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Why Jesus Never Pulled Rank on Others – and Why We Shouldn’t Either

Standing with a group of pastors, chatting and fellowshipping and shooting the (sacred) bull, I was interested to hear one say, “I told him I’m the pastor of the church, that God made the overseer, and if he doesn’t like it, he can find another church.”

He pulled rank on his unhappy church member.

That brought nods of approval, even from a couple who knew they would never have the gumption to say such a thing. Even if they feel like doing it sometimes.

But that pastor is wrong.

Dead wrong.

If anyone on earth had the right to pull rank on other people, it was our Lord Himself.

Yet, He never did.

Now, the Heavenly Father didn’t mind doing it.

The Old Testament is rife with commands backed up by reminders that “I am the Lord!” The idea is that “Since I am God, I have a right to say this. Disobey at your own peril.”

Take the fascinating 19th chapter of Leviticus, the passage which supplies our Lord’s “second greatest commandment” about loving your neighbor as yourself. That chapter, 37 verses long, contains numerous commands on how to treat the poor and vulnerable. Sixteen times we find God saying “I am the Lord.”

He had a right to pull rank and did.

But the Lord Jesus did not pull rank on people.

When the religious big-shots complained over His abuse of the Sabbath as they saw it, Jesus reasoned with them: “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath? to save a life? or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9) He asked them to think.

When a delegation from John the Baptist asked for confirmation that Jesus really was “The Expected One,” He could have pulled out His credentials, shown them His badge and papers, and done a miracle or two. Instead, He said, “Go tell John what I’m doing here. The blind are seeing, the lame are walking, and the dead are being raised. Tell him that.” (Luke 7:22). He asked them to consider the evidence.

When His host neglected to welcome Him in even the most basic of ways, Jesus did not pitch a temper tantrum or call down fire from Heaven. He pointed out the loving behavior of someone who got it right. “You gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears, and wiped them dry with her hair. You gave me no kiss of greeting, but this woman has not stopped kissing my feet. You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but she anointed it with costly perfume.” (Luke 7:44) He pointed to someone who got it right.

We can do this all day.

When they accused Him of working in the power of the devil himself, Jesus replied, “Then the devil is self-destructing, and you surely don’t want to interfere with that.” (My paraphrase of Luke 11:18).

When the Pharisee grew offended because the Lord did not wash before eating, Jesus used it as an occasion to teach about hypocrisy (Luke 11:37).

When they criticized the way Jesus hung out with the fallen, He told them parables of a lost lamb, a lost coin, and a lost son (Luke 15).

Emulate the Good Shepherd

Our Lord controlled His reactions and turned criticism into opportunities for teaching and instruction.

Opposition and hostility became lessons about His purpose. We must not miss this. In most cases, the Lord seems not to be attempting to convert the mean-spirited critic, but to win the spectators by His wisdom and spirit. When a pastor responds well to a critic, he may not turn the complainer but will score points with fair-minded observers who are taking it all in.

When the religious authorities became angrier than ever, Jesus wept over the city (Luke 19:41).

He did not pull rank.

When they arrested Him and Simon Peter wanted Him to invoke Heaven’s power, Jesus said, “Did you not know I could call down twelve legions of angels if I wanted to?” He insisted that “no one is taking my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord.”

Such amazing love. Such divine purpose.

“I am among you as one who serves,” Jesus said. And He served them.

In the parable of Luke 17:7-10–there is nothing else like it in Scripture–He counsels us to do the same. “When you have done everything I have commanded you, you are to say (to yourself), I am only an unworthy servant, just doing my duty.”

No one minds submitting to someone dedicated to serving them.

“We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

The moment you play the authority card, preacher, you have lost any authority you had.

To be like Jesus is to emulate the Good Shepherd. And the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

It is not about power. Never has been. It’s about love. The kind of love that went to the cross while praying for the executioners.

This article originally appeared on joemckeever.com. Used with permission.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Nattakorn Maneerat 


Joe McKeever has been a disciple of Jesus Christ more than 65 years, been preaching the gospel more than 55 years, and has been writing and cartooning for Christian publications more than 45 years. He blogs at www.joemckeever.com.

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