There seems to be something in the human heart that longs for a leader – a leader whose integrity is transparent and who is worthy of our trust. In fact, tough times make us realise how grateful we are when we have leaders who use their position and power to serve our welfare. Leaders like Winston Churchill not only win loyalty but respect. Down through the ages people have expressed their desire for leaders like this. Plato wrote about it with his notion of a philosopher king in The Republic. J.R.R. Tolkein’s, ‘King’ in the Lord of the Rings is another example of a trustworthy leader who fulfills people’s longings.
A unique leader.
As Luke’s narrative about Jesus of Nazareth unfolds we see that many came to see him as a leader who used his remarkable powers with integrity. He was a leader who could be trusted. But Jesus did not make it easy for potential followers.
When one man made what seemed a promising commitment, “I will follow you wherever you go” (9:57), Jesus’ response was terse:
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (9:58).
He wanted the man to consider carefully what ‘following’ would mean. Jesus was born in a manger and would die on a cross and, in between, had nowhere to lay his head. So he asks us: ‘Are you willing to join me on a journey through life that may be without material comfort and security? Are you prepared to go without for the sake of bringing others into the kingdom?’
Even family demands must not stand in the way of serving God’s kingdom. Luke tells us about two others who, like the fans of celebrities, were following Jesus.
The first man’s request seems reasonable: “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (9:59). But, if the man’s father had died he would have returned home immediately. In fact, his parents had some years to live but he was using their ultimate demise as an excuse. ‘What is more important?’ Jesus was asking, ‘cultural expectations or the announcement of the kingdom of God?’ Yes, children are to honor parents and care for them, but God has first claim on us.
The second man’s request also seems reasonable: “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me say farewell to those at my home” (9:61). Jesus knew a lengthy Middle-Eastern family farewell would be used by the family to overturn this man’s resolve to follow a leader like him.
We might be impressed with Jesus and may even want to follow him ourselves, but we are not always willing to commit – yet. Augustine, the 5th century bishop of Hippo said, O Lord, grant me chastity and continence, but not yet. Jesus is a demanding leader. He wants our total commitment. He calls us to be willing to leave the security of the world’s wealth; the security of a comfortable home; the security of family and friends. We have a choice to make.
A leader to be trusted.
Jus showed extraordinary trust and confidence in God’s Word. He invites us to do the same. Yes, to follow Jesus is to join him on a road through life that may be tough. But it is worth it. We will increasingly discover that he is an exciting, creative, risk-taking but trustworthy leader – a leader we long for. ‘What does it profit a man or a woman,’ Jesus asked, ‘to gain the whole world yet lose their own soul?’ It was to save us from losing our souls that Jesus came. If we spend our life for him, paradoxically we find it.