Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

The Contextualized Model of Jesus – Picking Your Fights

Yes, Jesus was very confrontational in his facing of the Jewish culture and traditions.  But, there were times when He conformed and submitted Himself to the norms of the day.  For all His willingness to violate the cultural norms of the Jews, Jesus was also at other times compliant to Jewish cultural practices.  One could almost accuse Him of an arbitrary relativism, “flip-flopping,” and being inconsistent in his approach.

Below are some examples of when Jesus did follow the cultural norms of the day.

[1]        Jesus went to the synagogue to worship on the Sabbath   –  Luke 4:16

Synagogue worship started during the Babylonian Captivity after the destruction of the temple and the removal of the Jews from Palestine.  It continued even after the rebuilding of the temple and the return of the Jews to the Promised Land.

[2]        Jesus celebrated the Jewish festivals  –  John 10:22

Jesus even celebrated those festivals that were not prescribed in the Old Testament, such as the Feast of Dedication. The Feast of the Dedication was initiated during the inter-testamental period and is not prescribed in the Old Testament law.  The feast (Hanukkah) “commemorated the purifying of the temple, the removal of the old polluted altar, and the restoration of the worship of Jehovah by Judas Maccabeus, BC 164. [1]

[3]        Jesus paid the temple tax  –  Matthew 17:24-27

The temple tax was re-instituted by Nehemiah after the Captivity at one-third of a shekel, but the tax rate used during Jesus’ time was that rate originally prescribed by Moses (cf. Exodus 30:11-16 and Nehemiah 10:32). [2]

So what made the difference for Him?  Why would He confront on some occasions and on others conform?  Was He a “flip-flopper” who simply applied situational ethics using a relativistic, sliding scale for decisions?

We have some insight into Jesus’ thinking in the Matthew 17 passage regarding the payment of the temple tax.  He states the truth to Peter in that as the Son of the King He is exempt from paying this tax.  “But so that we may not cause an offense” was His reasoning for sending Peter on a fishing expedition to obtain a coin to pay the tax.

There are times when one must confront the norms of the day and risk offending others.  But this is to be thought through carefully and thoroughly.  But if doing what is right means we challenge the accepted way of doing things, then we do what is right and bear the consequences.  However, we don’t want to unduly go about being offensive to people.  Having a generally pejorative attitude is not helpful for leaders.  We must pick and choose our fights.

Remember, you only have so many bullets in your gun!  Pick your fights carefully and aim well!


    [1]  Unger’s Bible Dictionary, 3rd Edition

Moody Press   Chicago, Illinois  1966  p. 362

    [2]  Edersheim, Alfred   The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book IV, Chapter III

MacDonald Publishing   McLean, Virginia  p. 111

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