Would our faith collapse without Jesus? Take Jesus away and what's left of our religion? If we don't know about Jesus' death and its consequences, do we know Jesus?
If our beliefs don't collapse when Jesus is taken away, we're not a Christian. The Jesus who died at Golgotha is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Son of God, baptized by John, attacked by the religious leaders, abandoned and betrayed by his friends, is the crucified One. He's always the crucified One.
There is only one Jesus. One crucifixion for the sin of the world. One way to be Christian. All other categories we put Jesus in diminish Him. He's not a great teacher, a great man, or a great moral example. He's the crucified Christ. Jesus isn't a new Moses, a holy martyr, or an example of Christian charity. Any title we invent for Him threatens to reduce Jesus to the level of lawgiver, religious victim, or example for people to imitate.
Jesus is God. The one and only God who is for us in his suffering and death. The more we focus on Christ crucified, and less on what He means to us, the greater our regard for God's love for us will grow. As we focus on Jesus' sacrifice, the more we will see that there's no greater love than that. And that great love can't be reproduced or imitated by anyone else.
But, "one man's meat is another man's poison," as the old saying goes. Some Christians seem remarkably happy putting Jesus into all sorts of categories. Jesus, the religious guru. Jesus, the moral teacher. Jesus, the example of godly obedience. They've fitted Jesus together with topics that give their lives meaning and a sense of place in relation to God. Their faith grows in relation to what they've accepted about Jesus, and what He means to them.
But, when we do this, there's a fearful devaluation of the one necessary thing that makes Jesus "God for us." He is the crucified One. He's always been the crucified Christ. Take this away and Christian faith collapses in on itself. Add our own moral or spiritual categories to Christ crucified for the sin of the world and we've "de-Jesused" the Bible, the Gospel, and the whole reason the Christian faith exists.
Jesus is not a "self-validating idol," to quote Norman Nagel. Instead, He's the Savior who shows His great love for us at Calvary. God became flesh and blood so He could die for the sin of the world. This makes Jesus unique amongst all would-be saviors. This makes baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the preaching of the Gospel entirely unique. There's no other god who dies for our sin. There's no other religion that offers the free gift of salvation. There's no other confession of faith that can make the claim that we're unconditionally reconciled with God by His death at our hands. We live in harmony with God because Jesus was nailed to a cross.
Jesus takes His place with sinners when He's baptized. That means that when we're baptized He takes His place with us now. When we eat and drink the bread and wine, Jesus gives us His body and blood. When we're declared forgiven for Christ's sake by the pastor, God doesn't remember our sin anymore.
Even though we are tempted to add our personal opinions to the meaning of Jesus' life and death, to increase the meaning of His sacrifice, there's only one thing that makes Christians "Christian." Christ crucified for us for the forgiveness of sin. This kind of love is beyond our comprehension and imagination. It even goes beyond any meaning we can assign to it. It simply is "good news" from God that evokes one response from us: "Amen, Come Lord Jesus."