There is something that has stood between joy and far too many people in far too many places far too often: Lousy leadership by lost leaders. They say that cream always rises to the top, but throughout the world, and throughout the history of the world, the cream seems to have been sitting out in the sun for days on end. Bad decisions by people of influence have plunged people into suffering and darkness. Because of dreadful leadership oppression has poured out on countless millions. We need world leaders who have a heart for the people, a capacity to bring real change, and who bring effective solutions to problems. Is there a leader who can rise to that challenge?
From the Gospel of Luke, enter an angel announcing a birth:
Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
From the Book of Revelation, enter another angel and another announcement:
15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
Could these announcements point us to a leader who can rise to the challenge of good leadership? Let us consider three points:
Because this is a hurting world, we need a leader who knows how to be a shepherd. Rulers can rule indiscriminately, but shepherds do at least three things: they find lost sheep, they have compassion on hurting sheep, and they provide protection for threatened sheep. We have had enough opressive rulers in our world. We don’t need oppressors, we need shepherds. In Jesus we have a shepherd. Consider the following:
First, there is a connection between Jesus and David, the “shepherd-king.” Though David was originally a shepherd from Bethlehem, he became the favourite king of Israel. God promised David that one of his descendants would reign forever. That Jesus was born in Bethlehem and that shepherds from Bethlehem were invited to see Him, make plain that we are to make a connection between Jesus and David; the shepherd-king.
Second, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who “lays his life down for the sheep” (John 10:11). This is a very different kind of leadership than those rulers who take out as many sheep as it takes to remain in power.
Third, Jesus is the shepherd spoken of in Revelation 7:17:
“for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
This is a shepherd leader who is also a sacrificial lamb. He leads from a place of love, giving his life for the sake of the sheep in contrast to many rulers who rule from a place of insecurity and fear.
Fourth, the birth of Jesus is mentioned in Revelation 12:5: “And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” The word for “rule” here is actually the word for “shepherd,” as in “he will shepherd all the nations with a rod of iron.” The 23rd Psalm is in view with “The LORD is my shepherd . . . your rod and your staff – they comfort me.” The rod and staff were used by shepherds to protect and guide the sheep.
Indeed, the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign as the Good-Shepherd-King forever and ever.
Because this is a darkening world we need a leader who has the capacity to bring sunny ways. As Canadians we cannot miss the reference to our new Prime Minister in that statement. No matter our political stripe, we should always hope that our current prime minister will be the best one yet. But whether or not sunny days may be ahead for Canada, Mr. Trudeau is limited in the world by one simple fact. He is only human. Even if we experience superb leadership here in Canada, Mr. Trudeau will have limited impact in other nations around the world, nations which are in greater need of good leadership than we are! Jesus has the capacity to bring sunny ways. Consider the following:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
Not only is Jesus described as light, but being involved in Creation, He is the Creator of light. That sounds like someone who has the capacity to bring about real change! While we look to political leaders to make promises, Jesus is far more able to keep His. Speaking of promises:
22 I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. (Revelation 21:22-25)
While world leaders have often plunged their people into darkness, Jesus is the light of the world. Indeed the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign as the Light-of-the-World forever and ever.
Lastly, Because this is a broken world we need a leader who can fix problems with real solutions. What is the biggest problem the world faces today? Climate change? Terrorism? The announcement of the loud voices from Revelation 11 provides us with a clue: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord.” (Revelation 11:15) “Kingdoms” are not handed over as we might expect, but rather a singular “kingdom.” Satan is the “ruler of this world” as Jesus makes clear in John 14:30. The evil one has had plenty of practice in being the greatest threat to society beginning with Adam and Eve. The problems of this world have never been just Hitler, or Stalin, or Bin Laden, or Herod. The problems of this world have been the sin that infects and affects such people, not to mention people like you and me. The evil one has even tried to tempt Jesus:
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him. ’” (Matthew 4:8-10)
The temptation was to take the world by force. Jesus would have succeeded in that venture where many have tried and failed. But there was a better way, the way of the cross. Rather than use violence and force to rule over all the kingdoms, Jesus suffered violence and force at the cross. His is the way of love. His kingdom is marked by love, not brute force. Indeed, the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and the King-of-love will reign forever and ever.
So will we ever have good leadership in our world? We already have a good leader in our world; Jesus. What we really need are good followers. We do not need to wait for the seventh trumpet to sound to know that Jesus is Lord, to live as His Kingdom people. The leaders of this world would do well to figure out how to follow the leader before leading the followers. So would we.
All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV.