. Corroborated after the whole telling the storm to shut up episode - he tells the disciples that "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move." Matthew 17:20. Which seems like hyperbole, but when you consider that he's proscribing physical dimensions to an intangible concept...
From the cultural perspective of Israel at that time, Jesus was an anti-establishment rebel who ran around with a gang of young men, trashed temples, and told everybody that everything they knew about righteousness and morality is wrong.
He even gave his gang members awesome nicknames. Most famously, he gave Simon the name Petra (or Peter) which means "The Rock" in Greek. Oddly, no one translates it as "Simon called Rocky". St. Thomas' name is a nickname meaning "The Twin" (real name Judas) and the third Apostle named Judas got the nickname Thaddeus ("Braveheart"). Other is Simon "The Zealot". He also renamed the sons of Zebedee the Sons of Thunder. How filthy a temper do you need to have for Jesus to be impressed by it? note Answer: They asked Him if He wanted them to call down fire from Heaven like Elijah when some people were being disrespectful.
Jesus worked as a carpenter. He would have not been the thin meek figure commonly depicted. Now imagine him chasing the crooked money exchanges out of the temple... with a Whip. When he was upending tables consider that some historians have suggested that those tables, given the era, would have been marble.
He later (1300 years, give or take) appears to Julian of Norwich (who 'wrote' "Revelations of Divine Love") and told her, after showing her multiple fairly horrific visions, that "It has been behooved that Sin should exist; but, All will be well, and All will be well and All Manner of Thing will be well..." which is the basic belief of Universalists (Julian was described as a Proto-Universalist) that, even the Traitor (Satan) can be given the chance, even in Hell to be redeemed and Return to Paradise with the Father. It's VERY cool.
Jesus' got his first fan (John the Baptist) just minutes after being magically introduced in Mary's womb. From the other end of the life spectrum, if what Jesus said was the truth it changes from Jesus was (past tense, implying that Jesus is still dead) way cool to he is (Jesus is still with us) way cool. Being God is pretty cool.
Other Religions' Interpretations
The Holy Quran. Jesus could talk soon after he was born, and he wasn't killed — God raised him to the sky and tricked the Romans into crucifying someone else (often depicted as Judas or a criminal) in his place. Muslims generally regard Jesus as a great prophet second in holiness after The Prophet Muhammad himself (though they consider the idea of holding him as an actually divine being, the son of God, or even God Himself in human form as a grave insult against both God and Jesus). In fact, one of the many Hadiths about Judgment Day prophesizes that Jesus will return to Earth as the Messiah to lead all true believers against The Antichrist (called the "False Messiah/Dajjal" in Islam) and finally kill him, then reign over a long utopian realm on the otherwise gone-to-shit planet for a long time before the world finally comes to an end.
Jews vary a little more in how they see him.
Obviously, most Jewish people don't believe that Jesus was actually a divine figure, but very few think that he was anything but a very good person. Most of their issues come from the Book of Revelation and Matthew 27:24-25.
Another Jewish perspective has a harsher view: claiming to be a prophet with the message that laws should be changed is heresy worthy of the death penalty, to say nothing of claiming to be the son of God. Just because they don't always say it loudly doesn't mean some Jews don't have issues with Jesus.
There were some Jews who avoided studying Torah on Christmas because to do so on someone's birthday honors them, something they were not comfortable doing. Instead, they made toilet paper
There are those (who you will also find among atheists) who think he was a nice guy, but wasn't really that original, as many of his teachings were already, in some way, present in the Torah, as well as in the broader Jewish culture of his time. They think the early Christian authors exaggerated what he did, said, etc. In other words, Jesus' cool went viral and experienced Memetic Mutation.
In Gnosticism Jesus is usually depicted as an emissary of the Good God, whatever their interpretation of Jehova. However, most Gnostics did not believe in salvation in the modern sense.
Averted with the Mandaeans, who believe that Jesus was a false prophet, and that John the Baptist was the true messiah. Though, they also believe Moses and Abraham were false prophets while Muhammad was the worst.
Many Buddhists, including a Dalai Lama, view Jesus as a Bodhisattva; an enlightened being who abstains from nirvana to help other humans attain it, and sometimes study portions of the Christian New Testament.
Many Hindus, who tend to be extremely accepting of other religions, believe that Jesus was an avatar of Vishnu, and that in healing people and allowing himself to be crucified, he was accepting the karmic load of the people around him. That last bit is in line with the Christian belief, just replacing "the people around him" with "every last human being ever born, ever". (Heroic Sacrifices are a universal trope.)
Porphyry, a Neoplatonist philosopher of the third century and the author of the mostly lost, fifteen books long treatise Adversus Christianos (Against The Christians), famously stated that
The Gods have proclaimed Christ to have been most pious, but the Christians are a confused and vicious sect.
Manicheanism declared that not only was Jesus divine, but that he had manifested on Earth several times more than recorded in the Bible, first coming in Adam and Eve's time.