In my continuous study of the historicity of the resurrection and the historical Jesus of Nazareth, I find that there are many misconceptions that have been held on to through the years and we've never really quite bothered to correct our perceptions about Him all this time.
First of all, we find that the first message that Jesus proclaimed was not that of salvation, but rather, of the Good News of the Kingdom of God. And He went on to demonstrate it's power by exorcisms, healing the sick, making the lame walk and the revivification of at least three recorded dead persons in the Gospels among many other events that we refer to as miracles.
Second, we fail to recognize that in the gospel narratives, Jesus was carrying a message primarily for the House of Judah, and in doing so, He was assuming the role of an Old Testament prophet to them - as the New Covenant had yet to be fulfilled with His own predicted death on the cross. In the later portions we see that the Gospel was taken to the heathen (the proper translation for "gentiles", as it has become known in most translations), however the primacy of the message's importance has not been diminished for the target that it was originally intended for.
Ben Witherington III gives a very good insight into the circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth and death - things we normally took for granted as correct, yet we actually need to take a second look in order to appreciate the circumstances. First of all, His birth and death circumstances fall nothing short of scandalous. A possibility that Joseph's child sired out of wedlock would have certainly done more than raise the eyebrows of the families of the two that were betrothed to each other, both in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, where they went to be registered in the census ordered by Quirinius. The fact that they travelled to Bethlehem from Mary's hometown Nazareth meant that they were going to be with family in Bethlehem, and considering that they were yet betrothed and her, "great with child" was anything but acceptable in that culture.
Though we assume that there was "no room at the inn" for them, it was quite a common practice to house visiting relatives in parts of the household where they could be accommodated, and having nothing more than a manger to serve as a crib was simply making do given those crowded circumstances.
More so, at the point of death on a Roman cross. Jesus was executed as a criminal. To say it was scandalous would be an understatement. It was nothing less than shameful for both friends and family to be associated with such a person who deserved a punishment such as that at the time.
To have born and died in less than normal circumstances wouldn't quite bode well for a group of people seeking to follow Him under the usual conditions.
Yet, we see a group of frightened followers following the trial, torture and finally the execution of this charismatic person turn bold, insistent and persistent advocates of His divinity because they had seen Him alive after He was entombed in Jerusalem by no less than one of the Sanhedrin at that time. To the point of their own painful deaths, they insisted on repeating the same message - that the historic Jesus of Nazareth returned from the dead and lives, and through believing in Him and His resurrection, anyone will be granted eternal life. Simply by believing in Him.
The thief executed on the same day with Him merely requested Jesus to remember him when He entered into His Kingdom, and for that, he was granted grace for eternity. Without preconditions of a life repented. Just like that.
And as recorded by a Roman historian, the movement took on a new life once again not long after a brief pause following His death by crucifixion. And it never stopped growing since.
Through the centuries, we have managed to complicate the simple message of the synoptic gospels and confuse ourselves with various doctrinal persuasions, but if we bothered to examine the facts and evidence, we see a very simple message: God, who condemned humanity to a death sentence took on a human form to do something He had never done previously, and that was to die Himself. But happily, it did not end there at death. Because He was bodily raised from the dead and lives eternally as King of the Universe, for His selfless, redeeming action of obedience to His Father.
No, Jesus did not come to make bad people good. (I thank Ravi Zacharias for this one.) He came to give all of us with death sentences a chance to be alive again and never to be separated from the God who created all of us , who seeks to have us address Him as Our Father.