How much do you trust and value your leaders?
Chances are, you’ve had to suffer under poor management at some point in your life: a boss who plays favorites, a manager who lets poor performance go unchecked, a supervisor who takes all the credit for your hard work. You may be stuck in such an environment right now; you dread going to work every morning, much less pushing yourself to excel on behalf of a company that doesn’t seem to care a lick for you.
Most of us recognize good leadership when we see it. When we are lucky enough to have a boss, manager, or leader of the highest caliber, we know deep down we’d be willing follow him/her anywhere. Organizations with strong, discerning leadership typically have employees and followers who are all-in. If the person you follow is trustworthy, bold, wise, authentic, humble, and kind, you're probably not looking for a career change or a better deal somewhere else; you recognize, as John Maxwell has said, "everything rises and falls on leadership."
The Legend of El Cid
One of the greatest military leaders in human history was the Castilian warrior, El Cid. In the 11th century, El Cid (Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar) earned notoriety as a masterful tactician and fierce warrior, and gained the respect of companion and enemy alike. Winning decisive battles against both Moors and Christians - and even, at times, forging unified bonds between the two foes - El Cid was seemingly successful in every military venture in which he engaged himself.
Successful as he was in life, El Cid’s fame reached new heights after his death. As the story goes, El Cid died during the siege of Valencia in the year 1099. Seemingly defeated without their leader, El Cid’s knights came up with a plan worthy of the man they followed. In a Weekend-At-Bernie’s-esque move, El Cid’s men strapped his dead body to his horse, propped his sword-wielding arm in the air, and rode him into battle. Smacking the haunches of his steed, I’m sure some jokester yelled out, to a chorus of chuckles and eye rolls, “Over my dead body!” The army followed suit, charging out from the city at their enemies. The invaders, terrified of El Cid's reputation and, perhaps, thinking he had even risen from the dead, were scattered in terror and swiftly defeated. The great city was saved.
It’s an intriguing thought: what kind of leader can inspire an army to follow even his own lifeless corpse into battle?
And, humor me here, what if the great El Cid really did come back to life, as his enemies feared? They would have every reason to take flight! If El Cid’s final charge was not a charade, his army would have had the courage to chase down any foe, to advance over any ground, to take back any land in full confidence that their leader was inconceivably powerful!
Jesus is Greater
The book of Hebrews thematically emphasizes that Jesus is greater. Over and over again the author of this early Christian letter makes the case that Jesus is greater than the angels, greater than the high priest, greater than Moses, greater than any other word or work. If I may, Jesus is greater even than El Cid.
Jesus is not just a good teacher, a wise spiritual guide, or compassionate friend (though he certainly is all those things). Friends, Jesus is a fearless leader. He is the kind of Savior who stares death in the face and marches forward without hesitation. Yet his obedience to the cause of global salvation and reconciliation is worth attention only because he was able to do in a matter of fact what El Cid could only manufacture as a stunt: come alive.
Jesus died. His body was breathless, his pulse non-existent. He was wrapped in burial clothes and placed in a tomb. There was no denying this reality: his enemies gloated; his followers scattered, dismayed and discouraged. There would be no charade here, no strapping his corpse to a donkey and parading him around in an attempt to rally the troops and pull one over on his oppressors. He was dead, end of story.
Until God turned another page. When all hope was lost, God did the unimaginable - he breathed life once more into His Son.
Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet (Luke 24:36-40).
Until Jesus showed up on the scene of human history, there was no category in the rational mind for such an event. The idea that a man could die and then, miraculously, come back to life, would be all but impossible to register. His closest friends could not believe it. Yet as the reality sunk in, as the undeniable proof carved out new pathways of belief in their hearts and minds, these men, the followers of Jesus, would begin to comprehend exactly what they were witnessing. Jesus is the Son of God. He is alive. Not even death could hold back his power or his plans. What was once a curious hope was instantly transformed into a confident faith.
Coming into full view with the resurrection power was the knowledge that God’s promises were always true. He will redeem the world. He will do away with sorrow, pain, grief, suffering, shame, guilt, and, yes, even death itself. Jesus has already led the way, the firstborn from the dead; we need only follow him.
If El Cid’s men could follow him in death under the desperate hope that his name alone would be enough to strike fear and confusion through the enemy ranks, how much more should you and I be ready, willing, and able to follow our leader, Jesus through death and into life?
Whether you work for a boss who leads like Julia Hartz or one who fumbles through the day like Michael Scott, these men and women will not ultimately determine your destiny. There is only one name given under heaven among men by which we might be saved. His name is Jesus, and he is worth following, every little step of the way.