Ultimately, Jesus gives us hope because he is the perfect combination of power and compassion.
A while back, I published a post asking ‘What does a good leader look like?’ Its conclusion was simple: a good leader uses their power to provide justice for the oppressed, not just line their own pockets.
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many leaders out there who match up to this standard. I mean, loads of leaders present themselves as champions of the people, as heroes who will challenge corruption etc, but most of them turn out to be a little bit disappointing. Some leaders turn out to be complete disasters.
Take President Xi Jinping of China. 7 years ago, when the guy was first appointed, he was very careful to present himself as a man of the people. At the time, the BBC wrote that he was promising to ‘tackle corrupton, to spread China’s wealth, to create a fairer society.’ Sounds lovely. 5 years later, the BBC published an article titled ‘China’s hidden camps: What’s happened to the vanishing Uighurs of Xinjiang?’ detailing ‘the locking up of many thousands of Muslims without trial or charge.’
That doesn’t sound like the fairer society that the President promised.
But, if we are being completely honest with ourselves, it isn’t just authoritarian dictators that fall short of the bible’s standards for human leaders. The most utopian of democracies still have politicians who can be a bit self-centred. We are hardly living in the golden age of democratic leaders.
What hope can the bible give us, when world leaders are just thoroughly disappointing?
The answer to this question can be seen in Matthew 8:1-17. These verses depict Jesus going around doing some miracles, which was one of his favourite hobbies back in the day. He heals a leper, a roman centurion’s servant, and even his friend’s mother-in-law.
Throughout it all, two things are constantly being emphasised about who Jesus is. Firstly, this is a guy who is filled with authority. When the roman centurion asks for help, Jesus tells him he’ll pop round to see what he can do. This is how the the centurion replies:
But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. 9 I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” (Matt 8:8-9 NLT)
The Roman Centurion recognises that Jesus is a man of authority. He knows that Jesus doesn’t even have to go and meet the servant to heal them, he can do it by giving an order! He also views himself as unworthy to have such a powerful authority around at his home.
The guy isn’t wrong. Jesus demonstrates that he is full of power. Leprosy, referring to an incurable skin illness, is healed ‘instantly’ by Jesus. The ‘young servant’ of the centurion was ‘healed that same hour’. Peter’s mother in law got up as soon as ‘Jesus touched her hand.’
What’s interesting, though, is exactly how Jesus chose to demonstrate his power. He could have showed it off by organising some sort of elaborate magic show, pulling rabbits out of hats and sawing women in half. He could have demonstrated it by finding the biggest, baddest, ruler of his time, and beating the guy senseless.
He didn’t do any of that rubbish. Instead, he demonstrated his power in acts of compassion. He healed a leper, and incurable outcast from society. He healed the servant of a roman, someone who would have been looked down on as the servant of a foreigner. He healed a woman, someone seen as having little value 2000 years ago.
In Jesus, we have a leader who doesn’t disappoint. He expresses his power in acts of compassion towards others.
How does that help us with the disappointing bunch of leaders that we are stuck with?
Simple. This passage reveals Jesus, who is God, as compassionate and powerful. This shows that, behind the universe, there is a compassionate and powerful God.
Even though our politicians do dumb things, let us down, or are just evil, Christians believe that human leaders are not the top of the food chain. Instead, we believe that ultimate power lies in the hands of the ultimately compassionate, God. Heck, that’s actually one of the reasons that we are meant to act compassionate ourselves, as we are emulating his perfect way of doing things.
For an informal bibliography, see page 2.