4 Ways Jesus Challenged the Status Quo

4 Ways Jesus Challenged the Status Quo

If you think of Jesus as a kindly hippie, it might surprise you that not everyone was a fan. While he taught about a loving God and urged people to love others, Jesus also urged people to change, which didn’t always go over so well.

Here are 4 ways Jesus challenged the status quo.

1. Jesus rejected “business as usual”.

In the large city of Jerusalem, he attacked the money changers, who were running a racket swapping temple shekels for Roman money at a profit. He didn’t just chew them out, he physically chased them out. When a corrupt tax collector decided to follow Jesus, he returned all his ill-gotten gains and then some. “Business as usual” just couldn’t continue when Jesus got involved.

And then there were his frequent warnings about wealth. It was easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle, he said, than for a rich person to get into God’s kingdom. He told stories about rich fools headed for hellfire and poor widows who captured the heart of God. One pious tycoon was asked to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor. “No one can serve both God and money,” Jesus said. That kind of teaching made more than a few enemies among those who would profit from the status quo.

2. Jesus turned the law on its head.

While he didn’t break Roman law, there were hundreds of complex and burdensome religious laws that the religious leaders had added to Scripture. Jesus railed against a religion that focused more on rules than people – more on obedience than love. For example, the Bible says Jesus intentionally healed people on the Sabbath, knowing it would violate the religious law. “The Sabbath was made for people, and not people for the Sabbath,” he said.

There were a lot of these run-ins with the Pharisees, the religious class of his day. Jesus berated them for hypocrisy and corruption. In turn, they accused him of hanging out with the wrong kind of people. What self-respecting leader would go to parties with prostitutes and swindlers? They called Jesus a “friend of sinners,” and the crazy part is – he didn’t seem to mind.

3. Jesus shunned politics.

If you think our politics are complicated, take a look at the time in which Jesus lived. The Romans had been occupying and oppressing his home country for about a century. Some groups tried to appease them, others coexisted, and still others fought back. Among his disciples, Jesus had at least one rebel (Simon the Zealot), and Judas Iscariot’s last name might indicate a connection to the Sicari, who were hardcore Jewish freedom fighters.

People flocked to hear Jesus, but he generally avoided political messaging—but he did talk about the kingdom of God. Some people would definitely see that as a return to Jewish independence, with a God-ordained king in charge. According to one Gospel, after Jesus miraculously fed a crowd of more than 5,000, the people surrounded him, intending to make him a king, but Jesus walked away. As he explained later to Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

4. Jesus made outrageous claims.

Early in his career, at his hometown synagogue, Jesus read a prophecy about a savior and announced that it was coming true right in front of them. When he scolded them for disbelief, they tried to kill him.

In general, Jesus avoided sounding blasphemous, but when other people started calling him Messiah or Son of God, he didn’t correct them. When he healed people, he often asked them to keep quiet about it, but they rushed out and told their stories (wouldn’t we all?), which spread like wildfire.

Yet Jesus also fed the fury, declaring that he existed before Abraham and that he was “one” with God. In a dispute at the holiest site in Jerusalem, he said, “Tear down this temple and in three days I will build it again.” The religious leaders treated it like a terrorist threat, but the temple he was actually talking about was his own body. He was forecasting his own resurrection.

Why did some people have a hard time with Jesus? He challenged what they believed and cared about. The same thing happens today.


By Randy Petersen

American Bible Society
American Bible Society

After almost 200 years of ongoing ministry, American Bible Society invites people to experience the life-changing message of the Bible. Offering an increasing range of innovative ministries to address core life questions and struggles, the Bible Society partners with Christian churches and national Bible societies to share God’s Word both in the United States and around the globe.