Everyone Loves A Parade

I love Easter. It is a weeklong celebration of perfect love beginning with Palm Sunday. At my church, that means a lot of children waving palm branches as they parade through the aisles. This display symbolizes the day Jesus returned to Jerusalem hailed as a king by the people, where a week later he was crucified, and then three days later rose from the dead.

Herod Antipas was the ruler of Galilee and Perea. He was often referred to as “King Herod” but was, in fact, a tetrarch (ruler of a fourth) serving as a Roman Jewish client king. Caesar Augustus gave him this title after the death of his father, Herod the Great. Herod Antipas was, by all accounts, a harsh ruler.

Jesus and Herod are strikingly opposite examples of leadership. What they had in common was peoples’ expectations of them. People often expect leaders to solve their problems. People often expect leaders to make their present circumstances align with the way they think things should be. People are willing to give up a lot to leaders who promise to make these things happen.

What Jesus and Herod didn’t have in common was their motivation.

Herod’s motivation was narcissistic and self-centered. He used his power to increase himself. When he entered Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, he rode a war horse and was accompanied by many soldiers and other prominent political and military leaders.

Herod used his position to force the people under his rule to obey him and honor him. His ability to be judge and jury and put people to death made it very dangerous to disagree with him. People either saw him as someone to get close to so they could get things from him, or they hated him.

Jesus’ motivation was love. He used his influence to help other people, even though he had the power to do whatever he wanted. When he entered Jerusalem for the Passover Feast, he rode a donkey and was surrounded by common people who wanted to crown him king.

Jesus attracted people to him because they felt valued in his presence. People who had been judged and punished by others found him to be loving and forgiving, though he didn’t condone the wrong things they had done. People wanted to get close to him to be healed—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Control is an illusion. Princess Leia’s quote, “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers,” from the first Star Wars (I know, Episode IV, but we all know it was the first and the best) rings true for all leaders. Clamping down on people using rules, punishment, manipulation, threats, fear, intimidation, and scores of other power tactics only produces narrow and limited results for a short time.

In fact, we only know who Herod Antipas was because his life intersected with Jesus. Think about that. All the stuff Herod did and built created no lasting legacy. Herod was willing to sacrifice others to attain and maintain power, whereas Jesus sacrificed himself for us. Humility and love win over selfish power every time.

As leaders, we need to ask ourselves, “Do we love the parade (pride) and shun the responsibility and sacrifice (humility)?” The cost of great leadership is high. It will probably not cost you your life, but it will certainly cost you your pride. True leadership and genuine power are most evident in humility and sacrifice.

I hope you had a joyful Easter and that you carry that joy into your week and beyond. There is nothing wrong with a good parade as long as it is the genuine response of people being led and cared for well. The challenge before you is to sacrifice your pride in the best interest of the person in your community with the least power. It is high time for leaders to get off their high horse and lead with love The Bison Way.