There are various ways of playing follow-the-leader. In this simple child’s game, the challenge is, Can you do what I do? Since leaders seldom give up being leader, this can become the game, You’re not as good as I am. At other times, follow-the-leader is more serious than childish competition. We follow the leader in a parade, or there is chaos; we follow the leader out of a burning building, or we lose our lives. We follow political leaders by supporting their policies; we follow religious leaders by upholding their decisions. In many ways follow-the-leader is serious business.
We are now in Ordinary Time, that period in the liturgical year when we pay closer attention to what it means to be disciples of Jesus. On some Sundays, we will look carefully at the challenges this presents us. On others we will turn our gaze on Jesus, our leader.
The various titles ascribed to Jesus today tell us much about how he was perceived. John the Baptist called him Lamb of God and Son of God. Paul referred to him as Christ and Lord. Isaiah spoke of the Servant of the Lord, a title early Christians attributed to Jesus. Each title reveals something about our leader and encourages us to follow him.
As Lamb of God, Jesus re-establishes the relationship between God and the people that was undermined by sin. Following him, we are led back to God. As Son of God, he himself enjoys a unique and intimate union with God. Following him, we too become children of God. Christos is the Greek term for anointed one, the long-awaited one who inaugurates the reign of God and brings about fulfillment. We follow him into the reign of God. “Lord” can mean simply master, but it is also the Greek substitute for YHWH, the personal name of ancient Israel’s God. To follow the Lord is to follow God.
As we saw last week, when we attribute the Isaian image of the servant to Jesus, we gain insight into the character of his ministry. We saw then that the servant was to execute justice with gentleness and sensitivity to the vulnerable. Today we see that his care is not limited to the faithful remnant of Israel. Jesus is “a light to the nations, that [God’s] salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
If we follow our leader, we are reconciled with God, enjoy the benefits of being children of God and embrace the reign of God. Furthermore, we will work to establish justice with gentleness and sensitivity to the vulnerable, and we will open our hearts to accept people from all the nations.