Luke 19: Serving to Lead

March 26th, 2010

By Fred Kniss, Provost and 1979 EMU alumnus

Read: Luke 19:28-40

Jesus was a master manipulator of symbols and metaphors. He loved to speak in parables and frequently offered object lessons to his somewhat befuddled followers. It must have been no accident, then, when he chose to enter Jerusalem and accept the mantle of Messiah on the back of a young colt.

This story is often called “the triumphal entry.” But, really, how can we say that with a perfectly straight face? How triumphal can it be to meander down a dirty Jerusalem street on the back of a small animal, feet dragging in the dust? How can we believe someone to be a king when his “steed” is a colt borrowed from a poor family along the road?

If Jesus chose his symbols intentionally, then clearly his triumphal entry was proclaiming a different sort of “triumph.” Messianic hopes of the day called for a leader who would orchestrate a triumph of nationalism and militarism. Jesus counters with symbols that bespeak humility, service and peace. For once, his disciples seem to get it, as they lead hosannas blessing the king who comes bringing “peace in heaven.”

At EMU, we claim to train students “to serve and lead in a global context.” If we take this story seriously, we may gain some new insight into what it means to lead. Perhaps humble service and leadership are not contrasting modes of action in the world, but in fact come as a package. Perhaps we must serve if we are to lead.