March 27, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Matthew 26:36-39, 27:45-46 (NIV)
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice … “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus willingly pays the highest price possible. Instead of paying nothing, he pays everything. But in many ways, that price is an unfathomable mystery. What does it mean for God to experience forsakenness? How can words express God redeeming the vast scope of human evil in God’s own holiness? As the poet, T.S. Eliot, once wrote, “Words strain, crack and sometimes break, under the burden, under the tension.” And yet, that’s what God did in Jesus on the Roman cross.
Why do you want to be a leader?
Leadership is viewed with considerable cynicism today. Even for those of us who believe in “servant leadership,” the words come easier than the practice. As someone once said about their boss (who also claimed to believe in servant leadership) it meant he was the leader and those who reported to him were the servants! Jesus warned us about this tendency when he said, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors” (Luke 22:25).
It’s easy to become enamored with the power and influence that leadership offers. And that’s a problem not only when that power and influence is used for selfish gain, but also when it is used for the sake of others. As I reflected on yesterday, Jesus’ last temptation in the wilderness was so powerful precisely because it addressed his God-given mission to redeem the world that he loves.
What does it mean to be a leader who is a servant? One answer is that we are to work for the welfare of others and to not make our leadership just about us. In such a response, there is no necessary conflict between our interests and those we serve. It’s about creating a “win-win” scenario for both parties rather than a “win-lose”. But what if that’s not possible? What will we do when we have to lose so that those whom we lead can win?
That, it seems to me, is at the heart of Jesus’ last wilderness temptation and his last temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane. What price is Jesus willing to pay for the redemption of the world?
To start with, it’s instructive to reflect on what that price might be. In the last wilderness temptation, Jesus is offered something that the tempter believes he can’t refuse. The tempter’s price is a simple “bow of the knee”. Nothing else is required to accomplish Jesus’ mission. What a steal of a deal! But Jesus sees through the deception. As often is the case, when something looks too good to be true, it is.
Instead, Jesus takes the more difficult path. And that path leads to Gethsemane. And then to Golgotha. Today’s text reminds us that the real price exacts a devastating and deeply personal toll: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” And in a strangely poignant parallel that shows how appealing the tempter’s offer in the wilderness must have been, Jesus cries, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” But there always was (and is) only one way.
So Jesus willingly pays the highest price possible. Instead of paying nothing, he pays everything. But in many ways, that price is an unfathomable mystery. We get a glimpse of it in today’s text: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” What does it mean for God to experience forsakenness? How can words express God redeeming the vast scope of human evil in God’s own holiness? As the poet, T.S. Eliot, once wrote, “Words strain, crack and sometimes break, under the burden, under the tension.” And yet, that’s what God did in Jesus on the Roman cross.
And the question, for those of us who would serve in leadership in the Way of Jesus, is this: What price are we willing to pay? The outline of that price for us is clear: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Leadership, at least genuinely Christian leadership, demands self-sacrifice. Each of us may experience that in myriads of small and large ways, in private as well as in public. But authentic Christian leadership comes with a high price tag. That price tag, to quote Eliot again, is “a condition of complete simplicity costing not less than everything.” This Lenten Season, it’s worth reflecting on what that might require of each of us.
What does taking up your cross in leadership mean for you?
Often I find myself looking for a grand gesture when obvious small things are right in front of me. This Lenten season, look for something small where you can practice service that requires sacrifice on your part.
Lord Jesus Christ,
We are astonished that although you were rich, yet for our sakes you became poor, that through your poverty, we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). We remember your body that was broken and your blood which was shed for our sakes.
We acknowledge with those who have gone before us that your “love is that liquor sweet and most divine, which my God feels as blood, but I as wine.” (The Agony, George Herbert).
For all that we are deeply grateful. Amen.
P.S. from Mark
If you’re a pastor or organizational leader, you might want to recommend Life for Leaders to your people. This Bible-based devotional seeks to help followers of Jesus know the Lord more deeply and live out their faith more fully. Because of the generosity of our supporters, we are able to offer Life for Leaders without charge to all subscribers. Simply send folks to any daily devotion (see Subscribe button below) or to our Sign Up page.
Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Jesus’ Death and Resurrection (Matthew 27-28)
During his adult life, Uli Chi has lived and worked in the intersection between business, the academy and the church. He has had the privilege of serving as past Board Chair of Regent College in Vancouver, BC, as current Vice Chair of the Board of the Max De Pree Leadership Center at Fuller Seminary, and as current Chair of the Executive Committee of the Center for Integrity in Business at Seattle Pacific University. He has also been involved in all aspects of local church leadership, including as a member of the adult ministries team’s teaching faculty at John Knox Presbyterian Church in Seattle.
Click here to view Uli’s profile.