“Risen” is a movie that portrays a fictional 1st century Roman Centurion named Clavius, who is charged with investigating rumors about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A primary purpose of the film is to illustrate the impact of the resurrection upon this non-believer. The movie, however, also gives us a glimpse of the leadership style of Roman military officers of the day. In addition, while doing so, we see examples of the leadership styles of the Jewish Chief Priests and Elders as well.
During this Easter season, I have been thinking about differences between the leadership style of Jesus and that of the Roman and Jewish leadership. It may be overgeneralizing to lump together Roman and Jewish styles and then to contrast this with the way that Jesus is shown to lead, but there are clear distinctions that we can observe and learn from as we read Scripture passages of the Easter story.
These leadership approaches are in clear opposition to each other. The one leads by external domination and control. The other leads through inner characteristics that exude gentleness and love.
Romans and Chief Priests – Domination and Control
While we know that there are differences between the Roman military and political authorities as contrasted with the Jewish Chief Priests and Elders, when reading the Gospel accounts surrounding Easter, they appear to have similar traits. From the Roman perspective, Pilate commands that Jesus be flogged; soldiers mock him, putting on him a purple robe and crown of thorns; they crucify him. The Jewish religious authorities, i.e., the Chief Priests and Elders, seem stamped out of the same mold as the Romans. They take Jesus by force with swords and clubs and look for false evidence against him; mocking him, they spit in his face and strike him with hands and fists; they pay money to Judas and to Roman soldiers; and they cry out, “Crucify him!”
Jesus – Gentleness and Love
The behaviors of Jesus during this time rise above those who are his accusers. He washes the disciples’ feet; he is silent; he prays, “Father forgive them;” he urges his followers to not be afraid, rather, “Peace be with you.” It was said of Jesus: “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth; He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
Gentleness is described as the Easter-related leadership quality of Jesus by Dale Cooper (see link below for, “The Wardrobe of Easter: Gentleness”). He writes, “Gentleness ought to be an obvious character quality of every person who bears the Savior’s name. Christian leaders are not exempt. Wielding power over others as they are called to do, leaders are susceptible to treating their followers harshly and inappropriately. But Christian leaders who are gentle know that leadership is best expressed by those who show they care about those they lead. Gentle leaders relate as mothers toward their followers.”
Church Leadership Center staff celebrate the Easter season with thanksgiving for the privilege of equipping Christ-like, gentle leaders.