Jesus talks about what makes a Good Leader
Recently the citizens of our country chose our next leader and the next president of the U.S.A. Many Christians voted for this man partially because he promised to try to stop late term abortions, and also because many are not happy with our present government. But many other Christians refused to vote for this candidate partially because of his excessive pride and his bullying of others. There were no easy answers this time around. And many now fear that our great country may suffer terribly under this leadership.
Jesus spoke about what a good leader should be like and His words are recorded in Scripture. This is part of what He said: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over their people and those who are in leadership exercise strict authority over their country. Yet it shall not be so among you. Whoever desires to become a great leader among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20: 25-28) Jesus is advocating servant leadership for His followers!
Just before Jesus spoke these words, the mother of two of his disciples had come to Him and ask Jesus if her sons, James and John, could sit on His right and left hand when He set up his kingdom. (Matthew 20:20-21) This mother was thinking that Jesus would soon be king of an earthly kingdom and she was ambitious that both her boys would get in on all the pomp and power.
Jesus answered James and John and their mother with these words: “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Matthew 20: 22) These disciples, James and John, and their mother did not understand that the kingdom Jesus would be ruling would not be an earthly kingdom!
To be great in the kingdom of heaven James and John would have to be willing to drink the cup that Jesus would drink (his death) and be baptized with His baptism (take up their cross and follow Him). Instead of being harsh pompous rulers, the followers of Jesus were to be caring servant-leaders. The rules in this heavenly kingdom would be backwards from the rules of worldly kingdoms.
Even though Jesus had tried to tell his disciples that his kingdom would be a heavenly kingdom, - a kingdom of another world, his disciples didn’t hear him and they didn’t get it. They kept on believing that Jesus would be the ruler of an earthly kingdom. Since they were his disciples they would sit on thrones ruling with Him, wearing royal robes and being everyone would admire them. Jesus would ride out on a white horse with a mighty army and free Israel from the Roman rule and Israel would be great again. And the disciples would share in all of the glory and glitz!
Once I had a discussion with a Jewish woman about Jesus being the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for. This professor taught Old Testament theology and she argued that if Jesus had really been the Jewish Messiah that He would have had a successful earthly kingdom. He would have restored Israel to her former glory. She insisted that she could not believe in Jesus as Savior/Messiah because He would have made Israel the greatest nation on earth. He would have brought something with him to show and prove that he was the Jewish messiah, she insisted. This professor, I believe, made the same mistake Jesus’ disciples made in thinking that Jesus’ kingdom was to be only an earthly kingdom. And the proof of His being Savior/Messiah to be only a worldly proof.
I told the Jewish professor that Jesus did bring something with Him to prove He is Savior/Messiah. He brought salvation and He saves us from sin and gives us eternal life in His kingdom of heaven. She responded that the Jewish people didn’t need a Savior because they would make it on their own. Work their own way? I don’t understand? The Old Testament scriptures and the Jewish prophets, carefully taught the Jewish people that they must have a Sacrifice for their sins. They couldn’t work it out on their own. I don’t know how this professor overlooked that.
Scripture tells another story about the disciples asking Jesus to tell them who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven! The disciples were still sparring among themselves about who would be the best and most favored. Who would be first and who would be most important. Jesus tries again to explain to his disciples that things will be different in the kingdom of heaven. That they are asking the wrong questions!
Here is what Jesus told them: “The disciples came to Jesus asking, ‘Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And Jesus called a little child to Himself and set him in the middle of his disciples and replied: ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as a little child, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 18:1-4)
Jesus took time to teach his disciples and us that His followers were to do leadership differently from the world. The world’s definition of leadership often includes pride and raw ego. But the Christian definition should include humility and servanthood. The worldly leader is often feared and he lords it over his subjects, Jesus says. But the Christian leader cares and serves her people. The world’s “great” famous people were often proud and mean. But the “great” person by heavenly standards will be humble like a little child.
The rules in the heavenly kingdom are upside-down from the rules in our worldly kingdoms. Everything is backwards from what we have learned here on earth! We better start now getting ready to live in our upside-down heavenly kingdom! We’ve got a lot to learn!