Leadership is a confusing animal to many people. Some think it comes from a title. Others think strong leadership needs a massive following. This week we had the chance to look at some critical life lessons that apply to leadership still today. We can learn a great deal about how to and how not to act by watching people who’ve been in similar situations. So let’s take a closer look at what it means to be a leader and how a leader should react when under pressure.
At our Wednesday discussion of the Bible we looked at Matthew 21. Here’s a quick synopsis. You can listen to the full message below.
The start of chapter 21 is the famous account of the triumphal entry, aka Palm Sunday. People are flocking to see Jesus. They line the streets and shout their approval. They want more and more from him. They can’t get enough of his works and famous teachings. They love the things he does and the way he speaks differently than everyone else. They are fed by him. Healed by him. Restored by him. He gives them hope. It’s no wonder the people can’t get enough of him.
When Jesus starts to gain momentum in his leadership and the people are flocking to him left and right, we shouldn’t be surprised that the established leadership gets panicked. These leaders aren’t kings or princes. They are council members in the leadership of the church. When they feel threatened by the one man who can make the most massive impact, they try to trap him. They rally their followers and try to convince the world that he’s lying and manipulating them.
On Jesus’ way through the city, he makes a straight path toward the temple where he upsets the leaders even more! He sees what’s happening. They’re cheating the people. They were changing money rates to benefit their own clan. They were inflating the dollar and charging more to some individuals in an unfair manner. They were making the system benefit themselves. They turned the temple entrance into a cheater’s house and a safe place for liars and manipulators.
Jesus can’t take it. He sees it and has to act immediately. He storms the temple area. He drives the animals out and throws the money tables over. He tells them exactly what they’re doing wrong, but it only fuels their fire. When selfish people are doing wrong things, they don’t want to hear what they’re doing wrong. They just get greedy and want more. They want to get rid of anyone who stands in the way of what they want.
After Jesus clears the temple and restores order to the system, he leaves for the countryside to stay for the night. In the morning he gives a direct message to his followers on the power that real faith can have on one’s life. Then enters the temple again.
Remember the last time he was in the temple, he disrupted their lying broken system. He cost them money and respect. So now they are angry. They’re ready for revenge. They want him gone so they’ll stop at nothing to make that happen.
We’re near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and things are getting increasingly heated between him and the establishment of his day. Seemingly without a word from Jesus, the chief priests and elders approached him to ask him a question intended to trap him.
By what authority do you say the things you say and do the things you do?
Jesus knows the answer to this question and to be honest so do the chief priests. However instead of giving them an answer to anger them more, he puts the ability to answer in their court by asking them another question. Their answer to this question will essentially help them know his answer. They were so hasty to get an answer that they were trapped between the right thing to do and the best thing to do.
Here we learn two critical lessons from Jesus.
- Sometimes doing the right thing won’t gain you popularity but it’s still the right thing.
- Just because you have something to say doesn’t mean you need to say it.
Jesus practices the greatest restraint imaginable. He doesn’t speak the answer to this question. He knows the answer. His answer is the right answer. He’s not ashamed of or scared of the repercussions of his answer. He wants his opponent to have to admit their own position and ignorance. He’s using this as a teaching moment for them and his followers.
The chief priests should know by what authority John Baptized. By not knowing, they were essentially admitting failure in their job. It was their business to know the answer to this question but they refused to answer and settled for I don’t know in an effort to save their credibility.
Jesus then uses a story to help illustrate this point. So one moral of the story here is:
When we know the right thing to do and refuse to do it, we are just as guilty as if we did the wrong thing.
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