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"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many."Matthew 20:28
In 2020, it has been impossible to escape the tension and division of politics. No matter your political leanings, you have likely been disappointed in the behavior and attitudes of those who lead and represent our nation. As we turn our hearts and minds towards the Christmas season, we are reminded in the story of the newborn child in the manger that Jesus is a different kind of ruler.
In the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we are introduced to three of our favorite Christmas characters… the Wise Men. Coming from the east, this trio of educated men followed a star to Jerusalem to worship the one who had been “born king of the Jews.” (Matthew 2:2). This clearly came as a surprise to the powerful and wicked ruler Herod, who considered himself to be the king of the Jews. When consulting with the chief priests and experts in the ancient texts of scripture, he learned that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea. Drawing from a prophesy in the old testament book of Micah, the religious experts recited this insight about Jesus the newborn King- “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” (Matthew 2:6).
In this prophesy, and more importantly, in Jesus, we see a contrast between two very different rulers. Herod represents many tyrants, despots and dictators who have ruled over people with a cruel selfishness and lust for power. This is the way of the world; do whatever it takes to maintain power, use brutal force, lies and manipulation to control others and advance your own agendas at the expense of others. This is the way of the world, but it has never been the way of Jesus. Jesus came to be a ruler who would be a shepherd for God’s people. In describing His own leadership style to His disciples, Jesus presented Himself as a shepherd, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). While Herod stole the lives of countless children in order to protect his power, Jesus surrendered His power and His life to save us. Jesus willingly leaves the comfort and popularity of “the 99” in order to go after the ones who are lost and hurting.
We would do well to remember in this challenging year, that we have been called to follow a different kind of ruler. Our human instinct is to fight for our own privilege and power, but Jesus invites us to travel a narrow path of leadership- “Jesus called His disciples together and said, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” Matthew 20:25-28
All around us, people are hurting, scared, oppressed and alone. May we seek to adopt the values of our good shepherd, giving our lives towards a sacrificial, servant leadership that is foreign to this world we live in.