The world media has been falling at the feet of new American president, Barack Obama. They chorus, “A leader with vision, inspiration, energy, and ideas! Someone who can lead the world into genuine and lasting change!” But will he be able to measure up?
Politicians like Prime Minister Kevin Rudd rise and fall in Australia depending on whether they are thought of as providing leadership.
Do they have a plan? Do they have the courage of their convictions? Can they deal with opposition? Will people follow them?
A leader of a different kind was on show this summer. Graeme Smith, the captain of the South African cricket team, broke his left hand in the first innings of the Sydney Test match. He had just received painful treatment on the damaged tendon in his right elbow. He had intended not batting, in the second innings, however with 30 minutes remaining,, and with the chance of saving the game, he came out to bat last, against medical advice. He was in so much pain, his team mates dressed him. He survived 17 balls and 26 minutes, but was finally bowled with only 10 balls remaining after 5 days of cricket. Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain said it was one of the bravest things he had seen, “”That’s what every team looks to from their leader. To show that fighting spirit, to stand up when they are needed, to get out and do a job no matter how sore or tired you might be.”
In the second half of John’s Gospel we see Jesus, the greatest of all leaders. He is the leader who courageously, sacrificially and victoriously lays down his life for his followers, dying that they might live.
In these chapters the action slows down and the camera zooms in. While the previous twelve chapters have covered the three years of Jesus’ public ministry, these nine chapters cover only a few days. Jesus’ attention moves from the crowds to the twelve disciples. His emphasis changes from performing signs that reveal his glory as the Word of God, to teaching and actions that reveal his even greater glory as the Servant King who lays down his life for his people, and sets them the example to follow (13:14-17). Everything moves relentlessly towards the hour of his glory (12:23; 17:1); his crucifixion and resurrection.