No matter our political leanings, the events last week at Capitol Hill shocked us all. It made me think again what ‘greatness’ really is.
Leaders who can deny personal ambition for the common good, and whose egos can include critics in their inner circle of advisers, are rare indeed. It’s natural and not wrong to want to use God given talents and gifts of influence, but motivation and manner will make the difference between politician and true statesman.
Suffering and Servanthood
Jesus was continually turning the worldly hierarchical view of power on its head by redefining greatness in terms of sacrifice and servanthood. Instead of seeing the leader as the apex of a pyramid of power being served by the many underneath, he described leadership as the basis, undergirding by serving and raising others up. The disciples didn’t get it and still fought to be first. When Jesus explained in detail what awaited the Son of Man in Jerusalem, ‘They will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him’, the disciples went on to ask for special seats in his Kingdom. ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory’ (Mark 10:35, 37).
Washing their feet during the last supper seemed truly scandalous. How could Jesus their master do something so humiliating for his followers and even for Judas, his betrayer? How low would he stoop? Of course, we know he laid aside not just his outer clothing, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant and humbling himself to die on the cross.
. . . For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Jesus is the supreme example of sacrificial service. How humbly he suffered at the hands of men. The Roman soldiers mocked him as king, ripping his clothes from his lacerated back and wrapping him in a rough faded army cloak, a stick for a sceptre and that cruel crown of thorns upon his head. They knelt in mock homage declaring ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Approaching him one by one pretending to kiss, but spitting in his face instead, they took his stick and beat him on the head pushing the thorns in deeper.
The irony is Jesus, who looked so weak, even ‘a loser’, is Great! He’s the Great King, not just of the Jews but of all nations. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess he is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). The whole of nature awaits the coming of Christ’s kingdom when it will be delivered from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:22). Jesus takes the symbol of the cursed ground, thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18), upon his own head. He is King of all creation, and by dying and rising again he saves the world.
He despises the shame for the joy he anticipates – the joy of being enthroned at his father’s right hand and the joy of leading us to glory (Hebrews 12:10).
A Great Nation
As God called Abraham to become a great nation (Genesis 12:2) to be blessed to be a blessing, making all nations great, he calls us to continue his purpose. In Christ we, his church, are a holy nation belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9). Christ has left us an example of servanthood that we might follow in his steps by taking his good news message to the ends of the earth with much joy.
There are many power hungry, power grasping, domineering leaders in our world today, but when we see abuse of power in Christ’s church, it is especially ugly. My husband Julyan’s book, ‘Give up the Purple’, available on Amazon, deals more fully with these issues. May God help us all to walk humbly with our God.