November 25, 2012: Follow This Leader!

Let us pray: Dear Savior, in the midst of an uncertain world we all crave a leader. We all want to follow someone who is honorable, wise, caring, and always has our best interest at heart. Lord, that someone is You! So, today we ask that You open people’s eyes everywhere—beginning with each of us—so that countless souls may experience the love and confidence that comes from living in, with, and under You in Your kingdom of grace. Amen

GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST THE KING!

TEXT: John 18: 33-37

Dearly Beloved Christians Who Long To Follow A Real Leader:

I still recall Debra Ann bringing home a video from one of her old companies. In it, the president of that business was teaching a university class on leadership in the corporate realm. He was polished, glib, and it was fascinating to watch. A few months later he was fired (asked to resign) from the company because the board of directors was dissatisfied, the books were a mess, and the stock sank like a stone. So much for his platitudes about leadership…

The issue of leadership has always intrigued me. Partly because God has put me into a leadership position via my call into the public ministry, and partly because no organization can exist and flourish without it. Certainly there are many models of leadership. There is the authoritarian model which operates on fear, the friend model which operates on good-will, the dictatorial model which tells others exactly what they need to do, and the “pack-mentality” model in which the leader is simply first among equals.

No matter your political affiliation, since the November election day everyone seems to be craving for and asking for genuine leadership in our nation. People are terribly frustrated by political paralysis. And I guess time will tell how it all evolves. However, I do know that the best model for leadership is to be found in Jesus Christ. Today, on Christ the King Sunday, I want to examine the Godly principles of leadership by reminding each of you to:

FOLLOW THIS LEADER!

I

True leadership shows itself under fire. In our lesson we see Christ under tremendous fire. He’s been unjustly arrested, beaten, kept awake all night, mocked, and now is on trial for His life before Pilate, the Roman governor. Obviously Pilate has been informed as to Jesus’ background. He knows it is a religious issue and not a political one that has brought Jesus before him. That is, the Jews accused Christ of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Son of God, and they also falsely accused him of fomenting rebellion against Rome. Pilate has heard of his miracles and basically knows the political charges are trumped-up, so he asks Jesus a pointed question to get to the bottom of the matter. “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Of course, Jesus well knew the lies that had been whispered into Pilate’s ear. Hence his response: “Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me?” At this, the governor displays his cynicism: “Am I a Jew? It was your own people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Pilate doesn’t have time or energy for such verbal sparring. His dictatorial will is clearly seen as he cuts off debate with those words: “What is it you have done?”

Notice Jesus’ majesty in all this. He’s on trial for his life, but He’s not cowed. He’s not desperate. He doesn’t resort to half-truths or untruths to get his way. He doesn’t beg. He’s not smug, or fearful. Instead, He is grace and honesty under fire as He truthfully answers: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

II

Jesus knew that this was not the kind of answer Pilate expected or desired. And by subsequent actions Pilate proved that he was frustrated by this answer. For here was an obvious leader who placed others before Himself. Christ was willing to face death rather than risk any of his followers. Yes, in every sense Jesus led—He didn’t follow. He didn’t hide behind the masses. He wasn’t willing to sacrifice them to save Himself. Quite to the contrary!–This Leader was willing to die for His sheep.

It is that truth that makes Christian leadership different than any earthly model. All human leaders place a paramount importance on their own welfare. Human leaders are often willing to sacrifice others or let others do the heavy lifting that is often required. How often do political leaders say: “The buck stops with me. Blame me if you don’t like something, but don’t blame my underlings who were simply following my directions.”?—Seldom if ever… No, Jesus doesn’t want or expect us to take the fall for Him even though we were the guilty parties. Instead, He went before Pilate and submitted to death on the cross to take the eternal fall for us! Yes, by God’s Son dying for our failure to follow Godly leadership, He saved our souls and purchased a permanent place for us in heaven.

III

Our text’s final point is this: True leadership is grounded in the truth. Christ never hedged, or spoke legaleeze, or employed spin doctors. He never hid behind spokesmen or employed “plausible deniability.” He never spun happy tales in which He pandered to people’s emotions or whims. No, Jesus always spoke the truth—plain and unvarnished. He called sin, sin. He called greed emotional theft, lust emotional rape, and spiritual apathy emotional cowardice. But, even more importantly, Christ called sinners like us His brothers and sisters whom He loved enough to die for!

I’ve always felt that true leaders should not expect any more from their followers than they are willing to give. True leaders should be willing to do the heavy lifting and address the difficult issues in life without simply relegating it to others. True leaders should practice what they preach and let self-sacrifice predominate in their lives. As much as we long for human leaders who fit that bill, in the final analysis only Christ measures up. And that, my friends, is why we should follow This Leader! Amen