I think that if we were to create a list of what made a great political leader it would be long and also varied. The list might include: powerful speaker and motivator, just, ethical, forceful, merciful, etc. Making our own personal list might be helpful as we look at the reading from Luke. What unfolds is the crucifixion of Jesus. What is contrasted are the opposing views of what makes a true king. God’s view, as usual, doesn’t always align with our view of political leadership and power.
The current impeachment proceedings are a sad commentary on political leadership. How the testimonies are received is filtered largely by party partisanship. The goal of finding the truth is sidelined by winning. When all has been said and done, the winning side will boast that justice has won out. Really? Will this justice mean that future generations will inherit a less polluted and resource diminished earth? Will this justice provide for the poor to receive a little more or is the one percent going to continue taking more and more? Will the justice won start healing the division or will the fracturing only get worse as we enter into next year’s election winning?
Jesus was crucified. Crucifixion was a horrible way to die. Crucifixion was a degrading way to die. The victim was naked and publicly hung for all to see the spectacle. In Jesus’ case, a sign was posted that he was the king of the Jews – a way to mock the Jewish people. Luke describes the crowd as watching in silence while the leaders and soldiers mocked Jesus. If he was a king then he should come down off the cross and save himself. All appearances would say that Rome was the winner. However great political leadership, kingship, isn’t deciding who wins and loses. A true sign of kingship is giving life.
Among the many taunts a criminal, also crucified, asked that Jesus remember him in his kingdom. Jesus stated that on that day, the criminal would be with him in Paradise. Paradise was where the righteous were in God’s eternal presence. Rome judged the criminal worthy of death; Jesus declared the criminal worthy of Paradise. Jesus’ kingship brings life and with his resurrection God proved this to be true.
So the impeachment process continues. Eventually, one side will claim victory with justice served. Yet, will new life come to this land as a result or will the old divisions continue in the pursuit of political power. Jesus has showed us true political leadership. He shows that laying aside personal power for another to have life, in his example giving up his own life, is how kingship is exercised. Political service that ignores personal gain for the life of the country? Should we want anything less?