At the beginning of Jesus’ last week on earth, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. There were a couple of reasons why Jesus rode into town that first Palm Sunday on such a humble animal. First of all, it fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 that was written over 500 years before Christ’s first coming. Secondly, Jesus wanted to demonstrate visually the type of messianic King he was.
Jesus Is No Lone Ranger
Roger Griffith says that if he was Jesus on that first Palm Sunday, he would have entered Jerusalem as if he was the Lone Ranger. He gives this alternative scenario:
It was Palm Sunday and Jesus was coming into Jerusalem. He was riding on a blazing white stallion and kicking up a cloud of dust as he rode along. He was looking for trouble. The people that he passed on his way were in awe of such a beautiful animal but they were even more awestruck by the man who was riding it. As Jesus passed by, you could hear the people say, “Who was that masked man?”
There were bad guys on the loose and Jesus had a job to do. As he rode into Jerusalem he quickly sized up the situation and formed a plan to capture the ringleader of the troublemakers. His name was Diablo or Satan. There was a short scuffle and Jesus won handily over Diablo. He hog-tied the devil and threw him in jail.
As a large crowd of people gathered to see what the commotion was all about, Jesus mounted his horse and pulled on the reigns. The stallion stood on its hind legs, neighed loudly, and pawed the air with its front legs. When it stood as tall as it could stand, Jesus leaned forward in the saddle. Holding the reigns with one hand while lifting his white hat in the air with the other, he shouted with a loud voice….As Jesus rode off into the sunset, you could hear the William Tell Overture in the background. Du du dunt. Du du dunt. Du du dunt.
Isn’t that how you would have done it if you were Jesus? But that isn’t what Jesus did at all. There is something truly counterculture and radical to the Christian faith. The reason why this is so is that Jesus is a counterculture-type of king. It is a lesson that even Jesus’ disciples had trouble understanding.
For example, just before Jesus entered Jerusalem on that young donkey, John and James, two of Jesus’ closest disciples, requested positions of prominent leadership.
Jesus’ Definition of Leadership & Greatness
In Mathew 20:20-21, they ask through their mother, to sit at Jesus’ right hand and left hand in his coming kingdom. Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink? (v.22)”
Jesus knew that He was destined to become the Messianic King of the Jews, and not only of the Jews, but of the whole world. But he also knew that He was going to be crowned only after he drank the cup of suffering on behalf of the whole world by dying on the cross. He will be the King of kings but only after he wore the crown of thorns embedded on his head by the mocking and seemingly invincible Roman soldiers.
Jesus goes on to say to his 12 disciples that the Gentile (non-Jew) rulers like to lord it over people and flaunt their power. But they were to be different. In Mathew 20:25-28, Jesus gives this revolutionary definition of greatness in leadership: the servant of all.
What kind of world would we live in if this definition of greatness in leadership was put into practice by more of us?
Jesus’ Leadership In Action
After Jesus’ definition of greatness in leadership, we see this kind of leadership demonstrated through his life. In Mathew 20:29, we see Jesus leaving Jericho on his way to Jerusalem for the final time. Large crowds are following him……They are hoping he is the Messianic Leader who will throw off the political, military and economic yoke of Rome.
As they are leaving Jericho, all of sudden, 2 blind and powerless men yell out to Jesus when they hear that it’s him: “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd immediately rebukes them. They think Jesus has more important things on his agenda……The blind men yell even louder….Jesus stops. Jesus wasn’t too busy or too important to show compassion to these needy men. He healed them.
We often think that the most significant things happen in places like City Hall and the corporate headquarters of Fortune 500 companies, like Chrysler. And we think the most important people in our country are people like Justin Trudeau and Sidney Crosby. These are important people.
But just as important is the servant of Jesus who helps someone in need in the name of Jesus. In Mathew 25:40, we have the returning Messianic King Jesus reply to his faithful servants: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it me.”
Military, political and economic power are not ultimate values in God’s order of things. What is ultimate in God’s kingdom is servanthood and the love of God in Christ. Nothing in all of creation, including death, is stronger than the love of God in the crucified and risen Christ (Romans 8:35-39).
When I think of what matters the most in this world and what ends up being the greatest blessing, it is humble and quiet acts like a dad going fish or playing baseball with his son. It is a man or woman helping his neighbor in a time of need. It is Sheila Hesman teaching children Sunday School for decades at Turner Road Chapel. She impacted countless kids who are now adults serving Jesus. It is the humble acts of people like Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity, on behalf of India’s “untouchables”, which have left an indelible mark of Christ’s love on this earth.
Jesus redefined and demonstrated what true greatness is in leadership. His legacy lives on for the blessing of many.
QOTD: Are you living out Jesus’ vision of greatness in leadership?